Interview with professor Concepción Díez-Pastor Iribas

Written on June 18, 2010 by Roberto Arribas in Architecture


     What is your research about?

One of my side research topics deals with Modernist Architecture related to the development of Tourism as a cultural industry in Spain. [In architectural terms, we call ‘Modernist architecture’ to the one developed by the twentieth century Modern Movement, or International Style. “Modernista”, instead, comes from ‘modernisme’ and is the Spanish word to refer to Art-Nouveau.] 

     What is the link between Tourism and Modernist Architecture?

The development of tourism in Spain started late in the 19th century as a hobby for some Romantic gentlemen. Yet it was not until the early 20th century that a specific office was established to trace its development. Only in the late twenties, during Primo de Rivera’s rule did it finally take off, when a clear strategy met with unexpected help from an architectural competition issued to build the ‘Albergues de carretera’, a new kind of inns close to the main motorways. The idea derived from an early proposal of two avant-garde, young architects of the ‘1925 Generation’, Carlos Arniches and Martín Domínguez. A similar project had been issued early in 1927 in one of their articles contributed to El Sol. By the time they were awarded the first prize in 1928, they were the most popular architects of their generation, a fact that was decisive for the whole strategy’s success. Their influence among their peers was a great one, easily traceable in other similar projects, but also showing in the whole strategy of the later Paradores Nacionales de Turismo. In fact, most of the original ‘Albergues’ later became ‘Paradores’ after several transformations and reforms. 

     What other options offer this research?

There are still black holes with respect to Spanish Tourism History, and they are very interesting to fill in the future. While current research seems to focus on the economic aspects, many others are still waiting to be explored.

The connections between cultural, historical, vernacular and natural features of Spain were masterly combined within the original strategy, mainly traced by those gentlemen on horseback. The way those main aspects are related with a new modern life, as was understood then makes it all the more fascinating: to be able to combine one’s culture with the new, to revolt one’s tradition while keeping with its essence. These constituted the very principles of the avant-garde and Modernist architecture in Spain, but also those of the so called ‘Spanish architectural tradition’ or ‘savoir faire’ of the 20th century. 

     How would you link this publication to your professional career?

My doctorate thesis and PhD research covered most of Spain’s 20th century architectural evolution through the work of the ‘1925 Generation’ architects Carlos Arniches and Martín Domínguez, and all that derived from them until nowadays. During my research I unexpectedly came across an exceptional amount of information related to the origins of one of our leading industries. To my surprise architecture appeared at every turn, and all of the sudden I realised the leading role it had played in favour of Tourism’s best development. In some way what I found summarized the main ethics of Modernist architecture throughout the rest of the century. One of my main interests is to trace the ethic line of architectural thought, and these two architects make unparalleled examples. They were mates and worked together, but not always did their thought and principles run parallel. 

     And with your teaching?

All these subjects are deeply related with the matters I teach, ‘Modern Architecture Monographs’ and ‘Architectural Composition’. In both cases not only Spanish architecture plays a decisive role, but also the structure of architectural thought and the building of one’s own architectural principles, as related to one’s ethical view of life. To read our culture in terms of our own time is essential to every architect’s frame of mind. Arniches and Domínguez’s style may have grown old, but their principles are still alive as masters’ lessons to be taken.


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