Coderch, José Antonio

Coderch, José Antonio
b. 1913, Barcelona; d. 1984, Barcelona
   Coderch's work is an important landmark in post-Civil War Spanish architecture. He studied at the Escuela de Arquitectura (School of Architecture) in Barcelona, under Josep Maria Jujol, which helps to explain some characteristic features of his later work. He began as town architect in Sitges and in 1943 moved to Madrid to work for the state architectural directorate. On returning to Barcelona, he began practising as an independent architect, at first in association with Manuel Valls. In 1949 he took part in a national architecture congress, where he came to the attention of two distinguished guests, Gio Ponti and Alberto Sartorius, who took a great deal of interest in his work. From then on his projects and his ideas were routinely reported in the international professional journals. The Grupo R was born in his studio in 1951, a sort of intellectual dissenting movement promoted by a group of Catalan architects. They included Coderch's contemporary José María Sostres, and Oriol Bohigas and Josep Martorell, representing the post-Civil War generation. The group was opposed to the pervasive monumentalist architecture of the period, and by means of debates, exhibitions and competitions it aimed to make public opinion aware of more modern trends. Coderch withdrew from the group in 1952, and it disbanded in 1958 when its members felt their mission had been accomplished.
   In 1951 Coderch created the Spanish pavilion for the ninth Milan Triennial, consolidating his international renown with the award of a gold medal. From 1959 he attended the International Congresses on Modern Architecture (CIAM) on the recommendation of José Lluis Sert. Lecturing on architecture was another important part of his activity. His work was awarded numerous national and international distinctions. Coderch's work stands out from the general architectural climate of his time by reason of a certain "organic" quality, modified by the architectural vocabulary inherited from pioneers of modernity such as Le Corbusier or Walter Gropius. One can detect here a remote influence of Frank Lloyd Wright, but equally it could be a reflection of some of the features of Catalan Modernism, especially that of Gaudí and Jujol. A very characteristic example of this is the group of apartments he constructed in Barceloneta (1951, Barcelona). Between 1955 and 1970, he designed a large number of houses, all of which are characterized by a remarkable formal elegance. The best known is the Casa Catasus (1956, Sitges) and also the very refined Casa Ugalde (1951, Caldetas). His Casa Tàpies (1960, Barcelona), the studio-apartment of the painter Antoni Tàpies, is equally famous for its façade, conceived of as a complex filter between exterior and interior. Of his post-1970 pieces the best known is the Instituto Francés (1974, Barcelona) a clever variation on the theme of the curtain wall. He has also created very sensitive designs, the best known being his design for a lamp.
   Coderch's sensibility continues to influence contemporary Catalan architecture.
   See also: architects; architecture; architecture, Francoist; architecture, post-Francoist

Encyclopedia of contemporary Spanish culture. 2013.

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