Remembering a Barragán Landscape
by Keith L. Eggener
In 1945, renowned Mexican architect Luis Barragán began work on the Gardens of El Pedregal, a subdivision in Mexico City dotted with plazas, fountains, ponds, cacti, and pepper trees. He considered El Pedregal his most important project, and critics have described the houses and gardens there as a turning point in Mexican modern architecture. Reflecting the fragility of public landscapes, many of these elements were long ago modified or destroyed.
El Pedregal's main entrance, the Plaza de las Fuentes, or Plaza of the Fountains, was completed by the second half of 1949. This stood at the intersection of Fuentes and San Jerónimo, directly across from the earlier gardens at El Cabrío. It was here that El Pedregal made contact with the city to the north, via San Jerónimo and its direct links to Revolucíon, Insurgentes, and other major northbound boulevards.
Apart from the residents or potential buyers passing through, it is not clear just who might have been expected to use this space, or when and how they might have used it. The plaza was apparently not intended for strolling or sitting in (for one thing, it contained no benches or footpaths). Its role seems to have been primarily decorative and transitional — a place of passage. No primary documents exist to clarify the design decisions underlying it.
As built, the plaza was basically rectangular, approximately 45 by 162 feet (14 by 50 meters), enclosed on two sides by walls, with a rectangular fountain space (39 by 26 feet or 12 by 8 meters) extending from its northwest side. A pivoting gate about 20 feet (6 meters) high, made of thin, square iron tubes supporting an iron lintel, divided the plaza roughly in half. >>>
This article is excerpted from Luis Barragán's Gardens of El Pedregal by Keith L. Eggener, with permission of the publisher, Princeton Architectural Press.
Discuss this article in the Architecture Forum...
The Plaza of the Fountains (1949) was the main entrance of the Gardens of El Pedregal by Mexican architect Luis Barragán.
Photo: Armando Salas Portugal, Courtesy Barragan Foundation
Plan for the Plaza of the Fountains, or Plaza de las Fuentes, as built.
Image: Courtesy Wim Van Den Bergh
Click on thumbnail images
to view full-size pictures.