Mexico City – Casa Luis Barragán

Casa Luis Barragán is a living museum. It holds the architect’s artifacts intact throughout the house, creating a sense of inhabitation long after his passing. The main reason for this is Barragán’s housekeeper still lives in the caretaker suite, cooking in the kitchen and maintaining the home, which creates a unique and visceral experience, unlike other museum settings.  

The house is situated in a residential area, removed from tourist zones, making the journey feel like a pilgrimage. The focus is the architecture, which is both lively and subdued; however, many other elements of the house are engaging and alluring. I recommend this ‘museum’ because of its immersive nature; it reveals a different side of Mexican culture that would be otherwise difficult to see or experience unless you had a personal connection to someone in the city.

Entrance to the studio portion of the house.

The tour of the house feels like a procession. Each room is intentional and expressive of Barragán’s nature. Stepping off the street through the front door, you are transported into the serene, dimly lit, quiet foyer, where calm floods over you. It is a beautiful and purposeful technique to create a separation of public and private realms, allowing you a moment to gather before you head into the central part of the house.

The entry room, on the contrary, is bright with natural light pouring in from the skylight, while the bright pink walls add a liveliness. This duality of calm and lively can be found throughout the house, even in the placement of objects. As you move between each space there is an entry and exit that you must pass through giving each room unique characteristics.

A long corridor guides you into the living room, at the end of it sits a large metal sphere. The living room serves as an informal gathering space, more relaxed than the other room. Large floor to ceiling windows illuminates the area, while the view into the lush and wild garden feels like an escape from the city. Neutral tones and wood accents and another layer of warmth to the room. A fireplace sits in the centre of the room, adding to the comfortable and relaxed feeling.

The study is seamlessly separated from the living by a tall bookcase. Every inch of the shelves contains books, ranging from art, gardening, architecture, philosophy, engineering, and much more. As you enter the study, you come face to face with Barragán’s Pritzker prize (a prestigious architecture award). The room opens up into a cozy, where you can envision yourself spending hours reading from the impressive selection of books. In this room, you will also find the iconic wooden staircase.

Upstairs contains the guest bedrooms and Barragán’s bedroom, his final resting place. The bedrooms are minimal in decor but highly considered in their design. Religious icons ordained his room, reinforcing his religious commitment. A large bay window reveals the jungle-like garden courtyard. Inside an old wooden hutch, you’ll find a collection of small trinkets ceramic mugs, plates, jugs, and other items dear to the architect.

Finally, the rooftop, however, is vibrant, with bold pop-out walls contrasting the overall neutral tones. Vines crawl along the walls, adding a verdant jungle to the concrete surroundings. Just over the walls, you can catch glimpses of the surrounding city. It’s impressive how cocooned you feel from the hustle and bustle.

Practical Matters

  1. Book your tickets online and in advance. I booked mine a month in advance.
  2. There are tours in English, but they are once a day at noon and will book up quickly. 
  3. If you want to take photos you have to pay for a photo pass, it is 500 pesos. Bring cash. 
  4. If you arrive early, there is a lovely garden across the street where you can explore and relax. 
  5. There is a small bookstore at the end of the tour, you can use your card to pay. However, I would have cash on hand in case the card terminal is acting up. 
  6. Transportation: Uber is the easiest, but there is a metro station about 10-15 min walk away.
  7. Do a bit of research before you go, your experience will be much richer. See additional links below.  

Further Reading

Explore the Surrounding Neighbourhood

I highly recommend exploring the surrounding neighbourhood, San Miguel Chapultepec, afterwards. This area links to Tacubaya in the south and La Condesa to the northeast. If you walk down to the main road, there is a food market across the street. Afterwards, we walked back to La Condesa zig-zagging through the residential areas. Along the way, there were cantinas, shops, street art, art galleries, and beautiful homes. It was a great place to glimpse everyday life in Mexico City. Along the way, we stumbled upon a delicious restaurant, Cancino San Miguel, nestled in a courtyard off the main road. This restaurant is also across the street from the contemporary art gallery Kurimanzutto.

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