Spring 2015 :: Perspectives on Mexican Culture through the work of Luis Barragán

Photo from Fernando Garcia, MArch Candidate
XDS1000: Advanced Interdisciplinary Studio 1
Perspectives on Mexican Culture through the work of Luis Barragán
Spring 2015/ Mondays & Thursdays 7:15-10:15 PM
Travel component: March 13-23, 2015
Instructors: Luis Montalvo and John Pilling
6 credits, co-enrolled C1 Design Studio + a Liberal Studies/HT course
Open to students from all educational programs

This six-credit course will study the architecture of Mexican architect Luis Barragán, focusing on his unique capacity to use space to embody and inspire memory and emotion. Course readings and activities will explore the condition of exile and detachment that marked Barragán’s life and work in order to come to a preliminary understanding of the time based relationships that are typical of his masterpieces.

This joint Design Studio and Liberal Studies/HT course will begin with the study of the history that shaped modern Mexico, with emphasis on the first half of the 20th century. Through readings, films, and other cultural expressions, students will examine and discuss the Mexican revolution and the Cristera conflict while following the chronicles available in the writings of Juan Rulfo and Octavio Paz. The early work of Barragán in Guadalajara will be analyzed in relation to the Enchanted Gardens of Ferdinand Bac and the murals of Jose Clemente Orozco. Paintings by Chucho Reyes and Josef Albers will guide the course’s detailed study of the colors, interiors, furniture, and spatial solutions that characterized the middle period of Barragán’s work.

Collaborations with the German sculptor Mathias Goeritz will introduce students to the longitudinal layouts, emphasis on intentional corners, and material reflections that Barragán embraced in his mature work before formulating the famous spatial elongations of his later works.

Aiming at cultural immersion, this course will use popular aesthetic and symbolic objects like the toys, the candy, and the music of Mexico as part of the key context for a rigorous study of Luis Barragán. Mexican customs and traditional cuisine will assist the students in developing a better understanding of the country that shaped Barragán’s uniquely Mexican approach to modernism.

Having acquired contextual ideas about the country and its culture, the group will then travel to Guadalajara and Mexico City during the week of spring break, from March 13 to the 23rd. This roughly chronological tour of Barragán’s work–studied in tandem with significant markets, pre-Columbian pyramids, religious shrines and other significant works of Mexican architecture- will cost no more than $2,400 per student. This figure includes airfare, lodging, car rental and insurance as well as extended access into the private Barragán works during peak lighting conditions (meals are not included). Financial aid will likely be available.

The trip will include an extensive sketching component. A traveling journal will record the students’ impressions of a country previously studied through reproductions of modern architecture and other forms of cultural products, and now experienced firsthand. The site drawings and sketches produced during travel will be used to illustrate the mid-semester paper assignment.

After the trip and its subsequent debrief sessions, the course’s twice a week meetings will focus on turning the pre-travel analysis along with the new concepts developed through the physical explorations into a spatial project. Theories, ideas and travel experiences will form the basic material that students will draw upon to respond to the project component’s program, context, and site. The studio will be designing a Hacienda of Dreams, a small productive plantation and hotel set amid the arid landscape of Barragán’s childhood, a setting that serves as a recurring theme in his mature work. The program will include a reception, dining area and guest rooms along with stables and services for sustainable farming.

Students from all educational programs will work collaboratively to design the master plan, the landscape, the building, and the interiors. As an advanced interdisciplinary course, the students will have access to a dedicated studio space in the 320 Newbury Street building. In this studio, every student will be assigned a desk along with a personal locker. This C-1 Design Studio/ Liberal Studies-HT course presupposes committed involvement on the part of the students. A complete set of drawings and scale models will be required as a final deliverable for the projects along with digital presentations and a 12-14 page essay paper.

Registration for this interdisciplinary studio/LS-HT course will be limited to twelve students during the Spring15 semester. The joint nature of this offering will enable students to fulfill one three-credit Design Studio (CD 7/101, ARC 1/ 2004, INT 1/2004, or LAN 1/2005, depending on the student’s discipline) while fulfilling an additional three credits for a Liberal Studies or History/Theory elective. Students enrolled in this course will therefore receive a total of six academic credits to be allocated based on individual program requirements.

For more information on this studio, contact Luis Montalvo.