Luis Barragán (1902-1988) was born in Guadalajara, Mexico. His professional training was in engineering, resulting in a degree at the age of twenty-three. His architectural skills were self-taught. In the 1920s, he traveled extensively in France and Spain and, in 1931, lived in Paris for a time, attending Le Corbusier's lectures. His time in Europe, and subsequently in Morroco, stimulated an interest in the native architecture of North Africa and the Mediterranean, which he related to construction in his own country.

In the late 1920s, he was associated with a movement known as the Escuela Tapatía or Guadalajara School, which espoused a theory of architecture dedicated to the vigorous adherence to regional traditions. His architectural practice was based in Guadalajara from 1927 until 1936 when he moved to Mexico City and remained until his death. His work has been called minimalist, but it is nonetheless sumptuous in color and texture. Pure planes, be they walls of stucco, adobe, timber, or even water, are his compositional elements, all interacting with Nature.

Barragán called himself a landscape architect, writing in the book, Contemporary Architects, (Muriel Emanuel (ed.) published by St. Martins Press, 1980), "I believe that architects should design gardens to be used, as much as the houses they build, to develop a sense of beauty and the taste and inclination toward the fine arts and other spiritual values." And further, "Any work of architecture which does not express serenity is a mistake."

A religious man, Barragán and his work have been described as "mystical" as well as serene. His chapel for the Capuchinas Sacramentarias is evidence of both qualities. Because of his interest in horses, he designed many stables, fountains and water troughs that manifest many of these same qualities.

Barragán has had a profound influence not only on three generations of Mexican architects, but many more throughout the world. In his acceptance of the Pritzker Architecture Prize, he said, "It is impossible to understand Art and the glory of its history without avowing religious spirituality and the mythical roots that lead us to the very reason of being of the artistic phenomenon. Without the one or the other there would be no Egyptian pyramids, nor those of ancient Mexico. Would the Greek temples and Gothic cathedrals have existed?"

Further, he called it "alarming" that publications devoted to architecture seemed to have banished the words, "Beauty, Inspiration, Magic, Spellbound, Enchantment, as well as the concepts of Serenity, Silence, Intimacy and Amazement." He apologized for perhaps not having done these concepts complete justice, but said "they have never ceased to be my guiding lights." As he closed his remarks, he spoke of the art of seeing. “It is essential to an architect to know how to see—to see in such a way that vision is not overpowered by rational analysis."

We are honoring Luis Barragán for his commitment to architecture as a sublime act of the poetic imagination. He has created gardens, plazas, and fountains of haunting beauty—metaphysical landscapes for meditation and companionship.

A stoical acceptance of solitude as man's fate permeates Barragán's work. His solitude is cosmic, with Mexico as the temporal abode he lovingly accepts. It is to the greater glory of this earthly house that he has created gardens where man can make peace with himself, and a chapel where his passions and desire may be forgiven and his faith proclaimed. The garden is the myth of the Beginning and the chapel that of the End. For Barragán, architecture is the form man gives to his life between both extremes.

Jury Members

J. Carter Brown (Chairman)
Lord Clark of Saltwood
Arata Isozaki
Philip Johnson
J. Irwin Miller
Cesar Pelli
Carleton Smith (Secretary to the Jury)
Arthur Drexler (Consultant to the Jury)

Dumbarton Oaks, Washington, D.C.

Dumbarton Oaks is a wonderful refuge in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, D.C. Buildings on the grounds include the ninetieth century Georgian style mansion, built in the early 1800s with subsequent additions and modifications made throughout the twentieth century. The Museum of Pre-Columbian Art (1959-1963) consisting of eight circular galleries, designed by architect Philip Johnson, is widely considered among the architectural masterworks of the twentieth century.

In 1920, diplomat Robert Bliss and his wife Mildred, prominent art collectors, developed Dumbarton Oaks, their estate from 1920-40. The rough grounds were transformed into gardens with elements of French, English, and Italian formal gardens, however combined in a distinctive way by Beatrix Jones Farrand, who also worked on the private gardens of John Rockefeller, Jr. and the grounds at Yale University.

In 1940, the Blisses conveyed Dumbarton Oaks, together with a specialized art research library of 50,000 volumes and a collection of medieval and Byzantine art, to Harvard University. Today, the Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection is an international center for scholarship, providing resources for Byzantine, Pre-Columbian, and Garden and Landscape Studies. Begun as a private collection by the Blisses in 1920, the library and collections include art, objects, artifacts, manuscripts, and rare books.

Because the Blisses were also lovers of music, they built a Music Room at the main house and hosted private concerts there, including several by musician friends, including Jan Paderewski and the composer Igor Stravinsky. The ceremonies for the 1979 and 1980 Pritzker Architecture Prize were held in this space.


Dumbarton Oaks