Conceived and designed by architect Frida Escobedo (Mexico City), the exhibition No. 9 explores the history of La Ruta de la Amistad (“Route of Friendship”) in Mexico City, a monumental public sculpture project that was launched as part of the cultural program for the 1968 Olympics. Presenting archival research and a new sculptural installation, the exhibition probes the optimism and underlying contradictions of this ambitious convergence of artistic vision, urban development, and international diplomacy.
Sited along an eleven-mile stretch of Mexico City’s then burgeoning highway system, La Ruta de la Amistad comprised a network of nineteen monumental sculptures, or “stations,” by artists from seventeen countries. German-born Mexican artist Mathias Goeritz served as artistic advisor of the 1968 Olympic Organizing Committee and was director of La Ruta. His open-ended brief called for the sculptures to be abstract, made of concrete, and monumental in size, since they would be experienced from the perspective of a moving car. Upon completion, each was painted in bright colors. The multinational and modernist aesthetics of La Ruta’s sculptures amplified government efforts to present Mexico as a thriving, cosmopolitan nation on the global stage of the Olympics — the first games hosted by a Latin American country. Since then, many of the sculptures have been moved as part of a heritage initiative, and the “Route of Friendship” now only exists in the collective imagination.
Frida Escobedo speaks with GSAPP student Andrew Nolan on the occasion of her exhibition at the Arthur Ross Architecture Gallery. They discuss the tension between social and historical time, and how that can shape understandings of architecture. Escobedo also touches on her desire to reactivate forgotten spaces, such as in the Hotel Boca Chica, and how the process of making No. 9 echoed the creation of the original sculptures.
“Exhibitions and biennials have allowed us to understand architecture in a very different timeframe. When you think about architecture you think about years … But with these temporary installations you get to see architecture from a different perspective, it’s almost like compressing the life of architecture”.