House Zuno in Guadalajara Mexico - A beautiful example of strange architecture inspired by nationalism
House Zuno is one of those places that stick in your memory because it’s unique. You see it and you try to recall if you've ever seen something similar. You probably haven't.
Zuno is a Last Name
It is called "Casa Zuno", because it was built for José Guadalupe Zuno, a very important personality in the history of the city.
During his life he did lot of things: he was a painter, a cartoonist, a journalist, a lawyer, a humanist, a writer, a politician and elected congressmen and State governor (1923-1926). He was the type of politician that we don’t see any more, he actually did great things for the city: he modernized urban planning, founded the University of Guadalajara (now Mexico’s second public university), he published the first labor law for the state and founded the first firefight squad in Guadalajara, among (several) other things.
He was an influential intelectual and he had lot's of interesting friends as well (bear with me, this becomes important later). Artists, politicians and personalities came to his house to have discussions and chats. Some of these include famous painters José Clemente Orozco, Alfaro Siqueiros, and Dr. Atl.
Who built the Zuno House?
The first project was entrusted to an engineer called Manuel Legarreta, but after the decision to change the design, it was Arnulfo Villaseñor who continued and finished the house. He also constructed the famous "Casa de los Perros" and was a close friend of Zuno.
A unique example of . . . well, something new
Zuno started building this house in 1923, just after being elected State governor.
In the beginning of its construction it was planned to be a "French chalet" as it was fashionable at the time for this upper-class neighborhood. However, he changed his mind completely.
It was just after the Revolution, intellectuals exalted the "revolutionary values", a glorious prehispanic past, anti-imperialism feelings and liberal thinking. Artistic movements felt it was their duty to reflect this new ideology.
All this had an effect on Guadalupe Zuno, and the project was completely modified from the original design, with the help of several of his friends.
The result was pretty original: it tried to reflect a proud past and mix several elements into a "Mexican aesthetic" and although some people felt it was too pretentious, none can deny the house is a reflection of its time.
It is covered in a red volcanic mineral that we call "Tezontle" and that was used by prehispanic cultures in this area (I've been to burial mounds covered with this type of material).
It is full with elegant ornamental elements carved in quarry, such as window frames, columns and decorative dragon gargoyles, a fountain with two strange-looking serpents and a coat of arms representing the encounter between de Old and New Worlds.
Guadalajara Historic Archive
Guadalupe Zuno and his wife kept the house until 1974, and donated it then to the University of Guadalajara. It became center for the study of rural communities in Jalisco. From 1993 to this day it has been the city's historic archive.
The archive is managed by the University of Guadalajara and they preserve, organize and keep all documents that the University believes have historic interest after 30 years of their creation.
The historic documents can be consulted Monday through Friday until 5:00 pm and they also have tours for up to 15 people if you make an appointment.
Casa Zuno - Archivo Histórico de Guadalajara (UdeG)
Where is Casa Zuno?
It is located at the crossing of Av. Unión (which is also called Americas) and José Guadalupe Zuno Street. It is located close to La Minerva, Chapultepec Ave. and not to far from downtown. If you are visiting these areas you can go there really quick.
The street numbers of the house are: 2226 on the Guadalupe Zuno St. side and 275 in the Union Ave. side. In the past, the Guadalupe Zuno street used to be called Avenida del Bosque and the house's number was 626 (If you look for the old street names and numbers, they are still visible).
I hope you have a great time visiting Guadalajara!
© 2013 Gabriela Hdez