Today my thoughts turned to Mexico after hearing about the re-enactment of the Crucifixion in the Mexican suburb of Ixtapalapa, which has has been held yearly since 1843 and one of the premiere performances of faith in this deeply religious country. Many residents hope that this event will act as a catalyst, a miracle of sorts capable of galvanizing social reform at a time of severe economic duress coupled with the continued risk of personal safety as drug gangs compete in deadly battle over territory and shipping routes.
Mexico is a country of long and deeply held traditions; concurrently it is a place of creative and artistic innovation in the visual, performing, and decorative arts, as well as the applied sciences. It has produced so many stellar artists of vision and imagination that my head spins at the sheer number. I am forever and hopelessly indebted to Octavio Paz, Frida Kahlo, Carlos Fuentes, Tomas Segovia, Diego Rivera and so many others who skillfully initiated, nurtured, and defined the culture and identity of Mexico. Foremost among these pioneers is the architect, landscape and furniture designer Luis Barragan, winner of the 1980 Prizker Prize, and considered one of the most important architects of the 20th century.
Influenced by the French intellectual Ferdinand Brac and European modernism, especially Le Corbusier, Barragan designed and constructed homes of humble materials such as wood and poured cement, shaped in a hybrid form clearly influenced by the International Style, yet suggestive of the proportions and details found in old colonial buildings such as the convents, monasteries, and haciendas that dotted the rural landscape or centered town squares. These remarkably unpretentious buildings were painted the vibrant hues of traditional clothing and festivals: purples, pinks, reds, yellows, and oranges; frequently were oriented inward towards private courtyards and patios; incorporated water as a design element; and nurtured a feeling of solitude by eliminating distraction and superfluous elements. Suggesting the past, yet embracing the future, the Barragan home is a triumph of design, nature, and the human spirit.
Barragan wrote (that), "In alarming proportions the following words have disappeared from architectural publications: beauty, inspiration, magic, sorcery, enchantment, and also serenity, mystery, silence, privacy, astonishment. All of these have found a living home in my soul."