In a first literal examination, the terrace is assembled by walls that rise above the roof level: the chimney and the mechanical heating system, as well as the white tower that contains the water deposit and the stairs leading to the servant’s quarter in the third and last level.
The terrace is also an abstract composition of naked faces that works as a chromatic laboratory whose architectural function is at once evocative and unexpected.
It is in the terrace where the conclusion of the complex poetic spatial organization of the house is resolved. A construction that, as Luis Barragán’s lifelong friend Ignacio Díaz Morales recalls, could be easily betrayed by the fragmented descriptions:
“An important quality of Luis Barragán’s spaces is the unitary conception of both simple and complex spaces, and overall, the space sequences that compose a building giving the impression of being conceived at a same instant, making up an unprecedented surprise of solid good judgment. They are different notes of a same harmonic chord, an exhibition of common sense, so scarce these days, as if the composition of these spaces could not be realized other way, tectonically unavoidable.”
At the terrace, the conclusion is more disquieting than cathartic. The very noun, “terrace”, designated pragmatically in plans and descriptions, is contradicted by its dwelling experience.
Beyond the terms viewpoint, pool, patio, observatory, chapel or hanging garden… the transformation sequence documented photographically by Armando Salas Portugal, which is one of the most significant examples of the experimentation process of the work, takes place in the terrace.
From a simple wood rail that allowed the view towards the garden, the perimetral walls of the terrace were rose until they reached a complete introspection. During this process, a cross in relief that some photographs show, also disappears from one of the walls. On the other hand, the multiple chromatic variations that are registered leave trails of Barragán’s exploration of color interaction with constructed space.
The search for the origin and evolution of the terrace (if indeed is necessary to find them) is a multiple task. It would have to include the Muslim tradition of roof terraces, the open places par excellence of urban life; and even Le Corbusier’s concept of the fifth façade; or the simple rural and universal desire of contact with the firmament.
An educated man who found many times his own echo searching in the work of others, Luis Barragán left testimony of his closeness with the Surrealist Movement, particularly with the metaphysical work of Giorgio de Chirico. More than a mere coincidence of imagery, the terrace is reminiscent of the Italian artist’s reflections when admiring ancient painting: “The outline of a window framing a square sky is another dramatic ensemble with the basic setting of a painting, so when the eye finds those greenish surfaces, many disturbing questions arise: What lies beyond that window? … Does that sky cover the sea, the desert or a populated city? … Does it extend, perhaps, above a free and disquieting nature, over mountains and deep valleys, over plains furrowed by mighty rivers?
“And the wide perspectives of the constructions rise full of mystery and premonitions. Dark secrets hide in their corners. They make a quivering episode out of art, not only a scene limited by the actions of the characters depicted there, but rather a true cosmic and vital drama that surrounds and traps man in its maelstrom, where past and future are confused with the enigmas of existence and exalted by the breath of art. Left naked of the complex and terrible aspect with which men might imagine them outside of art, they cover from the eternal, peaceful and consoling appearance of all brilliant constructions.”
To leave the terrace one must search for the door behind the gray tower, if the existence of the door in our memory prevails over perception.
© Fundación de Arquitectura Tapatía Luis Barragán A. C.