I believe honestly that Coderch is not the best architect of Spain in the 20th century, if any sense is that this definition made. Of looking for one, the best they would have been Alejandro de la Sota or Francisco Javier Sáenz de Oíza. None of the two was from Madrid, Jack of Pontevedra and Oíza of Navarre, but the two settled down here. Coderch was one of the good ones, but I believe firmly that these two overcame him (I repeat, if to speak about a such competition sense made) and possibly also Fisac. It is necessary to put Coderch in a long list of the best, certainly, in that Jose Antonio Corrales and Ramon Vázquez Molezún are also Jack, Oíza, Fisac, Goatherd, Fernandez of the Owner. Or, eight, two natives of Madrid, five who studied and they bought property here and one of Barcelona. (Spate of goals, it contradicts totally to the Catalan advertising).
I know very well Coderch’s architecture. Even I knew him itself, since I took charge (with Javier Ortega and at the end of the 70) of doing a book for the publishing house Xarait (in Madrid) on his work. About that one I thought very much about his architecture and wrote an article, which introduces the book, and that can be consulted. This one was the Coderch’s first monograph, done by a publishing house of Madrid (directed by a master of Santander).
Coderch was a good architect, but not the best. Even it can be said that it never measured up to the big topics, not at least with topics different from the housing and from offices. It neither was so refined and exquisite as of the Jack, nor was so brilliant or so intense as Sáenz de Oíza. Neither it was so original and creative as Fisac, a native of La Mancha. Coderch was enclosed a bit provincial. An architect of provinces, luxurious, but of provinces; of a provincial very good and luxurious city, since it is Barcelona. (Do not be scandalized; I think that Alvar Aalto was an architect of provinces, since Helsinki is a city that does not come in importance not to Valencia, at least; the fundamental difference is that, in spite of it, he was a genius, who came out completely his situation and his circumstances. And this one is not the case.)
His topics were, especially, the one-family housing, and in addition for bourgeoises (for burguesones), one of the worst possible clienteles. They are nice, certainly, even frequently very well, but it never reached really extraordinary levels, not at least in the celebrated House Ugalde. In the majority others it abused very much of a bit silly resources as the teeth of saw, and was copied also very much to yes same. That is to say, it never watched even the excellences (simply as for the one-family houses) of Wright, of the Villa Savoye or of the Villa Mairea, let’s put for diverse archetypes. (I think on the other hand that Jack or Oíza if that watched often the genius of the teachers, in other topics).
One of his more important works (probably that more) was in Madrid, the building of housings llamaso “Sunflower”, in which it proposed to attack (a bit silly) the conditions of the widening of Madrid and which probably had not been allowed in the inhabitant of Barcelona, (this is, in the sacrosanct “eixample” of the mitificado engineer of ways imposed by the central government). The housing type of the Sunflower is very interesting and successful, certainly, and fulfills fully Coderch’s attempt of doing a housing of great program on a built-up bottom of 30m. And without interior courts, though with courts to front.
But when the series (a bit silly oblique, purely aesthetic gesture and that only is perceived in plant) comes ultimately, this is, to the corner, the building is finished off by a very vulgar plant and a deficient, unworthy front of the street of Imperial sand grouse and Gasset, which is the principal one. Coderch’s mapping ignores the corner; or, said differently, it cannot solve it, if it is not of form simple soul. And though it works out airy enough in the front for Lagasca, which possesses the big projecting ones and the courts to solve the volume, it fails completely in the main face. A conventional building, since it is that of Ruiz de la Prada, who is exactly faces, it gives him a real lesson. An urban lesson, which is what he neither accepts does not even know.
But it is more. Coderch (who hated visceralmente to Him Corbusier, since to so many other things), was admiring nevertheless Wright, whom it was imitating, since it does of fact in the Sunflower, which image is a project transcript as that of St Mark (1929), that of the apartments for Chicago (1930) and that of the Crystal Heights Hotel (Washington, 1940). But in other things it cannot follow him. Wright, as great “organicista”, was seeking to fuse form and structure, to achieve that they were constituting, almost, an identity (question that is for example, and also to imitation of the American teacher, in Sáenz de Oíza’s important works of White Towers and of the Bank of Bilbao). But, on the other hand, Coderch ignores completely this important question, in spite of wanting to line up with the organic architecture.
This way, in the Sunflower, there appear wall features that allude to the constructive system of the walls of load, but of it there is nothing. The structure is a metallic conventional and vulgar structure, which someone has placed where it has could to construct the house in ordinary form. This is what is professionally provincial. Coderch, in spite of his tremendous haughty one, does the same thing that his more vulgar companions: it gives the plants to a specialist in calculation, which proposes the placement of the supports him in sites in which they do not hinder his disposition in plant. Of the thought wrightiano nothing stays; actually, it did not even know it.
One of his friends of Madrid, Francisco of You Seize Goatherd gave to him a lesson of the first order in the great building of the National Delegation of Unions (today Ministry of Health, with other one of his friends, Rafael de Aburto), since it is verified seeing the project for the contest that did Coderch (it can turn in my book), slightly perplex between a solution to Perret or to Terragni (did it knew them? What goes! Even it was presuming of his ignorance), and that cannot interpret well the place in the one that acts, at least did not even approach the urban successes of the brilliant exercise of Cabraro and Aburto. The opposite can be said, certainly, since already it inhabitant of Castellón bought property in Barcelona did years ago a critical sedicente, but it would not be any more than a typically Catalan falsehood.
The certain thing is that if we were agreeing that Coderch is the most important Spanish architect of the 20th century, we would not be doing another thing that to reduce the quality of the architecture of our country in this period. Lucky it is not like that, and enclosed a such polemic would not ma sense if it was not suiting to go out to the step of so many superficialness.
As for another question, that of the Franco’s regime, not even a sorrow deserves of being attended. The Franco’s regime was something Galician, not?. And as such peripheral thing would interest more Barcelona than to Madrid. Certainly Barcelona lacks the heroic republican record of Madrid defending itself from the assault of the Franco supporters during the whole civil war. And after her, Catalonia and Barcelona were so pro-Franco as everywhere, or more in that all. In addition, the Catalan burguesones who were entrusting his big chalets to Coderch, what they were, if not Franco supporters? I play the neck that were saying something like: “It Hears, we are going to entrust the house to this architect who is so good and who in addition is of rights, as God it gives the orders”. Of rights; or, better, above mentioned, of extreme right. Or, as them.
Antonio González-Capitel Martínez · Doctor architect · professor in ETSAM
Madrid · november 2011
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.