SET AGAINST THE diverse Mexican topography of jungle, mountain, desert and seashore, noted architectural photographer Tim Street-Porter's new book, "Casa Mexicana," reveals the astounding variety and beauty of Mexican homes. More than 350 photographs offer a fresh look at the architecture and interior design of Mexico and reveal our debt to California's early Mexican heritage.
Wherever they are found, Mexican houses mirror their unique heritage of Indian and European cultures--Toltec, Maya, Spanish and French. Each chapter examines the country's diverse architecture through its past cultural heritage. The vernacular style of one-room trojes (wooden houses), haciendas and Colonial styles were brought by the Spanish. In the late 19th Century, neoclassical French mansions along the Paseo de la Reforma were designed by Maximilian. Contemporary Mexican architecture of Luis Barragan and his heirs is also splendidly documented.
Perhaps the most relevant chapter for the Southern Californian shows the influence of Mexican art and design on local residences from Spanish Colonial bungalows to the ranch-style houses of Cliff May. The use of color "for the sheer pleasure of using and enjoying it" becomes a major theme for Peter Shire of Milan's Memphis group ceramics, Jon Bok's folk art furniture--a blend of Mexican and American primitive--and graphic designer Mick Haggerty's '50s bungalow, decorated with vivid shades purchased in a Tijuana paint store. ($45)