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First commissions (1942-1949)

In 1942, the scientist and Secretary General of the C.S.I.C. Jose Maria Albareda proposed to Fisac the conversion of the Auditorium of the Students Residences into a church, given that this institution had been eliminated under the new regime, with all its buildings being converted into residences for researchers and lodgings for students at the nearby Instituto Ramiro de Maeztu. It was the first building which initiated the new scientific campus, and the first work completely carried out by Fisac. It earned him very good reviews from such prestigious experts as Lafuente Ferrari or Camon Aznar. Almost simultaneously he received the commission from the Nationalist Education Minister Jose Ibañez, to urbanize and complete the campus for the High Council for Scientific Research (CSIC) which had been started in 1927 under the architects Manuel Sanchez Arcas and Luis Lacasa, and the Rockefeller Foundation, and had been continued in 1931 by the architects Carlos Arniches and Martin Dominguez with the auditorium, on which Fisac erected the Church of the Holy Spirit and, in 1947, making use of one of the patios of the existing building, the ‘Goerres’ Hispano-German Library.

The campus for the CSIC, which occupied the higher part of the Colina de los Chopos, was developed around an axial plan which followed the direction of the previously mentioned existing buildings, in a position at a right-angle to Calle Serrano onto which the complex faced. His second commission for this campus came in 1943 with the Council’s Headquarters building, it was originally intended that Ricardo Fernandez-Vallespin would be the architect, although finally Fisac worked on it alone. He employed a strong sense of classicism inspired by his knowledge of the Italian cinquecento, and also the modern architecture of Mussolini’s Italy as visible in Milan and Rome. At almost the same time he was building the Centre for Geological and Geographic Research at the eastern end of the central axis of the CSIC complex, opposite the Headquarters Building, it served as a monumental entrance from Calle Serrano by way of its celebrated propylaea. In the same year he journeyed to Granada to do some work on the Casa del Chapiz, which had been restored by Leopoldo Torres Balbas in 1930, while there he visited the Alhambra for the first time. At first it caused no great impression on him compared to his admiration for the Palace of Carlos V. However, this must have produced a sense of concern in relation to the monumentalist architecture which was being produced in Spain and with which he himself was starting his career as an architect, because from this time onwards he started to search for another way of projecting which could already be detected in his building for the Instituto de Optica Daza de Valdes, part of the CSIC complex, which employed a less rigid approach, which was more functional despite its apparent symmetry.

However, it was the trip he was commissioned to make by the Instituto Cajal in 1949, accompanied by Jose Antonio Balcells, to central Europe and the Scandinavian countries to visit animal experimentation laboratories which led him to discover the works of Gunnar Asplund and the Council Building in Gothenburg. His belief that there was a way to approach modernity that was less rigid and more decontextualised than that transmitted by the Germans and the Dutch in the nineteen thirties, supported the development of his own firm idea about what architecture should be at that time, and which he used to orientate his intentions and his subsequent works.

© Vicente Patón-Alberto Tellería
© Fundación Fisac

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