During my recent trip to Mexico City, I had the pleasure of visiting Luis Barragán's Casa Prieto López, also known as Casa Pedregal.
Prior to the trip, I admired Barragán's work from afar. Obsessing over visuals that I would come across online. Most notable was his refreshing use of vibrant & bold colours, thoughtfully intersecting lines, unexpected play on natural light in & around each building – his work is truly some of the most visually-satisfying sights I'd ever seen. I honestly dreamt of the day when I would experience his architecture up close, in person. Booking a tour at both Casa Pedregal & his personal home & studio (now a UNESCO World Heritage Site) were first on my list when planning the overall trip.
I will tell your straight-away – my walk-through of both places were beyond my expectations. And I catch myself skimming through the photos I captured, every day. The wave of inspiration I gained is a feeling I can hardly describe, and one that I will always be so grateful for.
This first blog post will take you (briefly) through my experience at Casa Pedredal in the Los Jardines area – but stay tuned for the next on Barragán's home & studio!
Mexico City's Los Jardines del Pedregal is now an upscale neighbourhood that was originally built on a lava site from an ancient volcano eruption, and is where Casa Prieto López is situated. Current owner (as of 2013) & art collector, César Cervantes, lives in the home but allows for tours upon reservation. My partner & I were toured by a lovely lady who worked at the home and Tetetlán next door, which is a must-visit, as well. Tetetlán is a cultural centre that consists of a restaurant, café, yoga studio, and library with Cervantes' extensive book collection on Mexico's heritage, art, architecture, Barragán work, and more. (That's a photo of me in the library, above!)
I loved hearing a bit about the history of the Los Jardines neighbourhood: In the 30s, Mexico's bohemians were drawn to then-undeveloped Pedregal area to pursue their creative passions, from paint to photography, etc. Two of Mexico's most famed artists, Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, viewed Pedregal as the creative pulse of the country.
Diego Rivera and Luis Barragán seized the opportunity to urbanize Pedregal, purchasing large pieces of land for the development of plazas, gardens and homes that would co-exist with the landscape & lava fields.
Today, Casa Pedregal is the largest of Barragán's remaining residential structures. When first stepping foot in it, I was instantly made speechless by the grand & vast feel of the space – high ceilings, deep connecting rooms, and a strikingly wide-stepped set of stairs that greeted us at the entrance. These extremities in size were interestingly paired with this energy of solitude and stillness that filled the space. I finally understood why Barragán's work is referred to as 'emotional architecture' – every detail made to tap into, or spark an emotion in the viewer or inhabiter.
As we moved through each room, our tour guide passionately shared her knowledge of Barragán's particular design choices. When we arrived in the living room (4th photo below), we were in awe of an unexpected staggering of lava field remnants that protruded through the wall, casually adjacent to the immaculate furniture. It was the perfect display of Barragán's belief that the home, and the foundation it was being built on, could co-exist – in other words, this man-made structure, and nature, could be one.
Another area of the house that I felt drawn to was this hallway with intersecting pink and blue walls and ceiling. The particular combination stimulates one's senses, while still maintaining a feeling of 'zen'. Along this hallway was a small room with a simple, square-shaped ledge at the corner – with an alluringly narrow source of natural light, shining directly upon the ledge & plant that sat on it – a room for prayer or meditation.
One more to note was Barragán's signature pink found mainly on the exterior & backyard of the house. I had seen those vibrant walls many times in photos, but that electric hue was absolutely stunning in real life – ending our tour in a completely joyful state.
Ultimately, it was this rare witnessing of Barragán's signature 'modernism made Mexican' design, with meaningful and spiritual choices of colour, size, shape and form, that made me understand the importance of designing from a place of sincerity, emotion, and thoughtfulness.
“I have worked with total freedom to make work whose function is to produce emotion,” Barragán
Here are some visuals from our tour (photos by Jay Lee & I).