poster by Federico Babina
Referred to as Mexico’s most influential designer of the 20th century, Luis Barragán is remember for abundance of vibrant color as well light and space. He reinvented the International Style, bringing color to Mexican Modernism.Luis’ heavy influences were gained by his trips to Paris to see the 1925 Exposition des Arts-Décoratifs, an event which popularized Art Deco and introduced the public to the industrially-produced International Style designs of Le Corbusier among others. He also gained inspiration with meeting Mexican muralist, José Clemente Orozco, and the landscape architect, Ferdinand Bac.Because of his mastery of space and light, Luis brought back his own version of Modernism by imbuing it with warmth and vibrance of his native Mexico. It combined Mexican visual heritage with modernist forms of abstraction. He accentuated his colorful buildings’ in a natural environment. He decided a house should not be a “machine for living.” Rather his goal was “emotional architecture.”Barragán called himself a landscape architect:
“I believe that architects should design gardens to be used, as much as the houses they build, to develop a sense of beauty and the taste and inclination toward the fine arts and other spiritual values. Any work of architecture which does not express serenity is a mistake.”
From: Contemporary Architects by Muriel Emanuel; published by St. Martins Press, 1980
Luis’ favorite themes were light and water and soon became skilled at manipulating them both in buildings like the 1966 Folke Egerstrom House and Stables built around a brightly colored, sculptural sequence of horse pools and the 1975-77 Francisco Gilardi House framing an indoor pool.
“My earliest childhood memories are related to a ranch my family owned near the village of Mazamitla. It was a pueblo with hills, formed by houses with tile roofs and immense eaves to shield the passersby from the heavy rains which fall in that area. Even the earth’s color was interesting because, it was red earth. In this village, the water distribution system consisted of great gutted logs, in the form of troughs, which ran on a support structure of tree forks, 5 meters high, above the roofs. This aqueduct crossed over the town, reaching the patios, where there were stone fountains to receive the water. The patios housed the stables, with cows and chickens all together. Outside, in the street, there were iron rings to tie the horses. The channeled logs, covered with moss, dripped water all over town, of course, it gave this village an ambience of a fairytale. No. There are no photographs. I have only its memory”.
From: Kenneth Frampton. Modern Architecture: A critical history. London: Thames and Hudson. 1985. 2nd Edition
But for most of his life, Luis wasn’t praised for his colorful building. At times he was living off selling his collection of books and other collections to get by. At age 73, Luis wasn’t a well known architect. In fact, he had never built anything outside his native Mexico and was virtually forgotten. But the beauty and originality of Barragán’s buildings made him a legend among his fellow architects which lobbied hard for a show at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Within a couple years, Luis was awarded the Pritzker Prize, the architecture’s answer to the Nobel.Sources: Barragán Foundation | Design Museum | Sketch42 | The Pritzker Prize | NY Times | Mocphale | Endless Tours | Architizer