“Los Clubes” – San Cristobál Stables And The Fountain Of Lovers 1964, by Luis Barragan
Good architecture is ageless. At 62, Mexican architect Luis Barragán designed one of his most iconic projects: the “Fountain of Lovers”, located in Los Clubes, in Atizapán, Mexico.
This creation, part of a larger project which also includes the San Cristobál Stables and Egerstrom House, was designed by the architect for a community of riders. It was in 1969 that the overall construction was finished, becoming a symbol of his work due to the impeccable use of water, the geometrical abstraction of the different planes, and the colour, all of which were recurring elements throughout his career.
The fountain is one of the spaces in the project for public use. It was intended as a place for the riders and horses to be together, but was specifically designed as a drinking fountain for the animals rather than a decorative fountain. Barragán himself said: “I calculated the depth of the pool so that as the horse went through it, the water would reach its stomach”. The rider comes in through a side entrance framed by the great pink wall, then goes down towards the pool on the horse, which is immersed in the water. All this is accompanied by the noise of the water falling like a waterfall from the aqueduct which rests perfectly on another wall of the same material. In this way, the water appears calm and in motion. This use of the water is characteristic in his work and influenced by colonial Mexican architecture. However, he goes beyond the wells and aqueducts of ranches and convents and designs them as sculptures which are independent from the water and maintain their visual and spatial appeal even when they’re not running.
Cuadra San Cristobál, where the stables are, is located 80 metres from the fountain. However, thanks to their similar use of the elements and the relationship between them, together they form one project. The pink tones, which paradoxically emphasise the geometry of the walls and the presence of the water, link both parts of the project, creating the appearance of one continuous space.
The whole project displays a fiercely expressive character. Like a mise-en-scène which awaits the entrance of the rider, the abstraction of the elements contrasts with the strong colours while the thickness of the walls adds depth to the openings and porticoes which hint at the neighbouring gardens and emphasise the view of the sky. The composition generates an experience which is accentuated by the sound of the moving water, the pavement-less ground and the fragrance of the vegetation chosen by the architect himself.
Just like in his other projects, the spaces created by Luis Barragán have an appearance of timelessness. The manner of inhabiting the space in this project is defined in a calm and intimate way.