Emotion Beyond the Functional Machine

I first came to know about Luis Barragan from my tutor Daniel Ryan in my Masters Studio at The University Of Sydney. Eventually, he advised me to read Barragan’s acceptance speech of The Pritzker Architecture Prize while I was working with my academic project in a highly functional, contextual and environmental motivation. He probably wanted to shift my philosophy of design from a “Functional Machine” to the Barragan’s emotional assortment of beauty, mystery, silence or majestic.  Undoubtedly, the speech inspired me, however, not a core twist in my design process. Although Barragan’s vision toward architecture would be an inspiration for me throughout my life.

"any work of architecture which does not express serenity is a mistake" - Luis Barragan

The Speech of Luis Barragan

I welcome the opportunity to express my admiration for the United States of America, generous patron of the arts and sciences, which—as in so many instances—has transcended its geographical frontiers and purely national interests to confer this high distinction on a son of Mexico, thus recognizing the universality of cultural values and, in particular, those of my native country.

But as no one ever owes all to his own individual effort, it would be ungrateful not to remember all those who throughout my lifetime have contributed to my work with their talents, assistance and encouragement: fellow architects, photographers, writers, journalists, as well as personal friends who have honored me by taking an active interest in my work.

I take this occasion to present some impressions and recollections that, to some extent, sum up the ideology behind my work. In this regard, Mr. Jay Pritzker stated in an announcement to the press with excessive generosity what I consider essential to that ideology: that I had been chosen as the recipient of this prize for having devoted myself to architecture "as a sublime act of poetic imagination." Consequently, I am only a symbol for all those who have been touched by Beauty.

It is alarming that publications devoted to architecture have banished from their pages the words Beauty, Inspiration, Magic, Spellbound, Enchantment, as well as the concepts of Serenity, Silence, Intimacy and Amazement All these have nestled in my soul, and though 1 am fully aware that I have not done them complete justice in my work, they have never ceased to be my guiding lights.

Religion and Myth. It is impossible to understand Art and the glory of its history without avowing religious spirituality and the mythical roots that lead us to the very reason of being of the artistic phenomenon. Without the one or the other there would be no Egyptian pyramids nor those of ancient Mexico. Would the Greek temples and Gothic cathedrals have existed? Would the amazing marvels of the Renaissance and the Baroque have come about?

And in another field, would the ritual dances of the so-called primitive cultures have developed? Would we now be the heirs of the inexhaustible artistic treasure of worldwide popular sensitivity? Without the desire for God, our planet would be a sorry wasteland of ugliness. "The irrational logic harbored in the myths and in all true religious experience has been the fountainhead of the artistic process at all times and in all places " These are words of my good friend, Edmundo O'Gorman, and, with or without his permission, I have made them mine.

Beauty. The invincible difficulty that the philosophers have in defining the meaning of this word is unequivocal proof of its ineffable mystery. Beauty speaks like an oracle, and ever since man has heeded its message in an infinite number of ways: it may be in the use of tattoos, in the choice of a seashell necklace by which the bride enhances the promise of her surrender, or, again, in the apparently superfluous ornamentation of everyday tools and domestic utensils, not to speak of temples and palaces and even, in our day, in the industrialized products of modern technology. Human life deprived of beauty is not worthy of being called so.

Silence. In the gardens and homes designed by me, I have always endeavored to allow for the interior placid murmur of silence, and in my fountains, silence sings.

Solitude. Only in intimate communion with solitude may man find himself. Solitude is good company and my architecture is not for those who fear or shun it.

Serenity. Serenity is the great and true antidote against anguish and fear, and today, more than ever, it is the architect's duty to make of it a permanent guest in the home, no matter how sumptuous or how humble. Throughout my work I have always strived to achieve serenity, but one must be on guard not to destroy it by the use of an indiscriminate palette.

Joy. How can one forget joy? I believe that a work of art reaches perfection when it conveys silent joy and serenity.

Death. The certainty of death is the spring of action and therefore of life, and in the implicit religious element in the work of art, life triumphs over death.

Gardens. In the creation of a garden, the architect invites the partnership of the Kingdom of Nature. In a beautiful garden, the majesty of Nature is ever present, but Nature reduced to human proportions and thus transformed into the most efficient haven against the aggressiveness of contemporary life. Ferdinand Bac taught us that "the soul of gardens shelters the greatest sum of serenity at man's disposal," and it is to him that I am indebted for my longing to create a perfect garden. He said, speaking of his gardens at Ies Colombiers, "in this small domain, I have done nothing else but joined the millenary solidarity to which we are all subject: the ambition of expressing materially a sentiment, common to many men in search of a link with nature, by creating a place of repose of peaceable pleasure " It will appear obvious, then, that a garden must combine the poetic and the mysterious with a feeling of serenity and joy. There is no fuller expression of vulgarity than a vulgar garden ...