Design We Love: Casa Barragan

It’s no secret that we at Tocci appreciate Modernism. But recently, one of VDC’ers, Jeremy Garczynski, discovered the Casa Barragan by Luis Barragan. It gave him a new appreciation of the style as it is deployed in a way that pays homage to Barragans culture while proving it is part of the global movement of Modernism. Here are some excerpts from a paper he wrote as part of his M.ARCH program:

As you approach the house you walk by several other houses that share a similar façade as Casa Barragan at least on the surface, an unassuming exterior of unpainted concrete and a few sparse windows (Figure 6). Something that sets Casa Barragan apart from it’s counterparts in Modern residential architecture is that, in so many cases the house is an object in the landscape – such as the Farnsworth House, Gropius House and Falling Water – where as this project fits right in with a streetscape by coming up to the sidewalk to become part of the urban fabric. You see two yellow doors, one for people and one for cars opening to the garage. The yellow calls your attention announcing that this is the entrance when contrasted to the plain concrete used on the rest of the façade.

… A staircase guides you to the next room through a door that is about half the width of the vestibule, by restraining the scale of the transition from the vestibule to the entry, the sense of liberation is heightened. Entering the formal hall (Figure 8) area, which acts more like a hub than a hall, as this offers 6 points of entry to different while more traditional halls direct the user to move in a certain direction.

The Living room (Figure 11) brings the exterior in with a large window taking on the role of a wall. Clean details can be seen throughout the house, shown here as the window and mullion appear to gently touch the wall separating the house from the atelier. This is another, and perhaps the most prominent, example of the negotiation between Modernism and the local culture. Where the mullions are a simple intersection of two perpendicular pieces of framing but they form a cross, an abstraction of the crucifix, a symbol of the Christian faith important to not only Luis Barragan but also much of Mexico. The crucifix reference is strengthened by the absence of mullions on the boarder of the window, which also embodies the practice of simple elegant details seen across the globe in Modernism.

Walking up the narrow stairs in the Lounge you feel confined this feeling gives way to the open air Terrace on the roof (Figure 19). Although the house is in the heart of Mexico City, the user can only see the sky thanks to the high walls placed along the perimeter…  The White Stair tower and Red walls, visible from the street become landmarks for the house, allowing the house to speak to the street but not the user. Here Luis meshes the two styles in a way that is shown elsewhere in the house but is not as clear since there is an absence of many extraneous elements. The walls are clean, undecorated but some are accented through bright reds and pinks. These walls pull together Luis’s use of Modernism principles (straight simple forms, orchestrated elegantly) and his own culture (the use of color).

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