architecture, Francoist

architecture, Francoist
   Although in theory the term "Francoist architecture" ought to apply to the architecture promoted by General Franco's regime during his personal rule from 1939 to 1975, it is not altogether meaningful to speak of a true Francoist architecture after 1960. Despite the dictatorial nature of the regime, Spain began from that date to experience, albeit in a modified form, influences from abroad, which relegated so-called Francoist architecture to second place. The term is primarily relevant, therefore, to the 1940s and 1950s. Architectural practice underwent a radical change of direction after the Civil War of 1936–9. GATEPAC disbanded and most of the noted architects who were trying to modernize architectural idiom, following the example of Gropius or Le Corbusier, had to leave the country. Of those who remained, some adapted to the taste of the time, while others struggled through the first ten to fifteen years of Francoism, until they could pick up the threads of their professional lives. On the other hand, those architects who were not caught up in the modern movement found themselves suddenly in favour, because the new regime wanted large-scale monumental architecture which celebrated the grandeur of the past. At first, Francoist architecture was massive and graceless in character, having much in common with that of Nazi Germany, but things soon began to change, partly through the efforts of a group of well-informed architects who knew how to adopt the required eclectic approach, and partly under the influence of Italian "fascist" architecture. Mussolini's Italy experienced an enormous expansion in monumental architecture, including some very innovative creations. Long after the fall of Mussolini, young "Francoist" architects were going to Italy to study the work of, for instance, Terragni, Piacentini and Libera. Moreover, the central position occupied by the church in Spain meant that many of the interesting creations of this period are ecclesiastical buildings, like those of Victor Eusa in Navarre or Francesc Folguera in Catalonia. Indeed, a substantial number of architects who cultivated eclecticism continued to work on in Catalonia, reinforced by followers of Noucentisme who had survived the war. The most remarkable works produced by this group were those of Francesc Mitjans, Nicolau Rubio i Tuduri, Eusebi Bona, Luis Bonet, Adolfo Florensa and Raimon Duran Reynals. The younger generation which was trained in Catalonia during this period also produced interesting figures such as José Antonio Coderch, José María Sostres or Antoni de Moragas. In Madrid, Luis Gutiérrez Soto was noted for his very erudite architecture, while Francisco Sáenz de Oiza laid the foundations of a type of monumentalism more in keeping with international trends, which he continued to develop successfully after the death of Franco. "Francoist architecture" also denotes the regime's policy of giving the institutions of state power an assertive physical presence in the cities, reflected in the number of new urban buildings constructed during this period. Sited for maximum impact, but with little concern for proportion, these constructions often had carved decoration, sometimes a fountain strategically placed at the entrance, a prominent balcony or a motif in bas-relief calculated to evoke civic pride. In rural settings, the legacy of the Franco era is seen in an impressive number of monuments and military barracks.
   Unlike Hitler's Germany or Mussolini's Italy, Franco's Spain was never a wealthy country, and it is a matter for conjecture whether with more resources he would have evolved his own distinctive "style", on the model of the two modern dictators who inspired him. The urge to leave his mark through the medium of architecture was just as great, but after the Civil War Spain was in such a ravaged state that mere survival had to take priority. WWII meant his abandonment by his erstwhile allies, and their subsequent disappearance from the scene. After the war, Franco lost international support, and his country was subjected for several years to an economic blockade. By the time conditions began to improve in the 1960s, Franco was too old and temperamentally disinclined to take an interest in architectural projects. Perhaps by then he had missed his vocation.
   Nonetheless, in Madrid and all the larger cities there remain some fine government buildings, hospitals and military barracks which testify to what "Francoist architecture" could have been.
   Further reading
   - Alomar, G. (1948) Sobre tendencias estilísticas en la arquitectura española actual, Madrid: Boletín de la Dirección General de Arquitectura (somewhat dated, but a useful guide to the Franco period).
   - Gombrich, E. (1972) Histoire de l'Art, Paris: Flammarion.

Encyclopedia of contemporary Spanish culture. 2013.

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