Before we travel in a new country, we usually have a look at the UNESCO World Heritage list. Most of the time we have an idea of the major designated monuments and parks, but there are also others that we have to look up. One of these less-famous places that not even everybody living in Mexico City has heard of was the house of Luis Barragan in Mexico City.
Luis Barragan was a 20th century self-taught Mexican architect. Originally trained as an engineer, he went to Europe after graduation, where he got in contact with the modernist movement. Back in Mexico he started designing private homes with clear lines, big windows and colourful walls, an element he took from the traditional Mexican building style. Although he gained some popularity in Mexico, he never achieved internationl recognition. Only after the New York MOMA had held a retrospective in 1975 did he finally receive the prestigious Pritzker Prize, awarded to him in 1980. His own private home in Mexico City was declared a World Heritage site in 2004.
On this particular sunny October day, we have difficulties finding the house of Luis Barragan. Situated in a quiet neighborhood, only a very tiny sign informs visitors of its existence and after ringing a bell we get to know that a tour will start in about half an hour.
Only on a guided tour
Guided tours through the premises seem to appeal mostly to specialists. Apart from us, there is a stocky Mexican architect with a large expensive SLR camera around his neck, an architecture student who is recording the guided tour and a middle-aged man carrying a bundle of architectural drawings under his arm. Later on two women with a toddler join our group. The questions are accordingly specialist questions, like „How deep are those windows fixed into the walls?“ or „Where does this ventilation shaft go?“ All these questions the guide is able to answer with ease.
The house of Luis Barragan consists of one ground floor, two upper floors and a small garden. The whole house has striking large windows, of which often the lower part could be shaded, while through the upper part sun light could still unobstructedly filter into the rooms. Many rooms have walls that do not go from the floor up to the ceiling. „Luis Barragan was sort of a control freak“ the guide explains. „Guests should never know from behind which corner he might suddenly appear“. The big reflective balls in the rooms also helped him to keep an eye on everything that was going on in his house. Four soap dishes fixed to his bathroom wall provided four different perfumed soaps, which he could use according to his mood.
Taking pictures was not admitted inside, the only shot we were allowed to take is one of the rooftop terrace.
Is the house of Luis Barragan worth visiting?
If you are interested in modern architecture and do speak enough Spanish to follow the guided tour, it is definitely worth the visit. The house and the interior furnishings are largely preserved in the original state as they were during Luis Barragan’s lifetime.
How to get to the house of Luis Barragan
Casa Luis Barragán
General Francisco Ramirez 12-14
Colonia Ampliación Daniel Garza
México, D.F. 11840
Guided tours (reservation required)
Tuesday to Friday: 10:30, 11:30, 12:30, 15 and16; Saturday: 10:30 and 12:00.