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© 2018 Barragan Foundation, Switzerland/SOMAAP; Fred Sandback Archive

How Luis Barragán Used Light to Make Us See Color


在路易斯•巴拉干( Luis Barragán)诗意的想象之中,色彩起着至关重要的作用,而材质的肌理和水面反射也强调了光线在建筑中的作用。那么这种活力来源于哪里?建筑自身又起到了怎样的作用呢?

In Luis Barragán’s poetic imagination color plays as significant a role as dimension or space. Rough textures and water reflections heighten the impact of bright sunlight in his colorful buildings. But where does such vibrancy come from and how is it heightened by the architecture itself?


© 2018 Barragan Foundation, Switzerland/SOMAAP; Fred Sandback Archive


巴拉干的建筑墙体不仅仅具有框景的作用,同时周边的植物还能够在其中产生投影。另外,墙体还有着粗糙的肌理,这些肌理一般来源于石材砂浆,并且有着生动的不规则图案,同时还能兼顾视觉尺度效果。另外,有的墙体较为光滑,这种墙体则主要通过灰浆粉刷而成,形成特殊的寂静风景线,让来自外界的光束宁静地投射在平静的氛围之中。巴拉干的建筑墙体设计风格极简,同时结合了肌理和色彩形成诗意的空间效果。近期,美国艺术家Fred Sandback通过一个装置来研究了其中的关系,如图片所示。

Protecting Walls
The walls in Barragán’s architecture not only carefully frame views, but also cast shadow or render the play of shadows by trees. His compositions include walls with both rough and smooth textures. The rough texture originates from pea-gravel mortar applied to brick and creates vivid, irregular patterns and emphasizes a tactile dimension. By contrast, the smooth texture comes from a regular mortar surface and forms a silent, abstract scenery, offering a contemplative canvas for light beams moving across the wall. While the overall structure of his walls is kept minimalist, the element of texture and color create a poetic experience. This relationship was recently explored in an installation by American artist Fred Sandback, as seen in the images accompanying the article.


© 2018 Barragan Foundation, Switzerland/SOMAAP; Fred Sandback Archive



德国摄影师兼建筑师Moritz Bernoully在参观了几个项目之后认为:“巴拉干的与光线的互动方式比色彩增加重要。相比起传统的大面积窗户,巴拉干将光线极力简化。黄色不透明玻璃对光线进行了过滤,形成吉拉弟公寓的走廊,而在其自宅中,光线甚至能够顾及到房间的每个角落。”

The Need for Half Light
Especially in regions with cloudless skies, people look for shaded areas to avoid the hot and harsh sunlight. Walls providing shade and smaller or screened windows contribute to a comfortable atmosphere in these areas. This spatial strategy is apparent in many of Barragán’s projects, such as the chapel for the Capuchinas Sacramentarias or the Casa Gilardi, where he minimizes any direct view to the sky. He criticized designs without dimmed areas: “Architects are forgetting the need of human beings for half-light, the sort of light that imposes a sense of tranquility, in their living rooms as well as in their bedrooms. About half the glass now used in so many buildings—homes as well as offices—would have to be removed in order to obtain the quality of light that enables one to live and work in a more concentrated manner, and more graciously. We should try to recover mental and spiritual ease and to alleviate anxiety, the salient characteristic of these agitated times, and the pleasures of thinking, working, conversing are heightened by the absence of glaring, distracting light.”
Moritz Bernoully, a German photographer and architect, confirms this attitude after visiting several projects: “How Barragán plays with light became more essential for me than the so-called Mexican colors. Instead of large windows for bright spaces, Barragán reduces daylight to a minimum. Light is filtered with yellow opaque glass for the corridor at the Casa Gilardi or windows are even moved to the very corner of rooms in his own house.”


© 2018 Barragan Foundation, Switzerland/SOMAAP; Fred Sandback Archive


与法国景观设计师Ferdinand Bac沟通之后,巴拉干的关注点转向了花园美学。巴拉干深深为Bac的理念所鼓舞,在1980年普利兹克建筑奖的演讲中,Bac说:“花园的灵魂在于为人们带来平静的内心。”在看到巴拉干自宅的照片之后,Bac把一本关于Menton花园的著作《Les Colombières》赠送给巴拉干,并题词写道:“致巴拉干先生,你的作品完全表达出了我对于地中海西班牙风格的完美理解。”

Gardens and Colors
Meeting the French landscape designer Ferdinand Bac opened Barragán’s eyes to the beauty of gardens. Barragán felt deeply inspired by Bac’s relation to gardens and his views, quoting Bac's words in his 1980 Pritzker Prize acceptance speech: "the soul of gardens shelters the greatest sum of serenity at man's disposal." After seeing photographs of Barragán's houses, Bac sent his book Les Colombières about the garden in Menton on the French Riviera with the inscription: “To Mr Luis Barragán, whom I would like to call my godchild for the perfect comprehension you have of my renovation of a Mediterranean-Spanish style.”


© 2018 Barragan Foundation, Switzerland/SOMAAP; Fred Sandback Archive


当谈到巴拉干的配色时,许多评论家都认为这是带有墨西哥当地传统气息的丰富色彩。对于日本建筑师Yutaka Saito而言,色彩来自于生活环境:“因此,粉红色来源于花瓣,铁锈色来源于tabachin花朵,亮紫色则来源于紫薇花,蓝色代表天空,黄色代表大地。当用花朵来比拟建筑,我们会发现这一切都是那么的相得益彰。”这些色彩丰富的建筑在绿树之间形成强烈的对比。有时候,巴拉干同样运用蓝色的墙体来表达室内空间或庭院中万里无云的晴天。但是高明度色彩的运用仍然需要谨慎,因为墨西哥当地炎热的气候使得建筑墙体常常需要重新粉刷,否则空间的质量会大打折扣。

As Barragán went on to explain in his Pritzker acceptance speech, the combination of mystery and serenity was one he considered vitally important in his works. His imagination ran free in the haciendas and gardens of Mexico, inspiring the spacious and colorful designs throughout his career.
When asked about Barragan’s color scheme many critics refer to brilliant colors of indigenous buildings in Mexico. For the Japanese architect Yutaka Saito it is clear that the colors derive from the flowers of his living environment: “Thus, his pink comes from the bougainvillea, his red-rust color is extracted from the flowers of tabachin, and his light-purple is the color of the jacaranda flowers. Blue is the color of the sky and yellow ochre that of the earth. What a revelation when I took the flowers and checked the coordination with the buildings: they matched perfectly.” These colors build a strong contrast to the green trees and plants. Sometimes Barragán also used blue walls to extend the cloudless sky in patios or for interior spaces. But the intense colors cannot be taken for granted. Mexico’s harsh sunlight requires the walls to be periodically repainted to preserve the quality of the space.  


© 2018 Barragan Foundation, Switzerland/SOMAAP; Fred Sandback Archive



Barragán’s legacy lies in creating a set of counterpoints to the starkly white aspirations of the Modernists. The most significant deviation from his peers was that, as modernists sought to highlight advances in steel construction with wide expanses of glass, he reduced the sizes of windows to protect against harsh direct sunlight. The second aspect derives from his color palette which possesses a much lower reflectance than the modernist white cubes typical of the time. Finally, the roughly textured walls of his structures generated finely nuanced patterns of shadow, shifting and evolving over the course of the day.
The three elements are carefully arranged: Barragán’s unique color and texture design introduces a poetic dimension to balance his monumental sets of walls.




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