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Casa Barragan

The house of architect Luis Barragan (1902-1988) created over 40 years into a personal statement of architecture, designed not to be comfortable to the body so much as to the spirit.

A handrail-free staircase – Barragan reasoned handrails were only needed by the infirm – leads up through the centre of the house and on to the roof terrace – painted its famously vibrant colours only after MOMA asked for colour photos for their 1977 retrospective. A gold leaf painting inside mirrors the yellow wall outside.

A low door leads from the stair hall into the living room, the master space of the house – a large and lofty space divided by lower screens into public living and private library – the latter with the famous cantilevered timber stairs inspired by barn steps, and apparently not intended for use. The different uses are unified by the timber-beamed ceiling soaring way above.

The spaces are intended for the display of objects on beautifully simple solid timber bookshelves and low plinths and tables. The experience of the house is an amalgam of the architecture and its contents.

The garden too is as much part of the house as the rooms inside – Barragan originally bought the plot to create a garden not a house. Densely planted and overgrown it provides shade and lush counterpoint to the spare interiors. A side courtyard is populated by pots placed as if about to make use of the reflecting pool alongside.

A highly personal creation; and a masterpiece.