Interview with Albert López

I was delighted to be able to sit down with Albert for an interview for Dangerous History. Since the year before I was accepted into the PhD program at MIT, Albert has been a friend and mentor to me, in part because we share an academic advisor, Arindam Dutta. Albert’s humor and zest for life comes through even in this very professional conversation, which you can listen to here. Albert is writing a dissertation about the evolution of architecture and planning in Mexico in the mid-twentieth century. He focuses on rhetorical shifts that aided socially-minded architects to frame themselves as political actors with important roles to play in the developing republic. Terms like “técnico” and “planificación” took on greater meaning as technical expertise was integrated into Mexico’s central bureaucracy. We discuss the role of key figures in this time period, and the possible use of technical expertise in planning to either ameliorate or exacerbate social inequity.

Albert Jose-Antonio López is a historian of modern architecture, planning, and the built environment.  He is a current PhD Candidate in the program for History, Theory, and Criticism at MIT, holds an M.S. in Critical, Curatorial, and Conceptual Practice in Architecture from Columbia’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation, and received a BArch from the University of Southern California.  His research on the intersections of architectural professionalization, regional planning, rhetoric, and political society in mid-20th century Mexico has been supported by the Fulbright Garcia-Robles Award as well as by the Center for U.S.-Mexican Studies at the University of California at San Diego’s School of Global Policy and Strategy.  He was recently a guest lecturer for the Spring quarter at the University of California at Santa Barbara where he taught courses on the urbanization, planning, and political economy of the Americas from the 18th-20th centuries as well as the built environments of Latino/a/x, Hispanic, and Chicano/a/x communities of North American cities.  He is a native of the inner city of Los Angeles.

The image above show the Palacio de Lecumberri, the panopticon-style prison that now serves as the Mexican National Archives.

Albert López

Figures mentioned in our conversation:

  • Carlos Lazo Barreiro, architect and planner
  • Carlos Contreras Elizondo, architect and father of “planificación”
  • Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish: the Birth of the Prison (New York: Pantheon Books, 1977).
  • Daniel Burnham, architect and planner
  • John Nolan, planner
  • Ebenezer Howard, planner
  • José Luis Cuevas Pietrasanta, architect and planner
  • Elisa Drago Quaglia, Alfonso Pallares: sembrador de ideas (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Facultad de Arquitectura, 2016).
  • Juan O’Gorman, planner
  • Pascual Ortiz Rubio (President of Mexico, 1930 – 1932)
  • Lázaro Cárdenas (President of Mexico, 1934 – 1940)
  • Manuel Ávila Camacho (President of Mexico, 1940 – 1946)
  • Miguel Alemán Valdés (President of Mexico, 1946 – 1952)
  • Adolfo Ruiz Cortines (President of Mexico, 1952 – 1958)
  • For a chronological list of Mexican heads of state, see this wikipedia page
“Programa de Gobierno,” Concept: Carlos Lazo Barreiro; drafted by J. Gonzales Naranjo, (1948).