Teodoro González de León, born in Mexico City on May 29, 1926, pioneer of the Modernist movement in Mexico, was the 2008 laureate of the UIA Gold Medal. He studied at the Escuela Nacional de Arquitectura of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) from 1942 to 1947. Between 1948 to 1949, he received a scholarship from the French state which allowed him to work with Le Corbusier in France for 18 months. During this time, he was involved mainly on Le Corbusier’s Unité d’Habitation in Marseille and the St Dié factory project.
As a student, he conceived the original concept and idea for the UNAM “Ciudad Universitaria” campus, part of the UNESCO World Heritage complex where Diego Rivera, Juan O’Gorman and others completed murals. Between 1955 and 1965, he completed an urban planning series and made several construction plans.
His body of work includes public buildings, housing and residences, urban spaces, parks and gardens.
The monumental platforms, patios and pyramids characteristic of his work pay tribute to Mexico’s pre-Hispanic past and the postwar growth of Mexico City provided him with the opportunity to fuse Modernist principles with Mexican vernacular architecture.
After 1969, he designed several public buildings between 1974 and 1982, including the Delegación Cuauhtémoc, the COLMEX building, the seat of the Instituto del Fondo Nacional de la Vivienda para los Trabajadores (INFONAVIT), the Universidad Pedagógica Nacional and the Museo Rufino Tamayo. From 1984 to 1987, he designed several buildings in Villahermosa, including the administration center. He also realised the Mexican embassy in Berlin-Tiergarten (2000–2001), the Palacio de Justicia Federal in Mexico City, the mixed-use development Reforma 222 containing two of the 30 tallest buildings in Mexico City and the Torre Manacar in southern Mexico City.
He became a member of the Mexican Academy of Arts in 1984 and in 1988 joined the Colegio de México. An honorary member of the International Academy of Architecture (IAA), an emeritus academic of the Academia Nacional de Arquitectura and an honorary doctor of the UNAM, he died in Mexico City on 16 September 2016.
Through this medal, the UIA honours and highlights a lifetime of work devoted to the realisation of an architecture that reflects an era, its social reality, its culture and its traditions.
The work of Teodoro Gonzalez de Leon is part of the architecture of the Modern Movement, with a vocabulary that is constantly renewed enriched and reinterpreted.
His architecture is monumental, in the positive sense of the word and the intelligent use he makes of materials, of light and different textures confer on his realisations a particular presence, imposing in the urban as well as in the natural context.