in the 1940s Luis Barragán,
Mexico’smostfamousarchitect, bought a vast plot of land, mostly covered by lava from the active Popocatépetl volcano to the southeast ofmexicocity. He had a utopian idea: to transform the undeveloped area into a new residential district, the ‘Jardines del Pedregal’, inspired by the work of artists such as Diego Rivera and sculptormathias Goeritz. Thishouse, thelargestprivatedwellingdesigned by Barragán, was commissioned by the Prieto family, whomoved here in 1951— subject to an agreement that theywould bringnothing from their previous home except a suitcase. They lived here formore than six decades.
Three years ago, the house was bought by César Cervantes, a former art collector who is committed to restoring this, and other homes in the Jardines del Pedregal. ‘The house had been for sale for some time. I was worried it might end up in the wrong hands and that Barragán’sworkwouldbelost,’ hesays.‘idecided to sell my artworks and devote myself to this newundertaking. I completed the purchase in December2013andmovedinfourmonths later. I wanted to live in the house while work was under way, so that I could supervise it.’
The restoration took 20 months, with 80 workers on the site. A quarter of the original furniture by Barragán had disappeared. The woodenfloorswerecarpetedandseveralchanges had been made to the original structure – the openfirehadbeenreplacedbyanelectricversion andapartitionhadbeenerectedto separate the living area from the dining room. Even the original lavastone formations – anintegralpart of Barragán’s architecture – had disappeared beneath plaster and more than 40 layers of paint. ‘I scouredantiques shops andfleamarkets to find the original pieces,’ says César.
Pink (the architect’s signature colour) isused on both the house’s exterior and interior. Its appearance changes according to the time of day, from delicate pastels to the fiery hues of sunset. Flashesofpalestgreen, sweepsofasandy hueandflagstoneflooring continuetheblending of the interior with the outdoors.
‘I preferred to leave the walls bare, with no pictures,’ says César. ‘I wanted to give centre stage to the plays of light and shade created by the large windows. My pieces of artwork are now the ceramic lamps designed by Barragán andmadebypotters inoaxaca, the rudimentary wooden chairs that recall seats found in rural haciendas, the tables made from Ahuehuete (swampcypress), the studded leather sofas and the palos locos (native trees used by Barragán for landscaping) in the garden. Living in such beauty is a dream. A privilege.’