On November 22, 1988, one of the most important and revered figures in the history of Mexican and international architecture died in Mexico City. Luis Barragán Morfín, born in Guadalajara and trained as a civil engineer left behind an extensive legacy of published works, conferences, buildings, houses, and gardens that remain relevant to this day. While Barragán was known for his far-reaching research in customs and traditions, above all, the architect spent his life in contemplation. His sensitivity to the world and continued effort to rewrite the mundane has made him a lasting figure in Mexico, and the world.
Undoubtedly, Luis Barragán's legacy represents something so complex and timeless that it continues to inspire and surprise architects across generations. It is because of this that, 30 years after his death, we've compiled this series of testimonies from some of Mexico's most prominent contemporary architects, allowing them to reflect on their favorites of Barragan's works and share just how his work has impacted and inspired theirs.
"Almost all of Barragán's works inspire me. However, the most important for me is Casa Barragán. Once I went to see it and while we chatted in the studio with classical music playing in the background, somebody commented that concrete was a cold, gray, dirty, and sad material. Barragán stood there for a moment and then nodded...'above all it is sad.' When we left we all felt as if we were in a trance. The memories I have of Casa Barragán are always serene."
"For me, all of Barragán's works are relevant, even the most functional. There are many lessons to be found in his creations. His own house is truly a masterpiece. It's a place that keeps absolute harmony and, from the moment you enter, you're transported into a state of peace and serenity.
"Barragán was many things, but what I like most about his work are those moments where he reminds me that he was a human being. That window in his private room that opens up to the neighboring property (the Ortega Garden) is a gateway to his desires, his love of the garden, his past, the nostalgia, and prevalence of beauty. I've always been obsessed with that window. For me, it's an element that speaks profoundly about the human that Barragán was."
Javier Muñoz of Muñoz Arquitectos
"I think the work that has most influenced me is Casa Barragán. From its discreet positioning on the street, we can see Barragán was more interested in the habitable space than in showing off the house's exterior. Its paths and walkways represent the jarring alternations between compression and liberation in human life. The color, far from being a mere accessory, unites with the light as a way to "paint the space" and to create atmospheres that change throughout the day. The garden first appears unreachable behind the large windows, but afterwards can be penetrated and inhabited as a part of the house, an invitation to enter the depths of your own being and to forget the hostility and enjoy the austerity and simplicity that allow you to experience the peace and quiet that Barragán sought in his home."
"I believe that Barragán's greatest lesson was to be an architect without ambition... to achieve an architecture that speaks directly and profoundly in a way that touches the heart. In a time when we're saturated with architects that talk and exaggerate without saying anything of substance...There's so much to learn from Luis Barragán!"
Héctor Barroso of Estudio Héctor Barroso
"Casa Barragán is Luis Barragán's most important work. I try to visit it periodically, since, for me, it's important to keep reflecting on it. It helps me to step away from the quantity of information and images that we have at our fingertips and to truly live and enjoy his architecture."
Augusto Quijano of Augusto Quijano Arquitectos
"My favorite work is definitely the house, his house, and workshop … it's the creation of Luis Barragán that has most impacted me because it's about a series of spaces that capture a pressure and tension that can be difficult to convey, but here it is done in a powerful and spatial way. The Portrait of Saint Christopher is the one that has had the greatest influence on me because of its scale and the overwhelming spatial lesson that it gives."
Raúl Medina of DOSA Studio
"The work by Luis Barragán that has most inspired me is his house in the old Tacubaya neighborhood. It's the creation that unites his maturity as an architect. It's interesting to see and feel how he was able to transmit his spiritual essence into the space. It reminds me a lot of something Richard England said about Barragán: 'It's one of the few times in architecture to have achieved so much with so little and it's one of the few times that such a poor supply of materials has produced so much spiritual wealth.' At the end of the day, I don't believe that architecture is architecture if it doesn't move the viewer or user."
Salvador Macías of Estudio Macías Peredo
"Casa Barrágan is, without a doubt, my favorite work by Luis Barragán because out of all his works, it's his own house where the architecture, landscaping, and furniture come together in perfect harmony."
Javier Sánchez of JSa
"What I like about Barragán is his bravery and compromise in the search for his own language and, of course, his house, which I consider a laboratory."
Rodrigo de la Peña of RDLP Arquitectos
"My favorite work of his is The Convent of the Sisters Clarisas Capuchinas. This is one of the works that has impacted me most as an architect. In all of Barragán's work, but especially in these types of spaces, there is a mastery of light as an architectural tool and as a recurring motif in the living spaces. You can see this particularly in the altar, where you get a stunning sensation as a spectator in this contemplative space as if you were on the receiving end of a spiritual message."
"Monumentality is a recurring theme in this work of Barragán's, the weight of the materials used in its construction transmits a somber and direct message, an implicit elegance based on historical references and emotional architecture. You can see this in the central patio of the monastery, an example of the excellence of traditional Mexican architecture, in this case, a trough that also serves as a fountain, using details with multiple intentions and functions."
Ignacio del Río of Estudio MMX
"As much as I would love to be able to choose a garden (they fascinate me as much as the next person, after reading Axel Araño's analysis of proportions and multi-dimensional sequencing in Barragán's work, I have to choose the Capuchinas Chapel. It offers the possibility of becoming aware in an immediate and intuitive manner, a unique space designed for introspection and spirituality."
Derek Dellekamp of Dellekamp Arquitectos
"The work of Barragán's that has most impacted me is the Capuchinas Chapel. The integration of light and space in perfect harmony makes the experience of being inside it profoundly spiritual. The space loses its materiality to become metaphysical."
"For Barragán, it was essential for architecture to surpass purely rational analysis. He wanted people to acknowledge the wellbeing and peace of religious spaces in his work. Upon visiting his buildings and gardens, it's evident that he understood perfectly the spiritual value of architecture, regardless of faith. Perhaps nowhere is this more evident than in the Capuchinas Chapel, built to evoke total serenity as an antidote against anguish and fear, two feelings that plague the collective conscience of our generation. You cannot deny its relevance."
Fernando Romero of FR-EE
"My favorite work is the Chapel. I used to go as a student when I was unsure of pursuing architecture."
Javier Sordo Madaleno de Haro of Sordo Madaleno Arquitectos
"My favorite work by the master Luis Barragán is the Torres de Satélite, mainly because it was an agent of change for the area and served as an identity for the Ciudad Satélite. Moreover, I really admire his collaboration with Chucho Reyes, a good friend of my grandfather, Juan Sordo Madaleno."
"One of the most exciting spatial experiences in Mexico City has to be the Torres de Satélite; the evolution of its shape when driving at fast speeds. Afterwards, you get the magnificence of two levels of abstract colors as you walk between them on an inclined plaza and finally uncover the mystery of its interior space that opens to the sky."
Carlos Rodríguez Bernal of SPRB arquitectos
"My favorite work is Cuadra San Cristóbal. The scale and sequencing of the space are truly flawless. It's a masterpiece where the landscape is built into the architecture and the architecture itself turns into the landscape. It's what we understand as architectural scenery. The landscape doesn't complement the architecture but rather is the architecture. In the case of Cuadra San Cristóbal, Barragán was a minimalist in terms of resources and details... And this made it all the more brilliant... A genius."
Gilberto Rodríguez of GLR Arquitectos
"Without a doubt, my favorite work is Casa Gilardi. I first came across photos of the house in the Artes de Mexico magazine, where through its doorway I saw its mythical yellow hallway flooded with light. To see it in real life was truly exciting, similar to the surrealist pool with the red wall rising out of the water. I once read that the house had a great sequence of surprising elements that gave it an almost magical theatricality. The only thing I know is that the photos come nowhere near actually visiting the place. I returned a few years ago, accompanied by Alberto Campo Baeza, who was dying to see Barragán's works in person. I believe that Casa Gilardi is a masterpiece, and all of Mexico City's architecture students should witness it."
Los Bebederos (Drinking Troughs)
Gabriela Carrillo of Taller de Arquitectura Mauricio Rocha + Gabriela Carrillo
"I love Barragán's drinking troughs... I love the synthesis of the three elements dematerializing in the reflections, light, and shadows as if to represent profound silence."
Ingrid Moye of Zeller & Moye
"As a young girl, I spent a lot of time playing in the gardens around Barragán's troughs. My grandmother lived in a colonial house close to the gardens in Arboledas, and this was my favorite place to go with my cousins. I even learned how to ride a bike there. Even though I was small, Los Bebederos always struck me as a different and mystical place. I spent years playing there even though there wasn't a jungle gym. I was happy just running around and exploring every corner of it. What I'll never forget is the smell of the eucalyptus, the reflections in the water of the Great Pool, the shadows of the trees over the walls, and the images of textures, both natural and constructed. The thing that most attracted me was that the place couldn't be placed into just one category. It's somewhere between architecture and nature, between intimate and public, between control and freedom."
"I haven't been back to the park since I was a child and, unfortunately, I know it's not in the best state, however, the memories I have of it have stayed with me through the years and in that time I've found the words to describe them. As an adult, I've visited many of Barragan's works but I've never felt as intrigued or at peace as I felt at Los Bebederos."
Christoph Zeller of Zeller & Moye
"When I still lived in Basil, Switzerland, many years before moving to Mexico, I was moving from my house and I passed into a person that I met in a place that I don't remember. In my conversations with him, I found out that he wasn't only an architect, but, to my surprise, an expert on Luis Barragán. In fact, his project was to research the unknown works of Barragán in order to come up with the most complete compilation of Barragan's works ever published. He was to do this with a series of books published through the Barragán Foundation. At the same time, he was the guardian of the entire archive of Barragán's drawings, outlines, images, books, etc. that strangely found his home in Switzerland via an ocean voyage in an air-conditioned bunker made from walls of meter thick concrete. One day, he showed me the archive that, as of that moment, was off limits to the public. Walking into the cave, I found myself surrounded by walls that could withstand a nuclear bomb. It was there that I found the most moving works of architecture ever put on paper, boxes and boxes of them. We went through a variety of projects, both finished and unfinished. We saw drawings, outlines, and colored illustrations. The work put into every detail of every drawing was astounding. It was like a trip through time from the first mark on paper to the colors carefully put onto the images. It was a very intimate moment with Barragán's work as if I was visiting him in his studio."
"Years later, I met my friend out of sheer luck on a street in Houston, Texas. He told me that he was scoping the area for a fountain designed by Barragán for a local neighborhood. Apparently, he had found a sketch of the fountain buried deep in the archives but no other references. Nobody knew if it had even been built. I haven't heard from him since, so I don't know if he ever found that mystical fountain."
"Unbeknownst to me, the first Luis Barragán work I saw at seven-years-old was an influence to me. Casa Ortega, where I played one morning, has since marked me as an architect: the importance of color, textures, and the presence of materials. The garden was an infinite universe and the house a refuge within a landscape full of surprises. Afterward, in university, I visited the Capuchinas Chapel, and then the Casa Egerström which were fundamental to understanding what spaces were made of. Barragán is one of the clearest examples of this concept: you can't understand architecture without first considering the body."
Michel Rojkind of Rojkind Arquitectos
"The Casa Prieto or Casa Pedregal is one of the projects that I've been able to visit on different occasions and, for this reason, I've been able to thoroughly enjoy it inside and out. From the gardens of lava to the rocky grounds incorporated into the space, all of these elements make the work one of my favorites and reinforce the emotional aspects of architecture that Barragán so defended."
Luis Beltrán of VRTICAL
"Without a doubt and for reasons of professional involvement, my favorite work of Barragán's are the Workshops of the Glorieta Melchor Ocampo. It was here that we discovered the line between a master who was fixated on international style but who also found purpose in the innards of a project and in sophisticated spatial sequences. I think these were the beginnings of his mature stage."
Juan Carral of JC Arquitectura
"The work that has always stayed with me is the building where I lived in Cuauhtémoc. I consider it a challenge to talk about Barragán and surprise, Barragán and light, silence, labyrinths, and gardens. I've always found his previous period interesting, where, with a vision of business, he began to design urban buildings that were still very much suburban. This is a lesson in optimism with vision, truly necessary in rescuing our contemporary city."
Enrique Norten of TEN Arquitectos
"My favorite work and the one that has interested me most of Barragán's, are the two houses on the east side of Parque México (1928). The modern rigor of the houses isn't only surprising, but it also establishes the parameters for his most known works. Furthermore, it's truly vanguard!"
Ana Patrón + Carlos Patrón of TACO Taller de Arquitectura Contextual
"Luis Barragán is an architect whose practices we hold dear at TACO. In 2014, we took a team trip to see three of his most emblematic works in consecutive order (The Chapel of the Capuchinas, Casa Barragán y Casa Gilardi), which turned out to be one of the most fulfilling learning experiences that we've had to date. These works introduce modern factors to discussions about architecture, such as local culture and spirituality (among others). Through his mastery of space, materials, light, sound, nature, details, and furnishings, Luis Barragán transmits the essence of traditional Mexican architecture that, although simple, is loaded with delightful emotions for those who witness it."
Pavel Escobedo of Escobedo + Soliz
"We cannot mark Luis Barragán's work as unambiguous since all have been created under a wide variety of circumstances and all carry significance. However, we can talk about experiences around the work. The first of these happened in front of the Capuchinas Chapel. We were searching for a concrete architectural experience that would guide us to the beginning of a project -- we found silence. The second was in the house called Prieto Lopez. It was here that we encountered the atmosphere of a house mutating into the sunset."
Carlos Bedoya of PRODUCTORA
"More than one work, in particular, it's the speech that Luis Barragán gives after receiving the Pritzker Prize, explaining what sustains his work. In it, he brings to life new, universal, temporary, and transcendental ideas about the task of architects: ideas about myths, beauty, silence, solitude, serenity, happiness, death, nostalgia, enchantment, intimacy, wonder, etc. Ideas that, for me, are essential to our practice and even more so in a time when architectural creation is dictated solely by market values."
Manuel Cervantes of CC Arquitectos
"In a compilation of Barragán's texts by Fernando Márquez, Barragán talks about his trips to Morocco and how he found inspiration in the vernacular of the medina for the project he would complete in 1948. Following his footsteps through the places that he talks about in these texts and visiting them is what most impressed me about Barragán. Understanding his way of abstracting and re-interpreting was truly amazing. My favorite of his works was his abstraction, his architectural task."