The germinal decade (1950-1958)
This ten year period was perhaps his most productive, not only for the number of works he carried out, but also for the quantity and the brilliance of the new spatial, formal, and constructive solutions that he came up with, simultaneously linking together various projects. The concerns with which he ended the previous decade, and which had been focussed on his own particular formulation of the Vitruvian principles; the where, the what for, the how, and the I don’t know what; would from then on impose a personal method on his works that allowed him to consolidate and jump from the conventional to the rationally creative. Fisac’s verbal self-assurance: he was provocatively opposed to the affected pride of the architect ‘thinkers’: was one of his weapons for attacking the importance of deep concerned thought about the very essence of architecture, -appropriate for those who lived their profession with unusual intensity, but were affected by expressive limitations in the directly employed tools of drawing and verbal language. The first example of his ability to completely control space down to the finest detail was, perhaps, the construction of the CSIC Library in Calle Medinacelli, in Madrid. It was built in 1950, one year after the cafeteria at the Instituto de Optica Daza de Valdes, and Fisac handled this new language with ease, incorporating the functionality and organicist warmth of his recently discovered Nordic world.
In the same year he constructed the ‘Houses in Chain’, which were the result of him winning first prize in a competition for experimental housing organized by the Architect’s Association of Madrid, and also the offices for SEAT in Barcelona, where he constructed his first undulatory laminar shell to serve as the entrance porch. This work was the origin of his later research into laminas and pieces done in concrete like the portico for the Teacher Training Centre in the Ciudad Universitaria in Madrid, done in 1953, and others which he was already working on. However, the work that Fisac considered to be his departure point towards an architecture removed from any type of classicist commitment, and the start of his extensive catalogue of spatial and constructive inventions, was the Instituto Laboral in Daimiel, another work directly commissioned by the minister Ibañez Martin, which originated with a pilot experience of professional training and the use of constructive methods taken from the rural traditions of La Mancha to create obviously modern functional and luminous spaces.
In 1951 he travelled to Japan and was impressed by the essentialism and the formal syncretism of the traditional Japanese houses and gardens. In the project for the Instituto Cajal of Microbiology, which would be one of his key works, he applied his ideas on asymmetric balance to the chamfer, and for which he also patented a new type of light brick with drip edge which he considered to be more consistent and adequate for the construction of façades with concrete structures than the conventional heavy brick. The same year he received a commission from the Domincan Fathers for the Colegio de las Arcas Reales in Valladolid, in which for the first time he applied his theory of dynamic space in the chapel, a revolutionary building which provoked admiration and controversy and which won him the 1954 Vienna medal for Sacred Art, the impetus Fisac needed to become one of the most prestigious architects of the day, including beyond Spanish frontiers.
In 1955 he went on another of his long trips round the world, including the United States, where he saw the works of Wright and Mies van der Rohe, and visited Neutra in Los Angeles, with whom he established a long friendship. In August he also visited Jerusalem, as an architect for the Holy Sepulchre, and after visiting the Holy places, when he returned on the last day of September, he finally left the Opus Dei. This was also the year of his most celebrated and internationally renowned work, the Teologado de los Dominicos, in the town of Alcobendas near Madrid, its church is an iconic image of Spanish twentieth century architecture which continues to surprise with its singular hyperbolic plan and its powerful interior space. In 1957 he married the woman who would accompany him for the rest of his life, Ana Maria Badell, a beautiful young writer who he met at about the time he left the Opus Dei, the ceremony took place in the church of the Jeronimos in Madrid. During these prolific years the number of works mounted, and there were recurring themes, which occurred with the churches he was developing through successive works until he approached perfection, as with the church of the Coronation, in Vitoria, where his ideas of dynamic space were formalized in all their splendour in 1958.
The sheer number of works that he produced in this decade makes it difficult to list them all, but some fundamental works come from this period such as his masterly interpretation of rural La Mancha construction that is the market in Daimiel, from 1955, and his own house at Cerro del Aire, in Madrid done in 1956, a refined synthesis of the modern housing of Los Angeles and the traditional house with patio from the south of Spain, as well as the Casa de Cultura in Ciudad Real (1957), an interesting but ill-fated work, or the Casa de Cultura in Cuenca, from the same year, which possesses an abstract cubic language which displayed similarities with his concrete works of the next decade.
© Vicente Patón-Alberto Tellería
© Fundación Fisac