The ICO Museum of Madrid closed a few days ago a magnificent exhibition that, for some weeks, allowed to bring over the public the figures of Carlos Arniches and Martín Domínguez, two architects who were defining his own work not as racionalist, but as reasonably.1
The reasonable architects did not seem to have content too much in the Spain later to the Civil war, for what great part of the exhibition, the catalogue and an intimate round table that took place in the Students’ Residence in October was turning concerning Martin Domínguez’s work in his exiles Cuban and American.
It is known that the path of one of the pairs of more brilliant architects of our contemporary history met interrupted because of the political identification of both. Domínguez had to choose for the exterior exile, Arniches for the interior.
The born Regime of the Civil war was not late in adopting reprisals against that he was considering to be enemies whom the refined prose of the first Franco’s regime was labelling ‘ill-wills’. Certain groups suffered these reprisals of particularly violent form. Between 25 % and 30 % of the teachers’ body it was ‘purified’, and a ferreous control was established on the school material. In the end, the Regime did not need both teachers and instruments of indoctrination.
In the field of the architecture, the process of purification had a few very different characteristics. The Top Meeting of Purification proceeded with 1088 processes, from which 179 offers of sanction stemmed. After a review of these cases, the Ministerial Order of July 9, 1942, which was giving officialdom to the sanctions, was reducing the list to 79 names,2 to which it was applying sorrow that were going of the “incapacitation it perpetuates for the exercise public and deprived of the profession” —a major sorrow foreseen, reserved to Luis Lacasa, Manuel Sánchez Arcas and Bernardo Giner de los Ríos— up to the “contribution of the third degree in the exercise deprived of the profession” —the slightest, which relapsed into Carlos Arniches and Alejandro Ferrant Vázquez.
With diverse degrees of punishment we find, for more acquaintances mention to, Amós Salvador, José Luis Sert, José Puig y Cadafalch, Martín Domínguez, Rafael Bergamín, Matilde Ucelay, Ignacio de Cárdenas, Vicente Eced, Secundino Zuazo, Fernando Chueca y Fernando García Mercadal. It would be a mistake to value in a uniform way the cases of all these architects, who shape an unlike group as for his ideas and his professional practice. Bergamín, Lacasa and Sert, as the own Martin Domínguez, continued his work in the exile.
In other cases, the relative moderation of the punishments allowed his progressive reimbursement in the labor life -cases of Ignacio de Cárdenas, Zuazo or Carlos Arniches – or even his incorporation later to organisms of the Regime, since it happened with García Mercadal’s appointment as architect of the National Institute of Forecast, in 1946.
The architects who chose to remain in Spain had to face a process of readaptation that should have been, at least, so hard as that of his exiled companions. Carlos Arniches’s work is a clear example of this obliged adhesion to the new ‘Spanish’ style’.
There turns out to be complicated to find the determined and elegant architect of the Granja El Henar or the Misses’ Residence of the street Fortuny in conservative, heavy projects little convinced as the El Pinarillo residence, in El Escorial, developed in the years immediately later to the War on Pedro Muguruza‘s original project. Carlos Arniches’s brilliancy goes out to shine, nevertheless, in his works for the National Institute of Settling. The pair already had experimented with the subtle incorporation of the vernacular thing on his projects of youth, even on pieces so related to the modernity as the Zarzuela racetrack.
To that ‘reasonability’ that already they were defending in 1928 Carlos Arniches had to throw hand when, more often of the desirable thing, the directives of the authorities were trying to turn the traditional thing in folclórico and were summarizing the Spanish architecture in this historicist pastiche that the general manager at the time of Architecture was defining of this form, Francisco Prieto-Moreno:
The architectural tradition of Madrid is founded on the accomplishments of the XVIth and XVIIth century, on those who emphasize as fundamental milestones the Monastery of El Escorial, the missing person Palacio of the Good Retirement, the Royal palace and the Prado Museum. The difficult labor of the contemporary architects has to be to support and to continue this tradition without stopping understanding and assimilating in all his real value the set of technical possibilities and social needs that the modern life offers.3
The settlements of Algallarín and Gévora are a delicate sample adapted to the circumstances, of what the Spanish architecture could have reached of not being for the Civil war. An example of the quality of the architects of the ‘interior exile’, professionals who used as bridge and example the generation of the Fisac, Cabrero, Sota y Oíza. Probably his longings of modernity met buried under the weight of the purification but it is necessary to recognize his merit on having continued developing works of great quality in the most difficult social and economic circumstances.
Fernando Chueca was reporting an anecdote on Carlos Arniches:
«Once we were walking, I think that for El Escorial and it stopped taken pleasure before a simple front. “Have you seen what good it does? – he said-. It does not seem of architect».
For Arniches, the value of an anonymous work, without deceits or prejudices, without protagonismos not even author’s features, was residing precisely in his quality of authentic tradition, in his austerity and simplicity. In his condition of reasonable architecture, in the end.
Alberto Ruiz. Architect, teacher and investigator.
Madrid. April 2017.
1. Encuesta sobre la nueva Arquitectura. La Gaceta Literaria. On April 15, 1928.
2. Para un estudio pormenorizado de este proceso de depuración, consultar Suau Mayol, Tomàs. «La depuración franquista de los Colegios de Arquitectos, 1939-1942.» Actas del II Encuentro de Jóvenes Investigadores en Historia Contemporánea. Granada: Editorial Universidad de Granada, 2010.
3. La Vanguardia. “El Gran Madrid proyectado”. 11 de septiembre de 1946, pág. 1
Es Doctor Arquitecto por la ETSAM, compaginando su actividad profesional con la docencia y la investigación en la URJC. Los artículos son un reflejo de la inquietud, reflexión y pensamiento en torno a mi pasión: la arquitectura.