Built in 1948, the House and Studio of architect Luis Barragán in the suburbs of Mexico City represents an outstanding example of the architect’s creative work in the post-Second World War period. The concrete building, totalling 1,161 m2, consists of a ground floor and two upper storeys, as well as a small private garden. Barragán’s work integrated modern and traditional artistic and vernacular currents and elements into a new synthesis, which has been greatly influential, especially in the contemporary design of gardens, plazas and landscapes.
Outstanding Universal Value
Built in 1947-1948, the Luis Barragán House and Studio located in a working class suburb of Mexico City represents an outstanding example of the architect’s creative work in the post-Second World War period. Barragán created a regional adaptation of the International Modern Movement in architectural design. The concrete building, totalling 1,161 square metres, consists of a ground floor and two upper storeys, as well as a small private garden. The architect’s integration of modern design with traditional Mexican vernacular elements has been greatly influential, especially in the contemporary design of gardens. For example, his use of water and fountains reflects Mediterranean and Islamic traditions, in particular Moroccan.
The house and studio of Luis Barragán owes its singularity to being a personal and therefore unique reflection of its designer. This autobiographical background did not prevent this artist manifesto from going well beyond its time and its cultural milieu and becoming a distinguished reference in 20th century fine art and architecture. Of particular note is the profound dialogue between light and constructed space and the way in which colour is substantial to form and materials. It is a house which appeals to all the senses and re-evaluates the ways in which architecture can be perceived and enjoyed by its inhabitants. Many of its materials were found in traditional architecture and, distant as they are from industrial production, they reveal the aging of the house with a patina which the architect acknowledged as the poetic value of his architecture.
Criterion (i): The House and Studio of Luis Barragán represent a masterpiece of the new developments in the Modern Movement, integrating traditional, philosophical and artistic currents into a new synthesis.
Criterion (ii): The work of Luis Barragán exhibits the integration of modern and traditional influences, which in turn have had an important impact especially on the design of gardens and urban landscapes.
The house and studio that comprise the inscribed property occupy two adjacent lots, numbers 12 and 14 of General Francisco Ramirez Street. The architect lived and worked here until his death in 1988 and he determined and supervised any modifications. Luis Barragán believed that ‘a house is never finished; it is an organism in constant evolution’. The value of the property’s integrity resides in the fact that these modifications represent an autobiographic document of the artist and the evolution of his ideas. Moreover it is conserved in its entirety including kitchen installations and the owner’s Cadillac.
The property itself was considered to be in a reasonable state of conservation at the time of inscription (2004). Specific threats relate to insufficient planning controls, increased traffic in the surrounding neighbourhood, and uncontrolled development specifically linked to high-rise construction within the buffer zone. Such development will have a negative impact on the character of the house which is introverted and intimate. It will also affect its visual integrity, in particular views from the garden and terraces. Additional risks to the property include earthquakes and fire. Regular inspections and preventative measures are required.
The House and Studio of Luis Barragán are conserved with great respect, including not only the structure, materials, furniture, objects, art collections, garden and library, but also the kitchen installations. Conservation is extended to the various changes that have occurred over time. In this sense, the property certainly meets the test of authenticity. Occupied by the architect until his death, the house and studio are currently a museum and are open to the public.
Protection and management requirements
In November 1988, the Mexican Government declared the House and Studio of Luis Barragán an Artistic Monument requiring all conservation and restoration work carried out must be authorized by the Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes y Literatura (National Institute of Fine Arts and Literature). The protection of the house was completed prior to inscription and the additional protection of the studio is in process according to the State Party. This declaration extends to any excavations, foundations, conservation work or demolitions carried out by owners of properties adjacent to the monument.
The museum is managed by the Luis Barragán Foundation of Guadalajara Architecture, a non-governmental body that, along with the museum administration and INBA, is responsible for preserving the integrity and authenticity of the property. Since 1994, restoration has been the responsibility of Andrés Casillas de Alba, a disciple and close collaborator of Luis Barragán. Annual work plans provide sufficient care for the property and a 22.9-hectare buffer zone surrounds the property on three sides.
The Luis Barragán House and Studio exhibit the integration of modern and traditional influences, which in turn have had an important impact especially on garden design and urban landscaping. The artistic manifesto of Casa Estudio Luis Barragán is the result of the criticism and renovation of the Modern Movement in architecture, achieved by synthesizing other cultural traditions and artistic styles, fundamentally Mexican heritage, but surpassing its cultural horizon with many other approaches.
Luis Barragán (1902-88) was trained as an engineer, but became a self-taught architect. In his early career he was involved in real estate management. The property on which the house and studio were built was probably purchased in 1939 together with a larger area. This moment coincides with his shift of interest from real estate activities towards architecture. He built the so-called Ortega House, making use of a pre-existing building. He took up his residence in this house in 1943. The house in No. 14 was built in 1948. The first drawings for the project were realized for Mrs Luz Escandón de R. Valenzuela. However, in summer 1948, Barragán decided to take the house for himself. The rest of the property was sold to the Ortega family. The plans of the house were gradually developed over the construction period. In fact, it became a sort of laboratory for the architect, who lived there for the rest of his life, until 1988.
The property is a single construction located on two adjacent lots on a small street (12 and 14 General Francisco Ramirez Street) in the Daniel Garza suburb of Mexico City. The total surface area is around 1,161 m2 . Adjacent is Barragán's Ortega House. The house is built from concrete with plaster rendering. It has a ground floor and two upper storeys, as well as a small private garden. The entrance is directly from the street on the east side. The garden opens towards the west. The studio takes the northern part of the building, with an entrance directly from the street; the rest is Barragán's private residential quarters.
The entrance facade aligns with the street and preserves the appearance of the neighbouring facades. It is a massive boundary with precise openings. Because of its austere, almost unfinished appearance, the house would almost be unnoticed, except for its scale, which contrasts with the rest of the buildings in the neighbourhood. The house announces the dwelling of an upper-class gentleman, but at the same time its materials speak of an introspective and intimate nature, paradoxically humble. All the windows of the eastern facade represent the possibility of hiding the direct communication between domestic space and the city. The entire exterior conserves the colour and natural roughness of the plastered concrete.
Some of the subdivisions or screens were introduced later. The separate dining room is reached from the hall and the living room, next to which there is a small breakfast room and the kitchen. All these spaces open towards the garden. On the first floor are the master bedroom and a guest room, as well as an 'afternoon room'. On the second floor, there are service spaces and a roof terrace. The upper storeys are accessed via narrow stairs without railings. The levels of the different floors are not regularly placed, but are designed so as to allow spaces of different heights. Thus, the living room is double height.
The north side of the property is reserved for the studio with direct access from the street. There is also internal access from the living room. The main studio space is linked with the garden through a patio. On the street side, there are two small offices, and on the first floor there is a small private office.
On the garden side, the building has a very different aspect compared with the street side. The qualities of Barragán's architecture are expressed in the treatment of the spaces inside the house, where he plays with strong non-harmonic colour schemes (e.g. the sequence from the entrance); the raw volcanic stone on the vestibule floor extends through a second door to the hall. The garden was initially conceived as a large expanse of grass, but Barragán later allowed it to grow more freely.Source: UNESCO/CLT/WHC
Luis Barragán (1902-1988) was trained as an engineer, but he then became a self-taught architect. Having travelled in Spain and France, he settled first in Guadalajara (1927) and then in Mexico City (1936). In his early career he was involved in real estate management.
The property on which the house and studio were built was probably purchased in 1939 together with a larger area. This moment coincides with his shift of interest from real estate activities towards architecture. He built the so-called Ortega House, making use of a pre-existing building. He took up his residence in this house in 1943. The house in number 14 was built in 1948. The first drawings for the project were realized for Mrs Luz Escandón de R. Valenzuela. However, in summer 1948, Barragán decided to take the house for himself. The rest of the property was sold to the Ortega family. The plans of the house were gradually developed over the construction period. In fact, the house became a sort of laboratory for the architect, who lived here the rest of his life, until 1988.Source: Advisory Body Evaluation
Mexico's World Heritage Sites Photographic Exhibition at UN Headquarters Feb 24, 2006-Feb 28, 2006