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Instituto Laboral in Daimiel

Date: 1951-1953
Address: C. Molinos, Daimiel, Ciudad Real View on Maps
Condition: Partly conserved with notable alterations

Interested in introducing the German experience in professional education into Spain, Miguel Fisac requested directly to the then Minister of National Education, José Ibáñez Martín, the construction of a labour institute in Daimiel in 1949. It would be the first of a series of buildings dedicated to the same purpose and before the building was finished in 1953, there were another two being built in the towns of Hellín and Almendralejo. The special circumstance of being able to design a building in his home town meant an important change in Fisac’s attitude at a time when he had just made two important trips in his personal architectural adventure. He travelled to the Nordic countries in 1949 and to Japan in 1951. These experiences and the rediscovery of the Alhambra in those years liberated him from prefixed composition patterns and he admitted this when he recognized this institute as his first genuine creation with an organic design, in which he could finally apply in a resolute way the four basic principles on which his future architectonic production would rest. These principles are expressed succinctly by Fisac as “What for? Where? How? And ‘I don’t know what’. Questions and a doubt which he described as a “mental itinerary” and which as a whole express his way of prioritizing the intentions with which one must approach a project, thus avoiding the classical parameters derived from Italian architecture that he had taken into consideration until that moment, in favour of an architecture that Juan Daniel Fullaondo described at the time as neo-empirical and obviously motivated in this case by the profound experience of the countryside of La Mancha. The architect who had studied and constructed in the big city and who had travelled around the world, went back to his place of birth and there and then was where he was able to be original.

In this building in Daimiel, Fisac started from a program that consisted of classrooms, workshops, laboratories, service areas, auditorium and a chapel that was never built but which had a similar plan to the one he was designing for the school of the Dominican fathers in Valladolid. He commented that he had worked with small pieces of cardboard that were scale representations of the ideal spaces for each activity. He put them together relating each to the others until he conceived a ‘V’ shaped plan, perhaps based on the Instituto Cajal de Microbiología but in which the symmetries are totally missing to create an organism articulated with relative freedom, which combines spaces with different scales without wishing for an axial or dominant view but rather a perceptive multiplicity difficult to assimilate in just one look. The two arms of the ‘V’ embrace a courtyard open to the west treated as a garden with a pond and a fountain, a meeting and resting place which provides a habitable oasis in the dry plateau of La Mancha. The apex where the two arms of the building meet configures an empty space that works as a lobby and auditorium, a faithful representation of those ample vestibules or hallways in the houses of La Mancha, equipped with enough chairs as to allow some social life in good weather because of the currents of fresh air between the street and the corral.

The construction is based on the traditional methods of La Mancha with mud walls, wooden beams and inclined roofs with Arab tiles although in its details it is full of clever devices created by the architect such as the vertical wooden slats that regulate the light in the classrooms and which also work as a protecting shutter, or the ceilings with a metallic structure in the shape of handsaw teeth in the lobby which are covered with light curved panels that form an undulating ceiling that can be closed with foldable sheets to darken the hall when needed for projections. The complex of rooms, of differing heights and orientations, is displayed to the exterior facing the village, with the lineal and rhythmical body of the classrooms marked by powerful pillars which are whitewashed like the rest of the building. Between them are the windows protected by slats painted in indigo, the white and blue combination characteristic in the south of the plateau that extends to all the buildings. In the background we notice the handsaw teeth of the hall amongst which there is one that stands out in height that facilitates access to the roof and which in the interior of the courtyard seems like a prismatic tower with a concave face. This creates a disconcerting optical trick that it is difficult to understand at first sight. This accumulative but serene presence, which does not conceal its factory-like condition, eloquently expressed the character of a building halfway between a school and a workshop, naturally integrated in the surrounding rural landscape in those years, although at the time it provoked reticence among those who were expecting a work of architecture with the monumentalist style of a capital city. Fisac commented how he had to ‘deceive’ the workers to make them whitewash the building telling them it was necessary to cover the pores of the mud walls using the traditional way of throwing the lime with a small jug. They were very surprised when he told them later that the building was to stay like that, with a look of ‘casilla’ or rural house. Some pretentious locals were disappointed with it but Fisac felt proud of it because it was actually what he had been seeking. It was this essential and timeless beauty of constructions bound to the land and to the place that opened the way for this architect to break many conventions of what was understood as academically classical at the time, as well as the modern, -contemplated with a lineal and excluding character, as with the GATEPAC.

Time has not been kind with this crucial work and the initial disdain of some inhabitants of Daimiel has hindered the fate of this building which as soon as it lost the protection of its sensitive first director suffered the effects of time and the lack of maintenance required by this type of construction. The north part disappeared and there were inadequate additions as well, such as the unfortunate change of moving the mythical fountain –one of the most recurrent images of Spanish organic architecture- from the interior of the courtyard where it gave off its guarded rumour surrounded by trees and grass to a forgotten corner in the exterior, clumsily paved, and without water and the original earthenware jar spout.

The problem of this building has not only been the lack of maintenance but the alterations and alleged improvements that it has suffered through time which have reduced its qualities until they are almost negligible and only a resolute and controlled action would recuperate its valuable features.


© Noemí Gª Millán, Mike Lumber

© Fundación Fisac

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