Listen to the conversation between Rosanna and César Béjar.

An Architect and an Architectural Photographer, César Béjar is both a creator and an observer. Fully immersed in the world of architecture, Béjar has an intimate knowledge of every stage from conception to realisation. Based in Guadalajara, Mexico, Béjar’s work takes him around the country – where he designs and constructs, captures and documents. Mexico is rich with architectural brilliance, and Béjar’s work continues in the same vein as some of its most significant architects: “I think that one of the best examples of Mexican architecture – of our
‘style’ – is Luis Barragán, who was born here in Guadalajara and who created his own style that has been recreated all around the country. Barragán had three different periods in his career, and, for me, the most interesting is his first, which was developed in Guadalajara in the 1920s. It’s a style that we call ‘Regionalismo Tapatio’, which is a combination of architecture from the south of Spain and north of Africa – which was greatly inspired by a trip that he took to Europe during his youth…”

Casa Leaño, Architecture by Hugo González

Casa Los Tigres by César Béjar Studio + Ferdando Sánchez

“We have really developed our own style in Guadalajara, it’s very mediterranean in a way, but it’s also very local – based on textures and local materials.”

Béjar has spent time in Europe himself, where he studied for a year in Madrid – a city that is home to both classical and contemporary architectural masterpieces. Reflecting upon his time in Spain, Béjar notes that, “Here in Mexico, we have to develop more and think less, but in Europe you have to think more and develop less – or at least develop more carefully. That’s the big difference – it’s the time you spend thinking about a project, so, for me, it’s very important to have enough time to think – to try to put all of my ideas into what will eventually be built.”

Not afraid of colour or contrast, Béjar creates moments of shadow and shade in the spaces that he designs, which results in a more tangible sense of depth. Béjar’s designs are layered, combining materials and textures that sit harmoniously whilst still offering subtle shifts in texture, tone and feel. Béjar also plays with asymmetry in his creations, placing things a little off centre in order to develop idiosyncrasies and a sense of personality.

Casa en Tres Ríos, César Béjar Studio

Casa en Tres Ríos, César Béjar Studio

Béjar uses colour in a way that is big and impactful: an exterior facade is painted in a flat plane of brick-pink; a textured wall in sun-bleached pink, reflects colour onto the surfaces of the interior beyond; large panes of tinted glass create translucent washes of colour that settle over the space, colouring different corners of the room as the day progresses…

Béjar’s thoughtful approach results in buildings that are rigorous yet at ease – spaces that are generous not cavernous. A play on volume and light, Béjar’s simplified forms are brought to life through carefully considered details and a love for texture, tone and tactility. The mathematical regularity of the architecture is given personality through Béjar’s palette of natural materials: “Materiality is something very important in my projects, it’s one of the most important parts of any project because it allows you to feel part of the environment or part of the context.”

Cassa Midy by César Béjar Studio

Sitting comfortably in a dynamic and ever-changing natural environment, Béjar is drawn to nature, which is his greatest muse: “I really like doing projects that are near the beach and the ocean – it’s something that I really enjoy … I always try to have references to the natural world, so I will [explore the local beaches to] find stones and branches that have been polished by the sea, which then form the inspiration for the colours and materials in that building…”

A skilled and subtle architect, Béjar transforms two-dimensional drawings into three-dimensional objects – and as an architectural photographer he returns to the image, describing real space as a flat image. Béjar’s photographs describe the space in entirely different terms than the blueprints or designs at the beginning of the architectural process. No longer concerned with technicalities, his photographs communicate the feel and mood – the ineffable spirit of the place. “These two disciplines compliment each other reciprocally. It’s interesting because, for me, the best school that I have – the best way to learn about architecture – is through these pictures… I am able to learn directly from the buildings themselves.”

Béjar notes that, “[Architecture] is not just three-dimensional – it’s multidimensional, it’s sensorial. You don’t just see the space three-dimensionally, you feel the temperature of the space, you smell the space and you can touch it. You can actually touch with only your eyes -you can imagine the texture of a ceiling even if you cannot touch it, and you can imagine the texture of the floor even if you’re wearing shoes. This experience is completely and absolutely impossible to transmit in a two-dimensional photo, but [an approximation of that] feeling can be created in the picture, and so, whilst it’s not possible to fully transmit the idea of a space in a photograph, I always try – it’s my attempt…”

Museo Tamayo, Teodoro González de León y Abraham Zabludovsky, Fotografía César Béjar Studio

“I think you can express temperature through the image, you can transmit feelings -even smell – in the image”

Casa Los Tigres by César Béjar Studio + Ferdando Sánchez

The architect and the photographer share many of the same concerns – issues of light and shade, composition and framing – and so Béjar’s hard-earned understanding of architectural forms and materiality has led to an intuitive ability as an architectural photographer. The duality of César Béjar’s practice contains two distinct elements, each with its own way of seeing the world – the macro and the micro, the tangible and the intangible… Béjar navigates between these worlds with ease, and his elegant and refined aesthetic can be experienced in both two-and three-dimensions.

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