The architecture of Luis Barragán breaks some of the unspoken rules of modernism. Modernist architecture is often characterized as colorless since it utilizes raw concrete, natural wood, and simple materials. But Barragán used color and light to breathe life into his buildings. Though he often employed the same bold gestures and simple moves of more traditional modernist buildings, his colorful works also celebrated the playful colors of Mexico.
Keep scrolling for five of our favorite projects by Luis Barragán. If you want to see more great works by famous architects, check out our series on buildings by designers like Bjarke Ingels, Zaha Hadid, Santiago Calatrava, and Louis Kahn.
A Brief Biography of Luis Barragán
Luis Ramiro Barragán Morfín was born on March 9, 1902, in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico. Born into a wealthy Catholic family, he studied engineering at the Escuela Libre de Ingenieros de Guadalajara, from which he graduated in 1923. Two years later, Barragán traveled to Western Europe. The gardens he encountered on his travels inspired him to think about landscape as part of an architectural work instead of as a separate thing. His experience in Europe also introduced him to significant modernist architects of the time like Le Corbusier.
Barragán was celebrated for his innovative work in Mexico and is still the only Mexican to have won the Pritzker Architecture Prize. While most modernists were staunchly pursuing a logic-based design philosophy, Barragán was conscious of other aspects design considerations that sometimes felt lost during the time period. “In alarming proportions,” he's quoted as saying, “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.”
Here are five beautiful buildings by Luis Barragán.
Casa Estudio Luis Barragán
Like many architects’ homes, Barragán’s studio acted as a place to test his ideas about space and design. Relatively simple from the outside, the interior of the Casa Estudio Luis Barragán is the perfect reflection of his unqiue style. It is located in a Tacubaya neighborhood in Miguel Hidalgo and was built in 1948 while the architect was working on Jardines del Pedregal. It was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004.
If you want to see Barragán’s house in person, you can find admission information and hours of service here.
Cuadra San Cristóbal
Cuadra San Cristóbal is one of Barragán’s most iconic designs. Located in his project Los Clubes near Mexico City, the private estate features the bold colors that define the architect’s work. The program in the house hints at the previously rural environment of the area with a large swimming pool, a fountain, stables, and gardens in addition to the large home.
The form of the home is relatively simple. The colors used throughout are what inspired critics to call the home “emotional architecture.” This includes a palette of pinks, purples, mauve, and other bright colors used with more earthy tones.
Fuente de los Amantes
Also located in Los Clubes, Fuente de los Amantes, or Lover’s Fountain, is often considered Barragán’s most beautiful landscape project. Though it is part of a larger scheme, it is important to add to our list because Barragán was not only an architect but also acted as a landscape architect and a sculptor. He imagined Fuente de los Amantes as a place for lovers to reflect and for riders to bond with their horses as they went past the fountain in the club. The walls of the fountain are, of course, painted in the architect’s well-loved tones of earth colors and pink.
Torres de Satélite
Barragán often drifted from architecture to sculpture. In Torres de Satélite, he worked with painter Jesus Reyes Ferreira and sculptor Mathias Goeritz. The project came to Barragán from Mario Pani who was working on the master plan for the new city and suggested Barragán design a grand symbol for the main entry road to the area. The towers symbolize the modernization and rebirth of Cuidad Satélite.
There were originally meant to be seven towers. After budget cuts and issues with investors, however, only five towers were made. The original tower colors were white, yellow, and ochre, but they were repainted in different styles over the years. Today, there and four different color towers—one red, one blue, one yellow, and two white.
It is thanks to Pancho Gilardi and Martin Luque that we have one more great work by Barragán. The architect was 80 years old and already retired in 1976 when the clients approached him about the project. Barragán decided to take the commission anyway and created a bachelor pad convertible to a family home. It was the last project the architect oversaw to completion before his death.
At the center of the project is an old jacaranda tree that has come to symbolize Casa Gilardi. Barragán was intent on preserving the tree and making it the centerpiece of the new home. It is part of the new landscape in the same courtyard and a large pool on the property. Pink, purple, blue, yellow, and other vibrant colors are used to cover large walls with white walls acting as visual relief.