I have seen “Luis Barragan “ exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art,Tokyo.

In the daylight

Casa Gilardi dining room pool as if to float in the night lighting
>From TOTO edition “Architecture by Luis Barragan” Written and photographed by Yutaka Saito

    A note on “Luis Barragan Exhibition”

Since in this golden age of virtual space=information age that the theme of architecture seems to have transitted to experiencing and feeling for real,I have started this “Observing the Architecture “ series. As a result though, it turned out that this concept rather prevented me from taking upthe works not visited for real by myself. And so I thought out to add “ anote of observing the exhibition”series thus trying to link up these two different kinds of experiencing area and space.

 Even though you had seen the Barragan exhibition, it would not mean that youhad experienced the architecture of Barragan at all. It is only that youhave seen the photos, the plans, the miniatures, the models or the themodels in real size. Observing the exhibition this time it was to my impression that the models in real size are not quite reliable. It was just making the space in real size and lacked totally in reviving the image about the impression of the space. I thought that it was even better to look at the photograghs of Yutaka Saito. Yes, even though you could not experience the architecture of Barragan in Mexico, it is of a value for you to create your own image following your architectural experience and yourinterpretation from all the information you can acquire at present. It can be said so not only as for Barragan. It is to create the image of your own re-interpreting from what information you acquired. There is hardly a chance for us in general (anonymous) to experience especially the housing architecture for real.

 In my interpretation the architecture of Barragan can be expressed as the invention of “color, composing the plane ”. Tadao Ando was appearing in the video describing his visit to Barragan,s works, which was installed at the exit of the exhibition. “There is no other architecture that is as highly abstract as his” said Andou. It originally started from the early modern period when architecture sought for a new architectural beauty through the method of plane composition under the influence of abstract art(cubism). The history of modern architecture tells that the component of architecture, the making of the “abstract” has been developed following the steps, from “white wall” at first, to the”material touch of stone”composing the plane and then to the “ material touch of reinforced concrete” composing the plane.。Following such history, Barragan of Mexicohad found out and had created an architectural space through his invention of “color” composing the plane, that brought about some kind of supernatural feeling. Ando had referred to this aspect about which he called highly abstract.Now, my interpretation goes on more to tell about the architecture of Barragan.In Casa Gilardi which he had designed in his late years there is a yellow corridor where the sun light shines through the slits paned with glass painted in yellow. He had applied fully his invention of color composing the plane, in both the yellow corridor realized by yellow painted glass and the effect of (sunlight) and the slightly revealed inner dining room pool with the top light.But above all, the last of his originality was to invent a mysterious floating color upon a white wall which was installed by the submerging“night light” in the pool. This is evolved into what is called the installation of light in contemporary art and architecture after his decease.

  After taking a breath, a clear expression just fit for this work of art was found. The most of the originality of the architectural expression of Barragan is shown not in this exhibition but it is justly and mysteriously fixed in the photo taken by Yutaka Saito, that of a dining room pool at Casa Gilardi floating in the night light. There are two photo albums by Saito presented at the exit of the exhibition. I recommend you to take a close look at the color dyed and floating wall plane submerged from water by the night light.。

PS The exhibition this time can be summarized as a conventional collection of sketches and photos. Especially, it was my first and memorable encounter with his works concerning the landscape. It was gigantic in scale. Observing the older trees treated, it was as though a big nature itself as it lies.

      Inner space of Luis Barragan 
           After reading “ Architecture in color” INAX edition

 The maestros of modern architecture started their works as “architecture which had aimed to place itself among abstract art(cubism)”. (I believe this interpretation is quite prevailing) Supposing that the cubism is to conceive the world in plane composition and thinking through likewise, one is always faced with the question of what will become of the “color”. Yes,it was the natural manifestation of architecture to proceed its process to plane composition in color.。But however we do not yet know of a rich and colorful architecture.

 A book called “architecture in color” INAX edition was published some years ago.(9609) When you read this book, it says unexpectedly that modern architecture has color in all and that the only exception is that of Bauhaus school building. As you say, such as that work in reinforced concrete,Couvent de la Saint-Marie de la Tourette by Le Corbusier is partially colored. But it is far from being colorful having used just a little bit of primary color upon the reinforced concrete. One may recognize such kind ofusage but it is far from treated rich in color.It will be a reverse example but in a recent case there is such project asCanal City. One might comment “It,s crazy. American taste(if there is suchway) differs greatly.” The way of treating the color is confusing and it certainly tells that using color in architecture is a difficult venture. Inthe first place this book “Architecture in color” is confusing itself incoloring.Of course I know of an architect who treats color and it,s fine and all right, but the way he uses his color is rather ambiguous using light colorsand not pursuasive enough. As it was not so breakthtaking or having a magnificent effect of color it was hard to perceive the beauty of colored architecture, being an ordinary person myself.

 However there are some of the works taken up in this book done by Luis Barragan of Mexico. His invention of color realized in Casa Gilardi is just breathtaking and we are invited to enjoy the architecture by “color,composing the plane”, which is just what we had expected in ”the architecture which had aimed to place itself among abstract art”. There were only 3 pages introducing Barragan and the photos being small it was hard to conceive. When you look closely there is no other that is expressedand done so straightforwardly, the architecture composed by plane, “in color”.

 In this picture of the dining room at Casa Gilardi, there is a water surface(pool) and the light submerges from the water creating the transparent and floating atmosphere in color. It is fantastic. This kind of architecture can be realized in the photographs just as well. Or to say more, perhaps or maybe only the photograph could convey its good taste.Including the fact that one may be disappointed to see the site for real..

Talking about the evaluation of Barragan, you are likely to hear about his local background.That it is the climate of Mexico and the premise that the native houses are colored in primary colors. And that when such customs are applied and enlarged and composed in planes it is accepted quite naturally. It is obvious that there are no other place beside Mexico but maybe the shameful commercial projects to color the exterior in such primary colors.The architect,Yutaka Saito who had introduced Barragan tells about how hewas deeply impressed upon the rebirth of colors upon the renewal. If you take it that way, it is possible to meet with a beauty revived every several years.

Nevertheless, it does not end there. Most of all, the superiority of Barragan lies in the interior. It is then only in the “interior” of Casa Gilardi.Everyone is sure to know that in order to produce the color effect in depth it is not enough just using the painting only. As it is known paint shows limit as a material. But nevertheless, the three elements of the interior in this case, (1) thepool (2) how it is illuminated (3) using the tranluscent color and producing tranparency, produce the unworldly effect of “floating”. It is painted in blue and red but the rest of the ceiling and the wall is neutral and white.It is finished not colored. Water surface is not colored also.The climax is reached at night when the illumination gives color to the noncolored wall and the ceiling and the water surface thus producing the unworldly effect=sense of floating.

I believe that this might be the top sense of the architecture in color in contemporary architecture. It is the masterpiece worked out 22 yearsago(1978).I think that it is showing the top of architeture in color aiming to place itself among abstract art. Here is presented a top sense of coloration, by the architect who had strained in coloration, as a result surpassing the convention by the method of lighting the “material” and producing transparent “color in a material sense.”

If there is any architect to follow him , would he or she try to color the glass or do opaque coloring or aim to make a sense of floating by the lighting effect? Colored glass reminds us of Taut,s Chrystal Palace of the early modern. Is he after all a succesor of Taut? Also there is some example seen in the modern art (light installation byJames Turrel). In the second version of Introduction of Architecture inEurope(INAX edition),there are three examples using the light effect in coloring the interior space. They have all in common near to the light installation by Turrel.

  This is what I had written formerly, after reading “Architecture in color”where I had been greatly absorbed and impressed by the photograghs ofCasa Gilardi.

Museum of Contemporary Art,Tokyo
Luis Barragan (1902-1988)
Luis Barragan Quiet Revolution

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