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Luis Barragán: The Quiet Revolution

December 17, 2001 /

IVAM Centre del Carme
Valencia, Spain
On view: November 13, 2001 - January 13, 2002

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Photo: Armando Salas Portugal

Solitude. Only in intimate communion with solitude may man find himself. Solitude is good company and my architecture is not for those who fear or shun it./Luis Barragán

Luis Barragán (1902-1988) is regarded as the most prominent Mexican architect and as one of the major figures on the international stage of architecture in the 20th Century. Barragán achieved international attention and acclaim for his poetic architectural style when he received the prestigious Pritzker Prize in 1980.

The buildings and landscapes realised by Barragán, all in his home country, exemplify his ability to fuse the structural tenets of traditional Mexican architecture with the vocabulary of Modernism. The result is at once intensely Mexican and thoroughly Universal.

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The exhibition in the Centre del Carme, a building of great historical and architectural interest, with Gothic and Renaissance parts dating from the 13th Century, is the perfect setting for Barragán's timeless architecture.

The design by Bruce Mau, with large Barragán color panels filled with sketches, drawings, photographs, documents and publications, assembled by the architect himself from the beginning of his career in the early Twenties until his death in 1988, that convey a rich and complex view of Barragán's creative development.
They demonstrate the variety of his interests and the cultural, artistic and architectural influences that gave impetus to his quest for a poetic quality in architecture. Barragán's faith in the power of simplicity, his unwavering pursuit of physical and aesthetic quality, his extraordinary sense of colour, and finally, his unerring eye instil a uniqueness in his works which fails every attempt to imitate them.

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Five digital projections, in black boxes with simple Barragán like benches, illustrate various aspects of Luis Barragán's work: light and colour, the pursuit of a quality of living that is simultaneously traditional and modern, the relationship between architecture and landscape, and the role of architecture in the urban setting.

These projections enable the viewer to comprehend several fundamental elements of Barragán's architecture which can hardly be communicated in any other way, such as scale, light, colours and surface textures.

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One hears the voices of Alvaro Siza and Ricardo Legorreta in the background. In one of the "Projection Boxes" Ricardo Legorreta talks about the colors in Barragán's architecture and the colors of Mexico; how Barragán used color to fill entire surfaces, creating vast planes of pinks, oranges, ochres and blues.
Alvaro Siza remembers feeling like entering a Matisse painting or being in a contemporary painting in space. Siza also talks about Barragán's architecture as a combination of complexity and simplicity; an extraordinary quality in architecture.

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There are the letters from the mid 1960's between Louis Kahn and Barragán where Kahn asks Barragán for advice on the definition of the courtyard between the two buildings at the Salk Institute in La Jolla. The simple color perspective by Barragán indicating a paved surface and, at the far end, the horizon line of the ocean with the quote:

I would not put a tree or blade of grass in this space. This should be a plaza of stone, not a garden. If you make this a plaza, you will gain a facade - a facade to the sky.

Several sketches show Barragán's great passion for horses and riding, at which he excelled.

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Thanks to the acquisition of the archive and the subsequent establishment of the Barragán Foundation in Birsfelden, Switzerland, this noteworthy material can, for the first time, be shown to an international audience.

Design: Bruce Mau
Photography: Armando Salas Portugal
Photographs and Drawings © Barragán Foundation, Switzerland

The exhibition, accompanied by an extensive monograph and a film on Luis Barragán, is on view at the Centre del Carme through January 13, 2002

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Last updated: December 19, 2013

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