“Any work of architecture that does not express serenity is a mistake.” — Luis Barragan
Built in 1976, Casa Gilardi is the last house built by the architect Luis Barragan and is a modernist jewel in the crown of architecture. Since this project came to him after he had formally retired, he was quite hesitant to take it on, but the enormous Jacaranda tree planted on the property intrigued him.
The owners were presented with a single condition for him to take on the project, which was that the Jacaranda tree would stay, and the house would be built around it. The house is currently owned by Martin Luque and his family. Luque is the former business partner of Pancho Gilardi and has managed to sustain the structure the way Barragan had intended; it is an architectural marvel frozen in time. (Howarth, 2016)
Like most modernist structures, the bright vibrant colors are meant to create a play of texture and light. The elements of light, color, texture, and composition are meant to be a product of Mexican culture and; therefore, The shades of colors that have been used in the structure are borrowed from the paintings of Mexican artist Chuco Reyes Ferreira.
The colors help one identify the seams to which a space is stretched without having to segregate these spaces with walls. He creates illusion, he creates tension, and he cleverly incorporates a feeling of serenity in his design.
The spaces are defined by the strong composition of volumetric forms, the frontal volume is a G+2 storied structure that includes the core spaces of a typical residence, garage, bedroom, living room, kitchen, laundry rooms, toilets, and a terrace on the front façade which can be accessed from the first floor. The second volume we see is the covered corridor that leads from the entrance to the dining cum pool area.
The rear volumetric composition is that of the pool cum dining area which is a single-storied structure with an extended ceiling to make way for clerestory-like openings that dictate the playful reflections of daylight on the pool water.
The modernist interiors have Barragan’s personal touch, the spaces and the setting feel personal. The vernacular components, pieces of furniture and artifacts represent Mexican folk art and blend with the bright colored walls and are picked by Barragan himself. The interior spaces feel serene and isolated from the urban bustle of the surroundings.
Colors play an important role in the perception of these spaces. The purple wall in the courtyard mimics the shade of the jacaranda flowers. For Barragan, the color yellow reflected spirituality. The corridor that leads to the pool has tainted windows that illuminate the white-colored walls of the corridor with yellow hues and render the blue-colored pool wall with an interesting frame.
The pool wall extends a little further than the ceiling to make way for openings that introduce light into space. The red wall in the middle of the pool acts as a structural element for the openings and plays a compositional role as well. The blue color walls in the front courtyard reflect the sky above.
Structure And Materials
The structure is not transparent like the American glass facades and ‘open plan’ layouts. The material used for load-bearing walls are bricks along with a stucco finish on the exterior that is native to Mexican architecture. The interiors have a more subtle and smoother finish for cleaner shadows and bright reflections of daylight. Small subtractions in the 3 major volumetric forms make for the protected outdoor spaces like the courtyards. (Palasik, 2018)
Barragan’s last architectural endeavor is a true reflection of his ideologies. It is a marvel to look upon and is a piece of architecture that is built for comfort and is preserved as Barragan intended it to be. Every inch and every space of the house makes one feel serene. It is one of the lesser-known modernist structures possibly due to its unconventionality.
Barragan truly made this project his own, from choosing interior artifacts to designing furniture, each corner has a touch of Barragan himself and the Luques intend for it to stay that way. Casa Gilardi still stands in its full glory in Mexico City, as an ode to Pancho Gilardi as well as Luis Barragan.
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Available at: https://www.dezeen.com/2016/10/13/movie-luis-barragan-colourful-casa-gilardi-architecture-mexico-city/
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Available at: https://www.theartblog.org/2018/02/living-in-the-past-a-tour-of-luis-barragans-casa-gilardi/