Monday, January 5, 2009
Casa Luis Barragan
After two unsuccessful attempts to see the Casa Luis Barragan I finally got to see the house on my last day in Mexico. I had high expectations of what the house would be like. Expectations that were not only satisfied but the atmosphere of the house was more moving than I could have anticipated.
Luis Barragan built the house and studio for himself in 1948. The house is considered one of Barragan's masterpieces and one of the truest manifestations of his architectural ideas. The three storey house and large internal garden covers a total of 1,161m2. Despite the scale of the property the internal spaces have an intense personal and monastic feel and has a serenity and silence which is moving. The internal spaces are built as rooms within rooms, divided by a series of walls and screens which do not reach the ceiling. The movement through the spaces is controlled by changes in direction and open staircases which are highlighted by small moments of intense beauty as one is invited to pause and contemplate the beauty of coloured light falling onto a piece of art, a surprising change in the texture or colour of a wall or a mysterious glow from an unseen source, or an unknown and captivating view into the garden.
The robust timber ceiling, rendered walls and relationship between the building and garden are typical of traditional Mexican architecture and have a hand made textured quality which appeals to the senses. The building combines both traditional and modern architectural elements. It is simultaneously simple and complex and at all times surprising without being challenging. The influence of the International Style and Espirit Nouveau on Barragan had evolved into a deeply personal and contextual architecture which was to be greatly influential on future generations of architects, both local and international.
When accepting the Priztker Prize for architecture Barragan stated, "In alarming proportions the following words have disappeared from architectural publications: beauty, inspiration, magic, sorcery, enchantment, and also serenity, mystery, silence, privacy, astonishment. All of these have found a loving home in my soul." (CASA MEXICANA" ©1989 Tim Street-Porter)
Photography was not allowed in the house, however, it is the intangible qualities that Barragan describes above which make his architecture so special, qualities which cannot be fully described through photography or words but rather by experiencing the atmosphere of the house in reality.