Critical Regionalism – Luis Barragan

Critical Regionalism

By Dan Rice


Critical Regionalism is the idea of connecting a region’s identity to place to develop that country’s cultural heritage, traditional construction methods, and life patterns creating an environment appropriate its contemporary needs.  These architectural forms marry the people and place that they inhabit and protect the natural environment and reinforce a bond between the people and place.  Frampton makes a base for his argument by quoting Paul Ricoeur’s essay “Universal Civilizations and National Cultures” in this writing he shows how the universalization of the human culture has been imposed around the world through modern architecture. Because of this their individual culture is being to disappear. Critical regionalism is necessary to hybridize and update cultures traditional architecture, materials, building style, grounded in their site.

The first architect that is known for doing this in such an elegant way is Luis Barragon. He was a master at taking the historical Mexican construction methods, colors, materials and using them to create beautiful modern architecture. Casa Barragon which is now a museum dedicated to luis and his work is a beautiful example of the merging of culture and modern architecture.  He used standard stucco and adobe construction that is perfect for the Hot arid climate of mexico city allowing this home to take advantage of the diurnal temperature swings. This allows the house to stay cool during the day and warm at night when the temps drop.  The roof framing are solid wood beams milled square to give an warm but modern feel. They are exposed and give a sense of repetition to the entire project. The floors are a combination of the same wood and stone tiles giving the room a natural feel. Barragan designed a sleek wood staircase that protrudes out of the wall and seems to float as it goes up the wall. The stairs angles are highlighted by the fact that it is only comprised of treads and risers. The majority of the houses walls are the stair are an off white. However, He uses traditional bright accent colors on some walls and colored windows to give life to the space.

It is clear that by the end of his career Barragan had proven that Critical Regionalism could be executed in a beautiful way that was not kitsch or lead to chauvinistic nationalism. The Barragan house fits its context. Unless you knew what you were looking at you could walk right by it and not notice it. But upon entering it you begin to understand its significance.

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