Par­adise re­claimed

Re­stored to the orig­i­nal vi­sion of Mex­i­can ar­chi­tect Luis Bar­ra­gan - a mas­ter of merg­ing in­side and out - this home is a de­sign trea­sure

ELLE Decoration (UK) - - Contents -

Re­stored to the orig­i­nal vi­sion of Mex­i­can ar­chi­tect Luis Bar­ragán – a mas­ter of merg­ing in­side and out – this build­ing is a de­sign trea­sure

Back in the 1940s Luis Bar­ragán,

Mex­ico’s most fa­mous ar­chi­tect, bought a vast plot of land, mostly cov­ered by lava from the ac­tive Popocatépetl vol­cano to the south­east of Mex­ico City. 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 sculp­tor Mathias Goeritz. This house, the largest pri­vate dwelling de­signed by Bar­ragán, was com­mis­sioned by the Pri­eto fam­ily, who moved here in 1951 — sub­ject to an agree­ment that they would bring noth­ing from their pre­vi­ous home ex­cept a suit­case. They lived here for more 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’s work would be lost,’ he says. ‘I de­cided to sell my art­works and de­vote my­self to this new un­der­tak­ing. I com­pleted the pur­chase in De­cem­ber 2013 and moved in four months 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 wooden floors were car­peted and sev­eral changes had been made to the orig­i­nal struc­ture – the open fire had been re­placed by an elec­tric ver­sion and a par­ti­tion had been erected to sep­a­rate the liv­ing area from the din­ing room. Even the orig­i­nal lava­s­tone for­ma­tions – an in­te­gral part of Bar­ragán’s ar­chi­tec­ture – had dis­ap­peared be­neath plas­ter and more than 40 lay­ers of paint. ‘I scoured an­tiques shops and flea mar­kets to find the orig­i­nal pieces,’ says César.

Pink (the ar­chi­tect’s sig­na­ture colour) is used 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. Flashes of palest green, sweeps of a sandy hue and flag­stone floor­ing con­tinue the blend­ing 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 and made by pot­ters in Oax­aca, the rudi­men­tary wooden chairs that re­call seats found in ru­ral ha­cien­das, the ta­bles made from Ahue­huete (swamp cy­press), 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.’ Ex­te­rior The splen­did pink walls of this home change colour through­out the day, from the palest fleshy tones of dawn to near orange at sun­set Hall­way Home­owner César Cer­vantes in the flag­stone­floored vestibule that con­nects the house’s vast rooms

Words GLO­RIA MATTIONI Photography GIOR­GIO POSSENTI

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