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Luis Barragán

My house is my refuge, an emotional piece of architecture, not a cold piece of convenience.

Luis Ramiro Barragán Moffin was destined to create beautiful spaces. Having been born in 1902 into a family of well-to-do of builders and landowners, it is no surprise, that the landscape of his native home, Guadalajara (Jalisco), Mexico, and the influences around him would shape the course of his life.

Barragán was a 20th century architect and engineer. While formally trained in civil engineering at Escuela Libre de Ingenieros (Mexico), it is architecture for which Barragán is most known and it is the discipline that he taught himself entirely. As his parents were wealthy, he was fortunate enough to travel throughout the world after graduating. Barragán’s travels would take him through the continents of Africa and Europe – voyaging through to the countries of Spain, France, Greece, Italy, etc. These experiences were key to development of his creativity and influences that would be at the fundamental core of his work. Specifically, the Swiss-French designer, architect, artist, urban planner, Le Corbusier, was probably most influential on his modernist-style.

What was his style?

Barragán’s style is often described as “emotional architecture” – a style of contemporary, modern architecture that used space, raw organic materials such stone and wood, as well as light to create a serene environment. Barragán and Mathias Goéritz, a fellow Mexican sculptor/painter imagined this characterization as a type of architecture that required warm, light, and color to create depth of space – a contrast to the cold, one-dimensional, and bland style of modern architecture dominating at that time. In emotional architecture, Barragán’s style was rooted in his belief that any work of architecture that did not invoke a feeling of serenity.

Having been influenced by his travels and Le Courbusier Barragán experimented with his own style of European Modernism with clean lines. Eventually through his practice, Barragán’s contemporary style emerged, “Emotional Architecture” – a belief that any work of architecture that did not invoke a feeling of serenity was a mistake..

“Serenity is the great and true antidote against anguish and fear, and today, more than ever, it is the architect’s duty to make of it a permanent guest in the home, no matter how sumptuous or how humble.  Throughout my work I have always strived to achieve serenity, but one must be on guard not to destroy it by the use of an indiscriminate palette.”


Barragán loved incorporating water and garden, as components to his landscape architecture work.

Luis Barragan

Photo Source: René Burri/Magnum Photos

Barragán chose emotion over function in many of his designs. Each project was a unique piece of art.

With strong emphasis on visual and conceptual aspects, each architectural work, Barragán embraced space, raw, organic materials such as stone and wood, and used light. But most notable, color – rich hues to create depth, warmth, and an environment for reflection and meditation. The bright colors often used were very reminiscent of his upbringing in Mexico and were an ode to the vibrancy of the culture and the rich Mexican landscape. While Barragán is often noted for the bright, colorful walls, he was also a prolific landscape architect.

“I don’t divide architecture, landscape and gardening; to me they are one.”

Considered by many as one of the greatest architects, as well as an icon of contemporary architecture, Barragán is considered a genius of light and color, as well as exterior landscaping. Not unlike many other artists, his work went unnoticed until later in his life. Eventually, in 1980 at age 78, Barragán won the Pritzer Prize (architecture’s Nobel Prize equivalent). Eight few years later, Barragán passed away at age 86. Since this time, his legacy has lived on. His work has left a legacy that inspires architects and artists alike today. His life was one of a full-circle, his skill was born out of the influence and inspiration of his contemporaries, and today, even in death, he too serves as inspiration and influence to many.

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