This site uses cookies to offer you an improved and personalised experience. If you continue to browse, we will assume your consent for the same.
LEARN MORE AGREE

Remembering 31 years of Mexican architect Luis Barragán’s design legacy

STIR pays homage to the late Modernist, whose oeuvre consisted of boxy, colourful buildings which blended effortlessly into the Mexican landscape.

by Jincy Iype Nov 22, 2019

Celebrated for the remarkable simplicity in his modernist designs, Mexican architect and engineer Luis Barragán (March 9, 1902- November 22, 1988), went on to become one of the most influential architects of the 21st century. His work has been featured in the Museum of Modern Art, New York and has also been awarded the Pritzker Prize in 1980 for his notable contribution to the world of architecture and design.

Born in Guadalajara, Mexico, Luis Ramiro Barragán Morfín’s works often entailed vivid, colour blocked structures, planned around plants, and integrating the geography of his native country. Spearheading the Modernist movement in architecture in Mexico, his modest and creative works are widely recognised for his emphasis on light, shadow, form and texture. His residence and studio, Casa Barragán in Mexico City ( built 1948), incorporates all these elements in exemplary detail. Casa Barragán was converted to a museum after his death, and was later listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2004.

Casa Barragán in Mexico City by Luis Barragán | Luis Barragán | STIRworld
Casa Barragán in Mexico City by Luis Barragán Image Credit: Forgemind ArchiMedia, Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Barragán was trained as an engineer, and travelled through Spain and France after his graduation. He chanced upon the writings of Ferdinand Bac, a German-French writer, designer and artist, and an entity who greatly inspired him and inclined him towards the arts. His voyage through Europe captivated him – the architecture, landscaping and urban planning spoke to him on a deep level. Upon returning to his birth town, he ventured into a conscious peregrination in architecture, starting off with a series of small residential works in Guadalajara.

Fountain of Lovers by architect Luis Barragán | Luis Barragán | STIRworld
Fountain of Lovers by architect Luis Barragán Image Credit: Susleriel, Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

In 1931, he once again travelled to France and then New York, where he actively pursued an education in modernist design. This journey brought him face-to-face with Mexican-mural painter José Clemente Orozco, the Austrian-American architect, theatre designer, artist and sculptor Frederick Kiesler and a few architecture magazine editors. This furthered his education and awareness in design. The journey was brought to climax when he visited the Swiss-French born architect Le Corbusier, who forever left an impact on his practice.

  • Luis Barragán’s house and studio, under stormy skies | Luis Barragán | STIRworld
    Luis Barragán’s house and studio, under stormy skies Image Credit: Daniel Case, Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
  • The roof patio of Casa Barragán | Luis Barragán | STIRworld
    The roof patio of Casa Barragán Image Credit: Ymblanter, Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Now back in Mexico, filled with a poetic design sense, and obsessed with a notion of developing his own style of Modernist architecture, Barragán started to believe in an ‘emotional architecture’ as opposed to the thought that a house is built as a ‘machine for living.’

Also influenced by the European model of modernism, he designed buildings imbibing the characteristic, straight, clean lines of the Modernist movement, often using raw materials such as stone and wood. Bright shades of yellow and pink dominated most of his works, breathing life and personality into his structures. Unifying this with a purposeful and dramatic use of natural and artificial light made his volumetric forms sing in understated tones.

Interior of Casa Gilardi, by Luis Barragán, in Mexico City, Mexico | Luis Barragán | STIRworld
Interior of Casa Gilardi, by Luis Barragán, in Mexico City, Mexico Image Credit: Ulises00, Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Remarkably, all his works have been realised in Mexico. In 1945, he integrated gardens into the layout of Jardines de Pedregal, emphasising the beginnings of his characteristic design language. Working in the local terrain, he sought to subsume native plants that masterfully complimented the natural, earthy colour palette of the region. This is also widely regarded as one of the most important works of modern architecture in Mexico, and for also being the turning point for Barragán’s career as an architect.

 Fountain of Casa Gilardi by Luis Barragán | Luis Barragán | STIRworld
Fountain of Casa Gilardi by Luis Barragán Image Credit: Ulises00, Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The Convento de las Capuchinas Sacramentarias in Tlálpan (1955) stands testament to the fact that Barragán had an acerbic sense of going beyond just serving aesthetics in his works. The convent skilfully incorporates natural light in its form, paying respect to the importance of light in theology.  Torres de Satéllite (1957), created in collaboration with sculptor Mathias Goeritz, is an array of urban sculptures, designed with a perspective of being viewed from the inside of a vehicle while traveling to work, and was an attempt to infuse vitality to daily commutes in a city. The last design built by Barragán before his death in 1988, the Casa Giraldi presents a lively, pink facade to the street it is located in, while the glass in its interiors is painted a vivid yellow, emanating a divine glow inside the space.

  • Torres de Satélite, sculptures by Mathías Goeritz, Luis Barragán and Jesús ‘Chucho’ Reyes Ferreira | Luis Barragán | STIRworld
    Torres de Satélite, sculptures by Mathías Goeritz, Luis Barragán and Jesús ‘Chucho’ Reyes Ferreira Image Credit: ProtoplasmaKid, Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
  • Inside Casa Barragán | Luis Barragán | STIRworld
    Inside Casa Barragán Image Credit: Forgemind ArchiMedia, Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

His designs and work philosophy inspired the next generation of modernist architects – Louis I Kahn sought his advice, in the planning of the famous Salk Institute in La Jolla, California. Barragán was the one who suggested that rather than placing a garden between the structures (as was Kahn’s initial thought), a wide-open plaza with water in the midst would showcase and hero the design to a greater extent. The concepts personified in his designs– simplicity, colour, modernism and pure genius – continue to live on.

Comments

Comments Added Successfully!

About Author

Jincy Iype

Jincy Iype

Iype is a trained architect, who often indulges in writing and amateur photography. She was a cinephile and a melophile even before she knew what those words meant. She is inclined towards architecture journalism, and can usually be found curled up reading a book, or cooking for therapeutic relief.

Recommended

LOAD MORE
see more articles
149,233,339,184,47

Keep it stirring

get regular updates SIGN UP

Collaborate with us