The New York Times recently published an article titled “The 25 Most Significant Works of Postwar Architecture.” (The war in question was World War II.) The Times announced that in its selection process, it was sensitive to social issues, and claimed to be paying attention not just to the needs of the wealthy, but to the needs of ordinary people—as well as such issues as sustainability and environmentalism. So far, so good.
Here’s how the Times elaborated on their criteria: “Given the difficulties plaguing our current moment, it’s not surprising that the social concerns of architecture—the need to provide housing, for instance, or create useful civic and academic structures; the idea that beautiful cities and communities shouldn’t only be built for and by the rich; the urgency of sustainability, environmentalism and more careful materiality—were on everyone’s mind” during the selection of the honored buildings.
To honor the world’s most significant architects, the Times chose a jury of seven experts, including three architects (Toshiko Mori, Annabelle Selldorf, and Vincent Van Duysens), a designer, a set designer, and two architecture critics. The 25 selected buildings are representative of the aesthetic obsessions of many architects; included, for example, is a particularly ugly Brutalist church in France (a Le Corbusier building with an interior of unadorned concrete), as well as a cluster of buildings without any roof overhangs—designed, believe it or not, for the coast of Maine.
But one particular building on the list stands out. It’s the first building on the Times list: a private home in Mexico City that architect Luis Barragan built for himself in 1948. I don’t know much about Luis Barragan, who may have been a fine human being. According to the Times, the Barragan house “remains a timeless argument for the…