‘A woman is the physical and spiritual complement to a man. Without her, without her seductive charm and good company, man loses his capacity to dream and fantasize, which justifies and gives meaning to our lives.’
The crowds were gone. The King and Queen had signed the book. The pools were empty. Back home, Germany was in confusion. The pavilion was too heavy to move easily, unlike the other temporary pavilions, which looked much more like buildings. It was decided to leave the pavilion as a gift to the Spanish, until a decision could be made on what to do with it, and so it stood, a gothic outpost in the land of the Moors. The political situation became tense in Spain and issues other than architecture became more important. Bombs went off in the vicinity. In the turmoil, the presence of the pavilion that had always been so natural was overlooked completely.
At some point for a few days the pavilion became headquarters for the Republicans but they quarreled about the space, who would be inside, who would be covered, who would be in the open air. In the end, one of them made a plan so ridiculous, with such an absurd profusion of desks, cabinets, chairs, and waiting benches that the result was catastrophic. This experience made the Republicans the first to decide that modern architecture didn’t work. The pavilion was abandoned once again. In later fighting it was seriously damaged. For the first time, the world could see the pathetic sight of modern architecture, in ruins but no one had time to notice. The new regime was serious about resolving the issue of the pavilion once and for all. They had good relations with the new government in the pavilions homeland. They did not like the former Republican’s headquarters and decided to send it back to its home by train, as a friendly gesture.
The journey was complicated, even the railroad tracks of each country had a different width, necessitating many transfers and after a long delay the pavilion arrived back in Berlin. The pavilion was now an architectural orphan, its creator had just departed for the USA, and the new government was extremely different, now everyone was against modernism. They thought the pavilion was sick and they hardly opened the crates. Its modernity was a matter of context, only the marble was useful for their purposes if covered. First it became part of the décor for one of their propaganda movies. With the precious stone as a pompous background, a voluptuous blonde singer performed a sentimental aria that was directed to homesick soldiers scattered around the world, even further away than Barcelona. To soften the contours of the marble slabs and approve the acoustics, they were partly wrapped in purple satin. Later the stone was incorporated into the construction of a ministry where it ended up as the floor of the service entrance.
The war became more intense. Berlin was bombed and the ministry was hit many times, the marble slabs cracked a few days before the city was liberated. The bombed ministry became an emergency hospital and an improvised camp. In the chaos of the liberation much space was needed and sometimes it became the site for crazy parties between all the liberators.
After the euphoria of liberation, the destroyed city, country, and Europe had to be rebuilt. Each particle, each fragment was to be re-used. The ministry was dismantled, the marble saved, and the other crates of the pavilion were finally unpacked. First, the new planners of the east side thought to reassemble the whole pavilion as a gas and service station anticipating the time when each worker would have a car, but the dimensions and hidden module of the structure prevented that – in fact – any use. A more convenient use was later found as the locker room for a new gigantic sports complex planned for the 1952 Olympic Games that were to cement the friendship between all Europeans, but the games became a victim of the cold war. Only the locker room was built, standing on the abandoned terrain used by random passers-by and soccer fanatics. It more or less became an informal club.
One day, a western scientist investigating the rebirth of classicism in the east recognized a fragment that seemed vaguely familiar; he entered the showers, which smelled as bad as the inside of the pyramids and found more. He became convinced that he had discovered the elements of the mythical structure. Negotiations were initiated by his party, and after ten years success. In the context of cultural exchange, the elements were exported in return for one medium sized computer and the secret design of a machine gun.
Luis Barragán Pritzker Prize Ceremony Acceptance Speech
I welcome the opportunity to express my admiration for the United States of America, generous patron of the arts and sciences, which—as in so many instances—has transcended its geographical frontiers and purely national interests to confer this high distinction on a son of Mexico, thus recognizing the universality of cultural values and, in particular, those of my native country.
But as no one ever owes all to his own individual effort, it would be ungrateful not to remember all those who throughout my lifetime have contributed to my work with their talents, assistance and encouragement: fellow architects, photographers, writers, journalists, as well as personal friends who have honored me by taking an active interest in my work.
I take this occasion to present some impressions and recollections that, to some extent, sum up the ideology behind my work. In this regard, Mr. Jay Pritzker stated in an announcement to the press with excessive generosity what I consider essential to that ideology: that I had been chosen as the recipient of this prize for having devoted myself to architecture “as a sublime act of poetic imagination.” Consequently, I am only a symbol for all those who have been touched by Beauty.
It is alarming that publications devoted to architecture have banished from their pages the words Beauty, Inspiration, Magic, Spellbound, Enchantment, as well as the concepts of Serenity, Silence, Intimacy and Amazement All these have nestled in my soul, and though 1 am fully aware that I have not done them complete justice in my work, they have never ceased to be my guiding lights.
Religion and Myth. 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? Would the amazing marvels of the Renaissance and the Baroque have come about?
And in another field, would the ritual dances of the so-called primitive cultures have developed? Would we now be the heirs of the inexhaustible artistic treasure of worldwide popular sensitivity? Without the desire for God, our planet would be a sorry wasteland of ugliness. “The irrational logic harbored in the myths and in all true religious experience has been the fountainhead of the artistic process at all times and in all places ” These are words of my good friend, Edmundo O’Gorman, and, with or without his permission, I have made them mine.
Beauty. The invincible difficulty that the philosophers have in defining the meaning of this word is unequivocal proof of its ineffable mystery. Beauty speaks like an oracle, and ever since man has heeded its message in an infinite number of ways: it may be in the use of tattoos, in the choice of a seashell necklace by which the bride enhances the promise of her surrender, or, again, in the apparently superfluous ornamentation of everyday tools and domestic utensils, not to speak of temples and palaces and even, in our day, in the industrialized products of modern technology. Human life deprived of beauty is not worthy of being called so.
Silence. In the gardens and homes designed by me, I have always endeavored to allow for the interior placid murmur of silence, and in my fountains, silence sings.
Solitude. Only in intimate communion with solitude may man find himself. Solitude is good company and my architecture is not for those who fear or shun it.
Serenity. Serenity is the great and true antidote against anguish and fear, and today, more than ever, it is the architect’s duty to make of it a permanent guest in the home, no matter how sumptuous or how humble. Throughout my work I have always strived to achieve serenity, but one must be on guard not to destroy it by the use of an indiscriminate palette.
Joy. How can one forget joy? I believe that a work of art reaches perfection when it conveys silent joy and serenity.
Death. The certainty of death is the spring of action and therefore of life, and in the implicit religious element in the work of art, life triumphs over death.
Gardens. In the creation of a garden, the architect invites the partnership of the Kingdom of Nature. In a beautiful garden, the majesty of Nature is ever present, but Nature reduced to human proportions and thus transformed into the most efficient haven against the aggressiveness of contemporary life. Ferdinand Bac taught us that “the soul of gardens shelters the greatest sum of serenity at man’s disposal,” and it is to him that I am indebted for my longing to create a perfect garden. He said, speaking of his gardens at Ies Colombiers, “in this small domain, I have done nothing else but joined the millenary solidarity to which we are all subject: the ambition of expressing materially a sentiment, common to many men in search of a link with nature, by creating a place of repose of peaceable pleasure ” It will appear obvious, then, that a garden must combine the poetic and the mysterious with a feeling of serenity and joy. There is no fuller expression of vulgarity than a vulgar garden …