Discovering Mexico’s Greatest Architect in Guadalajara

Mexico’s first and only Pritzker Prize-winning architect, Luis Barragán is best known for his modernist work in Mexico City. However, his hometown of Guadalajara, where he and his contemporaries developed their signature Mexican-Arabic-Islamic style, features some of his most interesting early work. While much has been built over, you can still tour private homes and repurposed spaces—or even stay in an Airbnb designed by Barragán—to get a sense of his remarkable legacy.

Calle Simón Bolívar 224, Lafayette, 44160 Guadalajara, Jal., Mexico
In 1929, the man who would become Latin America’s most celebrated architect, Luis Barragán, built two houses for Sr. Ildefenso Franco to rent. Many years later, an architecture aficionado purchased and restored one of the houses, preserving its original tiling, floors, and finishes while adding contemporary furniture and local artisan textiles. The house, which features five private rooms, now operates as an Airbnb, giving guests the chance to stay in one of Barragán’s earliest works.

If you choose to stay here, be sure to check out the hidden room above the garage. Working during an era when the Mexican government endeavored to suppress the Catholic Church, Barragán—himself a devout Catholic—built the secret room as a place where priests could lead mass in the old-fashioned manner, by turning their backs to the attendants. The space eventually became the servants’ quarters and fell into disrepair, but has since been restored to its former glory, along with its lovely terrace.
Calle José Guadalupe Zuno Hernández 2083, Obrera, 44140 Guadalajara, Jal., Mexico
Mexico’s most influential architect—and the only one to receive the Pritzker Prize—Luis Barragán was born and trained in Guadalajara and practiced in the city until he was 34. He then moved to Mexico City, where he achieved fame for his distinctive and colorful approach to modernism, noteworthy also for its emphasis on courtyards and gardens.

Little remains in Guadalajara of Barragán’s early work but one notable exception is the Casa Iteso Clavigero, which now serves as a cultural center for a Jesuit university. While the interiors have been redesigned into gallery spaces, the exteriors have been beautifully preserved. In 1929, when Barragán designed the house, he was still working in a largely regional style, though the house’s bright yellow walls and some ingenious details provide hints of the architectural masterpieces that he would create later in his career. It’s free to walk around the building (as well as enter it, though there are no permanent exhibits related to Barragán) and you can take photos of the exteriors (but none inside the building).
Av. de la Paz 2231, Americana, 44160 Guadalajara, Jal., Mexico
Built in 1930 by Luis Barragán’s contemporary and close friend Pedro Castellanos, Casa Quiñones is considered the first truly modern home in Guadalajara. With its Art Deco design, tile floors, and floating staircase, it’s also an excellent example of the Escuela Tapatía de Architectura—the Guadalajaran school of architecture defined by its Mexican-meets-Moorish style. Today, the home serves as a bookend, along with Barragán’s Casa Franco, to the ultramodern Hotel Demetria. Hotelier and architect Iván Cordero owns all three properties, helping to create a dialogue between the old and new in Guadalajara.
In 1927, the mayor of Guadalajara, Gustavo R. Cristo, commissioned burgeoning architect Luis Barragán to build him a home. The result was Casa Cristo, which now functions as the headquarters for the College of Architects of the State of Jalisco. Complete with high arches, stained-glass windows, and a tiled roof, the building reflects Barragán’s early fascination with Moorish design. However, glimpses of the style that came to define his later, better-known work are also visible, from the local artisan elements (adobe walls, cedar wood, stained glass made in Tonala) to the bright colors and flow of natural light that suggests a place both modern and steeped in history. Although certain changes have been made to the original house (the removal of the garden, the replacement of original tiles), the building remains relatively well-preserved and merits a visit.
Jardines del Bosque, 44520 Guadalajara, Jal., Mexico
Before Luis Barragán designed Mexico’s first master-planned community in the suburbs of Mexico City, he dreamed up an urban park neighborhood in his native Guadalajara. He commissioned German artist Matias Goeritz to create an entrance sculpture called El Pájaro Amarillo (The Yellow Bird) and drew plans for an onsite chapel named Templo el Calvario (Temple of Calgary). Unfortunately, the neighborhood today doesn’t look much like Barragán intended—he’d planned for a different kind of tree to be planted on each street so that the area would bloom in a rainbow pattern, and for wider streets lined with shopping malls. However, you can still visit Jardines del Bosque to see the majestic Goeritz sculpture and chapel and, if you squint your eyes, imagine Barragán’s vision come to life.
2207 Avenida de la Paz
A Madrid-based gallery that showcases some of Guadalajara’s best artists, Travesía Cuatro serves as a bridge between the European and Latin American art scenes. Perhaps more impressive than the work on display, however, is the gallery’s setting inside Casa Franco, a 1929 Mediterranean-style home designed by the father of Mexican modernist architecture, Luis Barragán. The landmarked space has the casual feel of a home—that just happens to have a fantastic art collection.
Avenida Juarez S/N, Centro, Americana, 44100 Guadalajara, Jal., Mexico
In 1934, architect Luis Barragán won a contest put on by the city of Guadalajara to design a park on former prison land, creating a gateway to the city center. Together with his engineer brother, Barragán based his design on functionalist, Art Deco, and California modernist styles, incorporating elements of red and yellow as a nod to French 1930s design. Although the park (originally named Parque Revolución but now referred to as Parque Rio, or Red Park) has undergone significant changes over the years, certain elements—the red-and-yellow benches, the kiosk, the fountain, and the mashup of 1930s and ’40s architectural styles that would come to define Barragán’s later work—are still intact.
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