Luis Barragán

Luis Barragán

Luis Barragán Morfin (Guadalajara, March 9 1902 - Mexico City, November 22 1988) is considered the most important Mexican architect of the 20th century.

Educated as an engineer, he graduated from the "Escuela Libre de Ingenieros" in 1923 and was self-trained as an architect. After graduation, he travelled extensively through Spain, France (where he attended lectures of Le Corbusier), and Morocco. While in France he became aware of the writings of , a German-French writer, designer and artist who had a huge influence on Barragán's future career. [Tim Street-Porter, "Casa Mexicana" Stewart, Tabori & Chang (1989) ISBN 1-55670-097-0] He practiced architecture in Guadalajara from 1927-1936, and in Mexico City thereafter. A unique feature, as can be seen in many of his residential interiors and fountain features, is the typical tall (3.5m [12ft.] or more) coloured walls, which he borrowed and modified from traditional Mexican buildings. He situated many of his designs amidst natural backdrops, such as lava rock outcrops and groves of trees. His understanding of aesthetics allowed him to design urban landmarks as well as furniture and gardens. Although the number of works he completed is not great, they have allowed him to become an influential figure in the world of landscape and architectural design, as well as object design.

In 1980, he became the second winner of the Pritzker Prize. His house and studio, built in 1948 in Mexico City, was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2004.

Notable projects

In 1945 he created the planification and urbanization plan of the Jardines del Pedregal, in 1947 he built his own house and studio in Tacubaya -- which is now on UNESCO's World Heritage List-- and in 1955 he rebuilt the historical "Convento de las Capuchinas Sacramentari" in Tlalpan, all located at the southern part of Mexico City. The same year he drew the plan of the colonia Jardines del Bosque in Guadalajara. In 1957 he started the design of what would become the Torres de Satélite in collaboration with the sculptor Mathias Goeritz and, in the same year, he designed the residential area Las Arboledas, a few kilometers away from Ciudad Satélite. In 1964 he designed, alongside architect Sordo Madaleno, the Lomas Verdes residential area, also near the Satélite area, inside Naucalpan, Estado de México. In 1967 he started what is perhaps his best-known work, the San Cristóbal Estates equestrian development in Mexico City.

Barragán and the Modern Movement

Barragán attended lectures by Le Corbusier on his trip to Europe, and he became influenced by the European modernism of his time. The puristic clean lines so evident in the work he produced in the years since his return to Mexico are evidence of the influence of the Modern movement. Nonetheless, according to Andres Casillas (who worked with Barragán), he eventually became entirely convinced that the house should not be "a machine for living." Indeed, his houses integrate the garden--with trees, plants, and fountains, in a more intrinsic manner than any of the work of Le Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe, or any other important European architect. In addition, he never got away from using natural materials such as stone or wood in his work. These natural materials he combined with a very creative use of light to enliven his enchanting creations.


The work of Luis Barragán is often cited in reference to minimalist architecture. John Pawson, in his book "Minimum", includes images from some of Barragan's projects. Most architects who do minimalistic architecture do not use color, but the ideas of forms and spaces which Barragán pioneered are still there. There have been several essays written by the Pritzker Prize recipient Alvaro Siza in prefaces to books that make reference to the ideas of Barragan as well.

It has also been suggested that Barragán informally consulted Louis Kahn on the space between the buildings of the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California [] . According to that claim, Kahn's original idea was to place a garden between the buildings; however, Barragán reputedly suggested that an open plaza, with only a water feature in between, would better reflect the spirit of the location. This area, possibly designed with Barragán's advice in mind, is arguably the most impressive aspect of the building complex.

Barragán's influence can also be seen in the work of many of Mexico's contemporary architects, such as Ricardo Legorreta.


After his death in 1988, two non-profit organizations were created to help manage Barragán's legacy.

Casa Luis Barragán was Barragán's former private residence. It is now a museum which celebrates Barragán, and also serves as a conduit between scholars and architects interested in visiting other Barragán buildings in Mexico, including Capilla de las Capuchinas and Casa Prieto López. [ Casa Luis Barragán website] As noted previously, UNESCO added the Casa Luis Barragán to its World Heritage List in 2004. [ List of Mexican Properties on the World Heritage List]

The Barragán Foundation is a non-profit organization based in Switzerland which functions as a Barragán archive as well his official Estate. They own the complete rights to "the name and oeuvre" of Luis Barragán, as well as Armando Salas Portugal's photographs involving Barragán and his work. [ The Barragán Foundation website] The U.S. copyright representative for The Barragán Foundation is the Artists Rights Society [ ARS List of Artists Represented, Section "B"] .

Important Works

*House for the architect / Barragán House, Mexico City (1947-48)
*Jardines del Pedregal Subdivision, Mexico City (1945-53)
*Tlalpan Chapel, Tlalpan, Mexico City (1954-60)
*Gálvez House, Mexico City (1955)
*Jardines del Bosque Subdivision, Guadalajara (1955-58)
*Torres de Satélite, Mexico City (1957-58), in collaboration with Mathias Goeritz
*Cuadra San Cristóbal, Los Clubes, Mexico City (1966-68)
*Gilardi House, Mexico City (1975-77)


External links

* [ Barragan Foundation - The Archives of Luis Barragán]
* [ Luis Barragan's house and studio (Spanish)]
* [ Barragán's Pritzker Prize citation]
* [ Artists Rights Society, Barragán's U.S. Copyright Representatives]

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