My house is my refuge,” wrote Luis Barragán; “an emotional piece of architecture, not a cold piece of convenience.”
A direct challenge to Le Corbusier’s contention that “a house is a machine for living in”, Barragán (1902-88) offered a poetic view of the home as a retreat. His highly individual house in Mexico City, built in 1948, is a minimal masterpiece and curiously monastic. He was intensely religious and an obsessive reader of theological and philosophical texts, and his house embraced layers of public-ness. Some rooms are expansive and generous; the most private ones small and spartan.
Inspired by north African houses, Barragán’s house presents a blank face to the street: just a solid white wall and a small door with a sliding panel – the kind of feature you might find at the entrance to a nunnery. Its entrance hall is modest but its combination of geometric simplicity, flush surfaces, rough plaster and a floor of dark volcanic stone offer an idea of a house luxurious in its attention to detail yet ascetic in its architecture.