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9.9.04

Architecture of Luis Barragán

Luis Barragán, Fuente de los amantesSophie Latil wrote an article (Luis Barragan, les couleurs de l'âme, August 26) for Le Figaro on Mexican architect Luis Barragán, whose work I didn't know. (This ignorance should come as no surprise: see Ionarts posts on other architects I didn't know, Santiago Calatrava and Giancarlo De Carlo.) You may also be interested in learning something about him, which is why I am translating some information from the article (with links I've added):

The easiest way to understand the work of Mexican architect Luis Barragán would have been to speak in colors: his reds and yellows, his pinks, his orange and his blues have traveled around the world, as the definitive signature of his architecture. At the Forum d'urbanisme et d'architecture [in Nice], the exposition put together by Marc Vaye, professor at the Ecole spéciale d'architecture, gives witness to what he considers as belonging to the Latin American architectural tradition. He has chosen to exhibit some selected pieces: the staircase of the Casa Barragán suspended over the void, the portal of the San Cristobal equestrian center, the cross from the nave of the Convent of the Capuchinas, the red wall and its single opening. "These models reduced to the essential are architectural fragments. They show what is most innovative in Barragán's work," explains the exhibit's curator.
Barragán was the son of a landowner who spent his childhood vacations on the family ranch near Mazamitla ("an area of grandiose and austere spaces, of incandescent luminosity, and where water is omnipresent"). Barragán ("an aristocrat unclassed by the revolution of the landless") was inspired by nostalgia for that forgotten time.
"All his life, he tried to bring back the emotions, the feelings, the atmosphere of the places where he grew up," explains Marc Vaye. Ultimately, the artist (1902-1988) left behind a group of photographs. The architecture was a late revelation because he chose a training as a hydraulic engineer. [...] In 1925, he went on a trip to Europe, saw Granada, the Alhambra and its gardens, Toscany, San Gimignano and its towers, Paris where he claimed to be disappointed by the World Fair. [..] The self-taught architect started building when he returned to Mexico in 1926. In an eclectic style of Hispano-Moorish inspiration he created residences based on the need for an intimate relationship between houses and gardens. [...]

In 1940, he acquired 600 hectares [1482.66 acres] of inhospitable volcanic land south of Mexico City. He wanted to create an ideal city, an urban Utopia, and wrote the charter for it. But very quickly, the project overcame him. Mexico City gobbled up its suburbs and finally overtook the site. The paradise of El Pedregal was lost.
On El Pedregal, see Keith L. Eggener, Remembering a Barragán Landscape (Architecture Week, December 4, 2002). Among his final projects were the Convent of the Capuchinas Sacramentarias del Purisimo Corazon de Maria, in Tlalpan, and the towers of the Satellite City (Center of Technological and Educational Innovation) in Mexico City, in partnership with German sculptor Mathias Göritz, living in Mexico, and colorist painter Chucho Reyes Ferreira. Barragán never drew, and there are no plans for any of his buildings. Like a sculptor, he built and insisting on demolishing whatever he didn't like. For other appreciations, see Casa de Luis Barragán: Matrix and Analytique, by Anastasis Rodriguez, and this page by René Burri. This site, written in Thai and thus inscrutable to me, has nevertheless a large number of images. The exhibit in Nice, Luis Barragán, architecte du silence, is open until September 24. It appears to be the same show as this one, which had the same title, in 1992. Another exhibit, Luis Barragán—The Quiet Revolution, was at The Design Museum in London, in 2001 (see Jonathan Glancey's review, Cowboy builder, February 19, 2001, for The Guardian).

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