In the Tacubaya neighbourhood, at number 12 of Calle General Francisco Ramirez, stands an austere concrete façade that would pass unnoticed if not for its grand stature. It is difficult to imagine that therein lies a 20th Century architectural delight, which has been deserving of a number of national and international prizes and which is visited by thousands of people every year.
The façade of the home and studio of Luis Barragan was constructed with the objective of making it fit in with the rest of the buildings in the area, which were principally workhouses, studios, shops and small restaurants. Nevertheless, anybody fortunate enough to cross its threshold will come across something completely different: a vast space full of comfy spots where the traditional blends in with the modern and where every detail is carefully thought out.
Built in 1948, Casa Luis Barragan has been recognised by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. In fact, it is the only building in Latin America to have achieved this distinction in its own right.
This living space, where its creator lived up until his death in 1988, has been kept in its original state and in excellent condition. It is one of the sites in the Mexican capital that is most visited by architects and art connoisseurs from all over the world.
Luis Barragan was born in 1902 in Guadalajara, Jalisco, where he studied and graduated as an architect and civil engineer. Later, he stayed in Europe for several years and, upon his return to Mexico, he designed beautiful gardens, housing developments and golf clubs, and rebuilt older constructions such as the Capuchinas convent on the south side of Mexico City. It was Barragan who created the Pedregal Gardens, one of the city’s most thriving developments, as well as the Satelite Towers, which became an iconic symbol for the area. His other emblematic works include buildings in Manzanillo, Acapulco and Monterrey, as well as a number of other Mexican states.
In 1976, the New York Museum of Modern Art exhibited his work, which led to him being internationally acclaimed. In 1980, Barragan was awarded the Pritzker Prize by the American Hyatt Foundation, the greatest acknowledgement in the field of architecture. Seven years later, in 1987, he was deemed deserving of the National Prize for Architecture.
Luis Barragan died on 22 November, 1988 in his home in Tacubaya, Mexico City.
The home’s interior contrasts sharply with its austere, intentionally unremarkable façade. Its rooms and halls receive sunlight through strategically positioned windows and, likewise, no room receives the unchanging light of a ceiling-fitted bulb, instead using lamps of different shapes and sizes, either standing on furniture or rising from the floor, to highlight particular details of each room.
Throughout the house, its light, colours, furniture and ornaments coexist in perfect harmony. The items of furniture are original creations, some of them redesigned from everyday objects, with no elements mass-produced. The house is also host to a collection of antique relics of sacred art and ceremonial tribal objects.
The porter’s lodge is the first space that you come to in the house; this is a small access way that receives natural sunlight that filters through a yellow stained-glass window. Built from wood and stone, it serves as a waiting area. The vestibule, the entrance to the house, stands out due to its volcanic stone floor, pink walls and baroque altarpiece.
One of the home’s most beautiful spaces is the library. With upholstered walls and hundreds of books, this quiet workplace stands out for its sober and comfortable furniture and for the large window that lights up the room.
The studio, with its sloped wooden roof; the patio de las ollas (pottery patio), a small place enclosed within white walls that is dedicated to greenery and water; the garden, where jasmine and bush lilies abound; the spacious, well-lit kitchen and the guest room that looks out onto the street, are all spaces that you traverse before entering the main bedroom or the “white room”.
The main bedroom is located on the second floor and has a view over the gardens. This room is evidence of Barragan’s spiritual training, whereby he preferred to keep very few objects in his bedroom so that he would not be distracted, so that he could detach himself materially and feel spiritually lighter. The room has access to a terrace that offers an exceptional view over the area.
Casa Luis Barragan is located at General Francisco Ramirez 12-14, Colonia Ampliación Daniel Garza, in Mexico City. Visits can be made by booking in advance; opening hours are Monday to Friday 10:30 to 16:00 and Saturday 10:30 to 12:00. General admission is $200.