“Don’t ask me about this building or that one, don’t look at what I do, see what I see.” – Luis Barragan
Pritzker award laureate – Mexican born architect Luis Barragan (March 9, 1902 – November 22, 1988) revolutionized the world with distinct use of colors, immense play with natural light, shadow, form, texture, and hands-on creating “emotional architecture”. Born in Guadalajara and graduating as a civil engineer and architect, he started his journey in Europe (France and Spain) and simultaneously attended Le Corbusier’s lectures where he was highly mesmerized by his teachings and the concept of garden cities. Further travel to Morocco and North Africa inculcated a Mediterranean touch with a heavy interest in incorporating landscape with architecture to his construction industry. “I don’t divide architecture, landscaping, and gardening; to me, they are one” – Luis Barragan.
Barragan’s work has been classified as architecture ‘minimalist’ and color ‘maximalist’. Most of the time, minimalism doesn’t outcast bold colors but when observing Barragan’s masterpieces, an intense focus on sharp lines, vibrant colors, striking textures, and the playful notion of water can be observed. The planes could be stucco, adobe, timber, or sometimes water interacting with surrounding nature. Barragan believed that architects should design gardens to be used just as they design houses to develop a sense of beauty and inclination towards fine arts just when the house should not be a “machine for living”. “Any work of architecture that does not express serenity is a mistake.” – Luis Barragan.
Barragan’s works have been much more than buildings with striking colors and textures. His interventions involved humans and their emotions. The atmosphere created by his designed spaces welcomed the feeling of warmth, serene, beauty, inspiration, magic, intimacy, and amazement. His legacy represents something so timeless that it continues to inspire not just the three generations of Architects in Mexico but the world indeed. Just when he received the Pritzker Prize in 1980, he said, “It is impossible to understand art and the glory of its history without avowing religious spirituality and mythical roots that lead us to the very reason of being of the artistic phenomenon. Without one or the other, there would be no Egyptian Pyramids, nor those of ancient Mexico. Would the Greek temples or Gothic cathedrals have existed?”
1. CASA BARRAGAN
Former residence of Barragan demonstrates all his trademarks- color, light, form, texture, and shadow. His projects have always had the “mysterious” effect to it segregating exteriors from the interiors. The exterior view of his residence, little do we know what that leads to. The most striking effect of the building interiors is the use of color with natural and artificial light.
Walking down the staircase to the living room, the first known striking feature is the pink wall. Barragan considered him a landscape architect and hence his projects strived to connect exteriors with the interiors. Opening up to the backyard creates a sense of belonging and celebration of nature within the space. The strategic position of skylights and windows helped in visual tracking of the light throughout the day. A subtle play with privacy and visibility can be observed. The entrance has higher windows protecting from public areas while the back area has full-length windows leading to private garden space.
2. CAPUCHIN CHAPEL
The feeling of “awe” takes the breath away from all those who visit the chapel. The expressive nature of materials and movement of light proves the trademark of the architect. A notable feature of several patterns can be observed including the yellow lattice where on the water white flowers float.
The tiny details in the church are noteworthy. The light passing through the yellow glass in the choir lot falls on the caramel-colored floor bringing about a contrast even on the coarse-textured walls of the area. The reflection of the cross from the opposite window falling on the adjacent wall adds a rhythm to the interiors of the religious building.
3. CASA GIRALDI
This was the last masterpiece created by Barragan in his 80s. The limelight of this project has certainly been the elements of nature (pool and jacaranda tree) that were complemented along with the building. The house is divided into two zones- front (private rooms) and back (common areas) which are connected via corridor and courtyard located around the huge jacaranda tree.
This house is built on the core principles of minimalism – staircase without a railing; skylights tracking the natural light in the interiors; Barragan’s prototype of using vibrant colors- red and blue.
Not only did Barragan influence the design and construction industry but it also had a profound result on the fashion industry. His design and color theories have majorly influenced the textiles industry for its contrasts and mystery effect. Here are a few examples from Fashion Weeks and Luxury collections around the world that got their motivation from the architect to bring on the catwalks and red carpets.
4. TRUMP’S MEXICAN BORDER WALL ENVISIONED AS BARRAGAN’S INFLUENCE
A group of interns in one of the architecture companies in Mexico came up with the idea of celebrating the great Mexican legacy of Barragan by envisioning the wall as his prototype which currently is being built by the Trump Administration along the US-Mexico border. The wall running 3,145 kilometers from the pacific coast to the Gulf of Mexico is painted in pink to brighten the spirit of the great architect in maintaining his legacy.