Barragán Morfin, Luis (1902–1988)

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Barragán Morfin, Luis (1902–1988)

Luis Barragán Morfin (b. 9 March 1902; d. 22 November 1988), Mexican architect and landscape architect. Barragán trained as a civil engineer at the Escuela Libre de Ingeniera, in his native Guadalajara, Jalisco, and received his diploma 13 December 1923, after which he presented his admission thesis for the architecture program. Upon admission, he left for a year's study and travel in Europe (1924–1925). He returned to a Mexico radically changed by revolution and land reform and found his architecture program disbanded. As the youngest son of a landowning family, he joined his brother's construction firm in the development of urban Guadalajara. Without formal design training Barragán found the need to overlap architecture with civil engineering and, working with his brother Juan José Barragán, produced a number of projects, including the house for Enfraín González Luna (1929–1931).

At the invitation of architect-engineer José Luis Creixell and the primitive painter Jesús (Chucho) Reyes Ferreira, Barragán began work in Mexico City on several International Style buildings. Barragán's twenty-year design and intellectual collaboration with Reyes and the émigré sculptor Mathias Goeritz was a major turning point in modern architectural design and theory. They worked separately or in consultation with one another, each taking the lead in their individual discipline. Barragán, the architect, treated a building site like a transparent solid defined by its light, natural configuration, and context. He moved through the site to find indications of forms and connections as a sculptor would explore the volume of a block of stone to find its contained figure. Program requirements and circulation then cut the volume, disciplined the light, and defined enclosures from a plan diagram sketched on the ground for workmen or on a scrap of paper for a client's information. Barragán, Reyes, and Goeritz took the indigenous architectural style of Mexico through the filter of the International Style into the intellectual abstraction and pragmatism of projects like the Towers of Satellite City and Casa Gilardi in Mexico City, then returned to the memory of Barragán's childhood home, Hacienda de Corrales, near Mazamitla, Jalisco, to design projects like the contemporary equestrian hacienda San Cristobal, near Mexico City (1967–1968). In the more than fifty international projects attributed to Barragán, the hacienda form always alludes to Mexico.

One of Mexico's most important architects and architectural design theorists, Barragán was a founding member of the Mexican Society of Landscape Architects and its honorary president for life (1973), a recipient of the Premio Nacional de Artes (first prize for architecture; 1976), and honorary fellow of the American Institute of Architects (1976), the second winner of the Pritzker Prize for Architecture (1980), and an honorary member of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters (1984). His architecture was the subject of exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art in New York (1976) and the Museo Rufino Tamayo in Mexico City (1985) and a traveling exhibition organized by Montage Journal of Boston (1989–1994). Luis Barragán's death in Mexico City was honored by a memorial exhibition at the Palacio de Bellas Artes.

See alsoArchitecture: Modern Architecture .


Emilio Ambasz, The Architecture of Luis Barragán (1976).

Luis Barragán, Luis Barragán: The Pritzker Architectural Prize (acceptance speech, 1980).

Luis Barragán et al., Ensayos y apuntes para un bosquejo crítico: Luis Barragán (1985); "Luis Barragán, arquitecto," in Arquitectura, 70 (March 1989): 51-85.

José Checa Alvarez and Manuel Ramos Guerra, Obra construida: Luis Barragán Morfin, 1902–1988 (1989).

Max Underwood, "Architect of the Intangible," in Americas 43, no. 4 (1991): 6-15.

Armando Salas Portugal, Photographs of the Architecture of Luis Barragán (1992).

Estelle Jackson et al., Luis Barragán: The Architecture of Light, Color, and Form (catalog for Montage Journal traveling exhibition, 1995).

Additional Bibliography

Barragán: The Complete Works. With preface by Alvaro Siza. New York, NY: Princeton Architectural Press, 2003.

                                        Estelle Jackson