The modern architecture and the power. Spain and the world in the century xx | Antón Capitel

Italian construction of the Palazzo della Civiltà. Architects Giovanni Guerrini, Ernesto Bruno La Padula and Mario Roman (Courtesy of Wikicommons)

With some frequency I have had to explain, as teacher, the architecture of the 40s in the Franco’s regime, or that of the Nazism in the 30. Always I say that both the Nazism and the Franco’s regime had to the modern architecture as an enemy, which actually turns out to be unusual, since the modern architecture – they were saying what some critics and historians should say, or say what they should say now – it did not have ideological direct any content. Well it could have happened that the dictator Nazi had been an enthusiast of the modernity, enclosed for presuming of radically, and had promoted an architecture that mostly German could consider. In great way like that it was done in Italy, for example, and under the fascist dictator. Nevertheless, it was not like that in the Nazism; the chief was partial to the classic and academic architecture, in what it was denouncing his delay and his lack of education, and it imposed it as so many things.

In the Spanish dictator the thing was slightly different, since that being did not have very much criterion in anything that was not political, and they were some architects – especially every one – those who imposed an architectural conservative politics, which was fitting with the conventional tastes, of low middle class, of the dictator.

Well, but, definitively, why the identification of the modern architecture as an enemy, if this one actually it was not, and had his adoption allowed to presume of technical and artistic progressism?

In case of Spain probably an answer could be outlined.

Without forgetting the difficult situation to which the country had come under the republican regime, mostly impossibly to forgive, and though that one was not such a direct responsibility of the politicians since it is in the habit of saying, since the sabotage abounded in some and in others, supposed “salvation of the Mother land” that there decided to carry out the military men and those that helped them, is not supported as reason, and appears rather as simple alibi.

The civil war was not a simple coup d’état to straighten the republican regime and to impose the order, which might have been. It was a bloody, fratricidal war, artificially supported in his long duration to liquidate the enemy to the maximum possibly and to change completely the political structure of the country. If the war, according to so many people, was inevitable, the result after her it was not. A parliamentary republic replaced with a personal dictatorship, supervised by a general of brigade Africanist, without other merits that his prestige between the extreme right, his trickery and his cruelty already exhibited with his action on having suffocated and to suppress the revolution of Asturias in 1934.

The dark and crafty general of brigade freed himself for accident of his principal rivals, the general Sanjurjo, Marquess of the Rif (Africanist like he, which was his chief and already previously revolted against the republic) and Emilio Mola Vidal (organizer of the revolt), more intelligent both and of less limited political thought of of that one who then fixed them up, with well-known traps, to be nominated a dictator.

The general of brigade was promoted to yes same to general captain and happened to preside at a bloody and despotic dictatorship, supported on the rights, in general, but especially in an army pretoriano, bodyguard and accomplice of the operation and paid with the most absolute corruption. They did not save the Mother land, they limited themselves to empowering of her. They got hold of the State and of the company and put it to his service. It happened for the destruction of the country, for the death and the murder of many hundreds of thousands, and for the restoration of the systematic corruption and of the social enthronement of the dirty business.

Now, well, all that what has it to see with the modern architecture? Not by no means at all, but nothing had either that to see the architecture with the ideology of other countries that, nevertheless, reacted strongly in relation to her. Stalin suprimió violently the Russian architecture of forefront to give step to a decadent academicismo “to the service of the people”. About Hitler and about Mussolini already we have spoken. In The United States, the most important of the official architecture, the big works in Washington constructed in the 30s, were a “revival” of the neoclassicist. In England, not only the official works, but also great as the private roads, at least in London, were forced to use a decadent classicism, which it was trying to represent still to the empire, and that already was weakening even in Lutyens’s skilful hands. The sacralización of the modern architecture like architecture of the democracy on the part of the allies on having ended the second world war was a hurried invention, on having verified that the old and defeated enemy – the Nazism – and immediately before allied and now enemy – the communism – they were practising the classicism, since they themselves also had done. It was, I add, so, to there distinguish and to be enthroned a new icon capable of representing to the “democracies”.

In the pro-Franco Spain, fierce dictatorial regime, the propaganda was enormously necessary, by what already it has been said, since it was a question of justifying for sublimation the fact of having got hold of the country and of having provoked such a material disaster and so countless number of dead men between the own compatriots. The architecture was a call like that to joining the propaganda. Probably the general of brigade developed dictator and Pedro Muguruza Otaño, of Guipuzcoa architect whom the military Africanist had nominated a “General manager of Architecture”, urdieron together the rude plot of reviving the eclectic architecture, to which he was going to be been called “A” “Native” – it was not the first time – and to be opposed to the incipient rationalism and expressionism more or less identified with the republic by simple temporary reasons, and to the one that was going to be been called a “red architecture”. Probably the invention was rather of Muguruza, who proposed it to the general of brigade, who would applaud the occurrence, which was coming to coincide with his mediocre taste of unpolite man.

The historicist architecture was promoted, so, as “Spanish architecture”. The architects had to dust his former books and manuals of beginning of century, and only to one, Luis Moya Blanco, him the hand did not tremble on having done classicism, playing a paper comparable to that of Lutyens in the United Kingdom of anteguerra, though more solitary still.

The heavy joke did not happen of the 40s, except in case of Moya. The young pro-Franco architects turned soon the modern architecture into the image of the State and of the company of the dictatorship.

The architecture was used this way, for some and for others, to the service of the ideology, without this one could contain it really. It was, on the part of all, an abuse with regard to our art, which if it had been already along the history to the service of the power, since it is logical, had never suffered, up to the 20th century, so rude and so extraordinary manipulations.

Antonio González-Capitel Martínez · Doctor architect · professor in ETSAM

Madrid · february 2010

Antón Capitel

Es arquitecto y catedrático de Proyectos de la Escuela de Arquitectura de Madrid, fue director de la revista Arquitectura (COAM) de 1981-86 y de 2001-09. Historiador, ensayista y crítico, ha publicado numerosos artículos en revistas españolas y extranjeras sobre arquitectura española e internacional. Entre sus libros destacan diferentes monografías sobre arquitectos.

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