Restored to the original vision of Mexican architect Luis Barragan - a master of merging inside and out - this home is a design treasure
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 The wooden floors were carpeted and several changes had been made to the original structure – the open fire had been replaced by an electric version and a partition had been erected to separate the living area from the dining room.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