WHAT IS A HOUSE FOR住宅所为何

Elisa Valero: Casa Barragán, it’s like poetry - a short piece of writing, adding something to your life and remaining forever in mind. 

For me, it’s unbelievable that the few hours I spent there, have had such an impact on my work, and sense of being an architect.

UPON ENTERING CASA BARRAGáN, WHAT SURPRISED YOU?

During my studies I became interested in Luis Barragán because he was a Mexican architect who worked with artists. It was close to what I liked. However, I didn’t find the drawings of his own house particularly attractive.

At the time, the ideas of other modern architects such as Le Corbusier, or Mies were more understandable in plan and section. In contrast, Barragan’s drawings did not seem to be driven by any readable order. In the beginning it was very difficult for me to really grasp what he wanted to do.

It was after finishing my studies, when I applied for a scholarship that I first went to Mexico.

Upon entering Casa Barragán, I understood why it had been so difficult to appreciate the building’s value from the drawings. The house is woven around primary bodily perceptions and its quality dwells in how the architect dealt with differences in scale. It’s not possible to reduce what you experience to any sort of diagram, or a typological scheme. It’s even difficult to describe the qualities of this house with words. It’s an example of architecture that needs to be experienced directly, physically, with all the senses. I find it inspiring.

DID BARRAGáN HAVE A METHOD - HOW DID HE DESIGN THIS HOUSE? 

This house was neither designed in two-dimensions, or in three. It was conceived in four. And as far as I am concerned, the fourth dimension of space - time, is the most sophisticated factor when considering or making a project. If you want to design a series of spaces, imagining their properties not separately but as a sequence of interrelated phenomena, you must arrive at a simultaneous awareness of all parameters. 

We have all had that experience with students, when you ask them to draw a project and they come with their first plans, presenting lines in plan, and calling them a „distribution scheme”. They immediately arrive at a symmetrical floor plan originating from these lines and claim that the project is there. For sure, Barragán was not designing like this, he was making another two steps - thinking in the third and fourth dimensions. It’s a work of high control of the visual relations between diverse moments and the house is incredible example of this.

The drawings reveal it to you, only if you can imagine yourself walking through the project.

IT’S A HOUSE AND AN OFFICE. A PERSON LIVING THERE CAN SPEND ALL THEIR TIME INSIDE. WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THIS COMBINATION?

It is true, it’s one building hosting a place to work and a place to live. However, in reality, you feel, that these two parts are very distant. There is no visual relation between the two, Moreover, they are open to different types of outside space - the house is open to the garden, the office to a sort of a dry patio. There is no clear physical connection. You go from one room to another, crossing spatial thresholds, like in a labyrinth. That’s why the house feels much bigger than it really is. 

As for this aspect, I read that one of the most important influences on Barragán’s architecture was the masterpiece I have the privilege to see almost every day - The Alhambra in Granada. In this complex of palaces, you find exactly the same tricks. You can go here and there, zic zac, and arrive in a place you did not expect to find, built in the same language, following the same themes, but somehow different. It’s very surprising. I would even call it magic. You never have a clear idea of the whole. Clearness and legibility are a typical characteristic of modern houses. This house doesn’t celebrate it. The internal fragmentation of a building makes it impossible to immediately grasp it with your mind. It is acquired slowly, whilst walking around, your experience forming paths and spaces within your memory. These kinds of buildings never get boring.

THE CEILINGS IN THE MAIN ROOMS ARE VERY HIGH. I IMAGINE AN ATMOSPHERE OF AN OUTSIDE SPACE.

The main space indeed looks a bit like a public space. It’s like a street in a small town. It is a totally different way of living than in a normal house where all spaces are of the same height, similar to each other, always connected in the same way.

The entrance to the big room is through a very low door. You must cross this compression space to arrive in the high space - it’s a striking moment of contrast.

You discover a kind of interior paradise, where you do not feel the presence of a roof anymore. This is made even stronger through the seamless continuity between interior and exterior. The interesting thing about the big window in the main room is that it’s only about a visual relation between the interior and the garden, not a physical one. You cannot pass there. Somewhere else you have a small, invisible door, where you go out. Thanks to the decision of separating the visual from the physical properties of the opening, you can have a window without a frame, that really blurs the border between inside and outside. 

It is a highly sophisticated composition made from very simple elements - that have been carefully ordered by individual senses. It looks plain but is very smart and driven by spatial intentions, not by functional flexibility. One needs to be very attentive to make decisions of this kind.

THE STANDARD SOLUTION IN THIS PLACE WOULD BE A BIG SLIDING DOOR. 

It would have also been very expensive. Barragán’s goal was not to make one room out of main space and the garden, but to create a sort of tension. The garden is very close, you see it but there is something that separates you from it.

YOU MENTIONED BEFORE THAT THIS HOUSE IS AN „INTERIOR PARADISE”. IS CLOSING YOURSELF OFF A QUALITY THAT HELPS TO ACHIEVE A SENSE OF DOMESTICITY? 

A house has to go along with a place. You cannot find the same conditions in the south of Britain where you have grassy, undulating hills, and in the centre of Mexico, with all the noise, crowd, and exhaust fumes. It has to go along with the tradition, with the sun and the density.

I think that a house is a place to rest, and to stop from the running of the day. Nowadays more than before, we need silence. If your house is open to the landscape and has wonderful views, it is also a place where you don’t need to protect yourself, you are in a silent place. If you are not, then the only way to give a house a sense of calmness is to close yourself off, to carefully increase the levels of protection and create something independent and internally rich.

CASA BARRAGáN DOESN’T LOOK OUTDATED, IT GROWS OLD ELEGANTLY. WHAT GUARANTEES ARCHITECTURE A TIMELESS QUALITY?

Firstly, Barragan worked with simple classical materials, which were not bound by each age’s contemporary technology. He used white or pink walls that could have been built both a thousand years ago and today. Secondly, formally speaking, he designed very simple shapes, that were easy to make and avoided putting too much attention on the need for exquisite execution. 

Another important aspect of this apparent timelessness was his relationship with tradition, and particularly his acknowledgment and respect for construction wisdom and the feeling of daily routines that are passed down through Millenia. He really was aware of a greater context and that perhaps brought a relativity and honesty to each moment of the spaces he made. He also rejected working in a picturesque, romantic way and instead strove for abstraction. Thanks to these decisions Barragán was never a fashionable architect. His work was and is out of time.

WE CAN FIND SEVERAL SYMBOLS IN THE HOUSE, SUCH AS THE ANGEL AND THE CROSS OF THE WINDOW FRAME. SOMEHOW IT FEELS THAT THE HOUSE COULD HAVE BEEN MADE SPECIFICALLY TO HOST THEM. BARRAGAN WAS KNOWN FOR BEING A MAN OF FAITH. DID THIS INFLUENCE HOW THE HOUSE WAS CONCEIVED?

I think that most of these objects, including the cross, had nothing to do with religion. Many of these pieces, like the sculptures are very old and are just part of his life and what he collected. Obviously, we can find an angel, but then there is also a Mexican, and a collection of pre-Hispanic figures, they were all very important to him. I think he was a person of deep spirituality and self-consciousness, but the scenography of the house is not intentionally symbolic.

When he talked about the beauty of simple things, he spoke about the importance of not being materialistic. This attitude is totally liberating and allows more attention to be given to non-material aspects, which in architecture are proportion, light, scale etc. The house’s richness is born out of poverty, of being free from the attachment to things, not giving a material value to them and instead appreciating their innate presence, the beauty and elegance of objects that do not represent anything other than what they physically are.

IS CASA BARRAGáN MEANT TO STIMULATE SPIRITUAL GROWTH?

Well, everyone needs a place to live - a shelter that requires a defined configuration. I believe that fostering the sense of beauty and proportion, trying to create a value while working with nearly nothing, goes together very well with the process of spiritual growth.

I cannot remember the materials of Casa Barragán. I remember the proportion of the space, the light and colour, which are both abstract phenomena. He used the simplest timber, simple walls, mortar, and plaster. The same as you can find in a thousand of normal uninteresting houses built with same basic materials and budget.

He didn’t try to exhibit technical control, or express power through his architecture. 

In case of Barragán, it was about how to do more with nothing, just with space, air, and light - which all come for free.

IT’S CLEAR BARRAGáN HAD A CAREFUL AND ATTENTIVE EYE, HOW DID HE BECOME ATTUNED TO THIS?

From the early years of his life, he went with his father to the old Mexican towns of his region, discovering the beauty of a wonderful tradition and its relationship with nature. 

The roots of all that he did are there, in these remote dusty old places, not in a school of architecture. Obviously, later in his life he became an intellectual, spending time meeting his artist friends. There was an elaborate culture of seeing in his closest circle. The abstraction in art began in the 20th century and was very present in the way of thinking of all the people he was surrounded by. It’s interesting to mention Willhelm Worringer’s influential book „Empathy and Abstraction” published in 1916. It proposes a provocative hypothesis that the abstraction in primordial art stemmed from the necessity to control nature and was originally a response to feelings of fear or anxiety. Worringer saw geometisation and simplification as a way of controlling the unpredictable. Once we feel safer the empathetic mind takes over and we start to get interested in the natural, organic beauty. Traditional Mexican architecture can be interpreted as a story of coexistence between these two emotions, and this is where Barragan trained his sense of observation. He was exposed to elaborate articulations of the whole spectrum of human feelings. These early experiences with a very typical ruralness grounded the basis from which his abstractionism but also his particular plastic, empathetic sensibility developed from. 

HOW DO YOU TRAIN THE ART OF SEEING?

Beauty is like an animal. If you run at it, you are never going to see it and you will never learn anything. 

You must be quiet and patient.

We as architects need to be like hunters, in the sense of those acting on pure thoughtful necessity, those who learn how to recognise the footprints and signs in the ground of different animals, of different intentions and be able to understand, to interpret, wait. 

Today students have access to an infinite source of images, and still, they cannot see. We are with them to share what we see. I think that this is the sense of all teaching. 

The most important thing that we can do with our students is to share our way of seeing. We need to reveal beauty and help them to discover the beauty that exists in the simplest things. It’s impossible to learn that only from a book.

I had a friend, who died a few years ago, Antonio Jiménez Torrecillas. He was an architectural son of Barragán. He spent some time in Mexico at the beginning of his career and we shared a special interest in Barragán. We used to walk and talk together. We would just discuss and explain what we saw. I learnt a lot with him. Sometimes it’s not easy to describe what is obvious to you, but it’s worth the effort. It helps to appreciate things more deeply. To make sense of things that come to you naturally, I think, it’s really important to try to make things explicit, and fix down some understanding.

23.10.2021

伊丽莎-瓦莱罗:巴拉甘自宅(Casa Barragan),它就像诗歌——一篇简短的文字,为你的生活增色,并永远停留在你的脑海中。

对我来说,令人难以置信的是,我在那里度过的几个小时,对我的工作和作为一个建筑师的感知产生了如此大的影响。

在进入巴拉甘自宅时,有什么让你感到惊讶?

在我学习期间,我对路易斯-巴拉甘感兴趣,因为他是一位与艺术家合作的墨西哥建筑师,这与我喜欢的东西很接近。然而,我并没有发觉他自宅的图纸特别的有吸引力。

当时,其他现代建筑师,如勒-柯布西耶或密斯的想法在平面和剖面上都更容易理解。相比之下,巴拉甘的图纸似乎没有任何可解读的秩序。一开始,我很难真正掌握他想做什么。

在完成学业后,当我申请到一笔奖学金时,我第一次去了墨西哥。

进入巴拉甘自宅后,我明白了为什么从图纸上欣赏建筑的价值是如此困难。这座住宅是围绕着原始的身体感受而编织的,它的品质在于建筑师如何处理尺度的差异。你不可能把你所体验到的东西还原成任何一种分析图,或类型学策略。甚至很难用语言来描述这所房子的品质。这是一个实例,为什么建筑需要直接的体验,身体力行,动用所有的感官。我觉得它很有启发性。

巴拉甘是否有一个方法——他是如何设计这所住宅的?

这座房子既不是在二维中设计的,也不是在三维中。它是在四维中构思的。而就我而言,空间的第四维——时间,是考虑或制作一个项目时最复杂的因素。如果你想设计一系列的空间,将它们的特性不分开想象,而是作为一连串相互关联的现象时,你必须抵达对所有范畴的同时觉察。

我们都有过这样的经历,当你要求一些人画一个项目时,他们带着他们的第一个平面来了,平面用线条表示着,并称之为 "布局方案"。他们立即得出了一个源于这些线条的对称平面图,并声称项目就在那儿了。可以肯定的是,巴拉甘不是这样设计的,他是在做另外两个步骤——在第三和第四维度思考。这是一个高度控制不同时刻之间的视觉关系的作品,这所住宅是一个不可思议的案例。

只有当你可以想象自己漫步于这个项目时,图纸才会向你作出揭示。

它是一所住宅也是一个办公室。住在那里的人可以在里面度过所有的时间。你对这种结合有什么看法?

诚然,这是一座承载着工作和生活场所的建筑。然而,在现实中,你会觉得这两个部分是非常遥远的。此外,它们向不同类型的外部空间开放——住宅向花园开放,办公室向一种干燥的中院开放。没有明确的物理联系。你从一个房间到另一个房间,跨越空间门槛,就像在一个迷宫里。这就是为什么这所住宅感觉中比实际上大得多。

至于这方面,我读到,对巴拉甘的建筑最重要的影响之一,是我有幸几乎每天都能看到的杰作——格拉纳达的阿尔罕布拉宫。在这个宫殿群中,你会发现完全相同的技巧。你可以去这里和那里,曲折回环,然后到达一个你没想到的地方,采用同样的语言建造,遵循同样的主题,但就是有所不同。这是非常令人惊讶的。我甚至会称它为魔术。你从未对整体有一个清晰的概念。清晰性和可读性是现代住宅的典型特征,这所住宅并没有赞扬这点。建筑内部的碎片化使你不可能立即用你的头脑来掌握它。它是慢慢获得的,在走动时,你的经验在你的记忆中形成路径和空间。这类建筑永远不会无聊。

主要房间的天花板都很高。我想象出一种外部空间的气氛。

主空间确实看起来有点像公共空间。它就像一个小镇上的街道。这是与普通住宅完全不同的生活方式,在普通住宅中,所有的空间都有相同的高度,彼此相似,总是以相同的方式连接。

大房间的入口是通过一个非常低的门。你必须穿过这个压缩空间才能到达高的空间——这是一个关于对比的引人注目的时刻。

你会发现一种内部的乐园,在那里你不再感觉到屋顶的存在。通过室内和室外的无缝衔接,这种感觉更加强烈。主厅里大窗户的有趣之处在于,它只是关于室内和花园之间的视觉关系,而不是物理关系。你不能通过那里。在其他地方,你有一个看不见的小门,在那里你可以走出去。

由于决定将开口的视觉和物理属性分开,你可以有一个没有框架的窗户,这真的模糊了内部和外部之间的边界。

这是一个由非常简单的元素组成的高度复杂的构图——这些元素都是按照个人的感觉精心安排的。它看起来很朴素,但非常聪明,由空间意图驱动,而不是由功能的灵活性驱动。人们需要非常细心地做出这样的决定。

在这种地方的标准解决方案会是一个大的移门。

这也将是非常昂贵的。巴拉甘的目标不是把主空间和花园做成一个房间,而是要创造一种张力。花园非常近,你看到它,但有一些东西把你和它分开。

你之前提到,这所房子是一个"内部乐园"。把自己封闭起来是有助于实现居家感的一种品质吗?

一所房子必须与一个地方相匹配。你不可能在英国南部找到同样的条件,那里有长满草的起伏的山丘,而在墨西哥的中心,有所有的噪音、人群和废气。它必须与传统、阳光和密度相适应。

我认为,住宅是一个休息的地方,可以从一天的运行中停下来。如今,我们比以往更需要安静。如果你的住宅向景观开放,有美妙的视野,它可以是一个你不需要自我保护的地方,你处于安静中。如果不是,那么给住宅带来平静感的唯一方法就是把自己封闭起来,小心翼翼地提升保护的水平,创造一些独立和内部丰富的事物。

巴拉甘自宅并不显得过时,它优雅地变老了。什么能保证建筑具有永恒的品质?

首先,巴拉甘使用简单的传统材料,不受各个时代的当下技术的约束。他使用了白色或粉红色的墙壁,这些墙壁在一千年前和今天都可以建造。其次,从形式上讲,他设计了非常简单的形状,很容易制作,避免把太多的精力放在对精致的执行力的需求上。

这种明显的永恒性的另一个重要层面是他与传统的关系,特别是他承认且尊重千年来流传下来的建构的智慧,和日常生活的感觉。他真的意识到了更大的文脉,这也许给他所创作的空间带来了时时刻刻的相对性和诚实性。他也拒绝了以风景如画的、浪漫的方式工作,而是努力追求抽象。得益于这些决定,巴拉甘从不是一个时髦的建筑师。他的作品曾经和现在都是超脱于时代的。

我们可以在这所住宅里找到一些符号,如天使和窗框的十字架。不知何故,感觉这房子可能是专门为接待他们而做的。巴拉甘以信仰著称。这是否影响了这所住宅的构思?

我认为这些物品中的大多数,包括十字架,都和宗教没什么关系。其中许多作品,例如一些雕塑,是非常古老的,只是他生活的一部分,也是他的收藏。很明显,我们可以找到一个天使, 然而还有一个墨西哥的,还有一个前西班牙雕像的收藏,这些对他都非常重要。我认为他是一个有很深的灵性和自我意识的人,但住宅的场景设计并不是特意的象征性的。

当他谈到简单事物的美时,他谈到了不做物质主义者的重要性。这种态度是完全解放的,允许对非物质方面给予更多的关注,在建筑中,非物质方面是指比例、光线、尺度等。住宅的丰富性源于贫瘠,源于不依附于事物,不赋予它们物质价值,而是欣赏它们与生俱来的存在,欣赏物品的美丽和优雅,它们并不代表除了物理存在外的任何其他东西。

巴拉甘自宅是为了激发灵性的成长吗?

好吧,每个人都需要一个居住的地方——一个需要明确结构的遮蔽物。我相信,培养对美和比例的感知,试图在几乎一无所有的情况下创造一种价值,与精神成长的过程非常吻合。

我想不起来巴拉甘自宅的材料了。我记得空间的比例,光线和颜色,这都是抽象的现象。他使用了最简单的木材、简单的墙壁、砂浆和抹灰。就像你可以在上千个用同样的基础材料和预算建造的普通的无趣的住宅里找到的一样。

他没有试图展示技术上的控制,或通过他的建筑表达力量。

就巴拉甘而言,它是关于如何在无的情况下做得更多,仅仅用空间、空气和光线——这些都是免费的。

很明显,巴拉甘有一双细心和专注的眼睛,他是如何做到这一点的?

从他生命的早期开始,他就和他的父亲一起去他所在地区的墨西哥古镇,发现了一种美妙的传统之美以及它与自然之间的关系。

他所做的一切的根源就在那里,在这些遥远的尘封的老地方,而不是在建筑学校。显然,在他生命的后期,他成为一个知识分子,花时间与他的艺术家朋友见面。在他最亲密的圈子里,有一种复杂的关于看的文化。艺术的抽象性始于20世纪,深刻存在于他周围的人的思维方式中。值得一提的是,威廉-沃林格(Willhelm Worringer)在1916年出版的有影响力的书《移情与抽象》。其中提出了一个挑衅性的假设,即原始艺术中的抽象性源于控制自然的必要性,最初是对恐惧或焦虑感的反应。沃林格认为几何化和简化是控制不可预测的方式。一旦我们感到安全了,感同身受的心态就会占据上风,我们就会开始对自然、有机的美感兴趣。墨西哥传统建筑可以被解释为这两种情感共存的叙事,而这正是巴拉甘训练他的观察力的地方。 他接触到了对整个人类情感光谱的复杂表述。这些早期的经验与典型的乡村性奠定了他抽象主义的基础,这也是他独特的塑性的,移情的感知力发展的基础。

如何训练看的艺术?

美就像一种动物。如果你向它跑去,你永远不会看到它,你也永远不会学到任何东西。你必须保持安静和耐心。

作为建筑师,我们需要像猎人一样,在那些纯粹出于深思熟虑的必要性而采取行动的意义上,那些学会如何识别不同动物、不同意图在地面上的脚印和迹象,并能够理解、诠释、等待。

今天,学生有机会接触到无限的图像来源,但他们仍然不会看。我们和他们在一起,是为了分享我们看到的东西。我认为这就是所有教学的意义所在。

我们能与学生做的最重要的事情是分享我们的观察方式。我们需要揭示美,帮助他们发现存在于最简单事物中的美。只从书本上学习是不可能的。

我有一个朋友,几年前去世了,叫安东尼奥-希门尼斯-托雷西利亚斯(Antonio Jiménez Torrecillas)。他是巴拉甘的一位建筑继承人。他在职业生涯开始时在墨西哥待了一段时间,我们对巴拉甘有着特殊的兴趣。我们经常一起散步和交谈。我们只是讨论和解释我们看到的东西。我和他学到了很多东西。有时要描述对你来说很明显的东西并不容易,但这是值得努力的。它有助于更深入地欣赏事物。让你自然而然地了解到的事物的意义。我认为,尝试把事情说清楚,并确定下来一些理解,真的很重要。

20211023

Elisa Valero

Elisa Valero is  Full Profesor at Granada University and invited professor in the Academy of Mendrisio. Director of the research group RNM-909 Efficient Housing and Urban Recycling since its creation 2011. Winner of the sixth edition of the SWISS ARCHITECTURE AWARD 2017/2018. 

Books by Elisa Valero: La teoría del diamante y el proyecto de arquitectura, Elisa Valero. Il maestri dell´architettura, Housing, Light in Architecture, the Intangible Material, Glosario de Reciclaje Urbano. 

www.elisavalero.com