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 I am fully aware that I have not done them complete justice in my work, they have never ceased to be my guiding lights.
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.
To the south of Mexico City lies a vast extension of volcanic rock, arid, overwhelmed by the beauty of this landscape, I decided to create a series of gardens to humanize, without destroying, its magic.While walking along the lava crevices, under the shadow of imposing ramparts of live rock, I suddenly discovered, to my astonishment, small secret green valleys the shepherds call them jewels”surrounded and enclosed by the most fantastic, capricious rock formations wrought on soft, melted rock by the onslaught of powerful prehistoric winds. The unexpected discovery of these “jewels” gave me a sensation similar to the one experienced when, having walked through a dark and narrow tunnel of the Alhambra, I suddenly emerged into the serene, silent and solitary “Patio of the Myrtles” hidden in the entrails of that ancient palace. Somehow I had the feeling that it enclosed what a perfect garden no matter its size should enclose: nothing less than the entire Universe.
While awake or when sleeping, the sweet memories of marvelous fountains have accompanied me throughout my life. I recall the fountains of my childhood; the drains for excess water of the dam; the dark ponds in the recess of abandoned orchards; the curbstone of shallow wells in the convent patios; the small country springs, quivering mirrors of ancient giant water-loving trees, and then, of course, the old aqueducts perennial reminders of Imperial Rome which from lost horizons hurry their liquid treasure to deliver it with the rainbow ribbons of a waterfall.
Nostalgia. Nostalgia is the poetic awareness of our personal past, and since the artist’s own past is the mainspring of his creative potential, the architect must listen and heed his nostalgic revelations.
Fragments of Luis Barragán’s Acceptance Speech for the Pritker Prize (1980)
Full text here