Luis Barragán (Guadalajara, Mexico, 1902-1988) and José Antonio Coderch (Barcelona, Spain, 1913-1984), despite having different origins, shared a common ground. Their architecture – based on Mediterranean tradition – was adapted to similar mild climate conditions, where shadowed and protected open spaces played a role as transitional spaces between indoors and outdoors. Those spaces were not treated as traditional elements incorporated within the buildings’ repertories, but were spatial proposals with a goal – rooted in their cultural backgrounds – of enriching the relationship between both realms. In this essay, common features arise when comparing two paradigmatic houses built by Barragán (Casa Prieto López, Mexico City, Mexico, 1950) and Coderch (Casa Ugalde, Caldes d’Estrach, Spain, 1951), within subjects such as the role of tradition, the relationship to the place, or the explanation of their architecture as a plastic experience.
Private and public are clearly separated in both architects’ works, generally by a hermetic and neutral facade, behind which indoors and outdoors are interwoven, in such a way that open spaces take part of the interior of their houses and views towards the landscape or the sky break up the limits. Some of the spaces are settled in a kind of ambiguous category: there will be enclosed rooms with no ceiling, or patios and porches with windows in them.
The common Mediterranean heritage appears within plane and plastered abstract walls, where plasticity rises from roughness, colour, light and shadow. The nuances appear in the personal interpretation of the experience of space, as well as in answer to the local conditions, and it is then that a different position in relation to nature emerges; whereas the Mediterranean coast is naturally soft and mild, the Mexican vegetation and geological features introduce a brave contrast between the open and the built.