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Professional and Cultural context
In his first contact with architecture, between 1932 and 1936, during his student years, his first drawing teacher was Antonio Florez Urdapilleta, an innovative architect of scholastic buildings at the time, and the professor of urban planning was Cesar Cort, a figure in the transition from the eclecticism of Viennese tendencies to a strict rationalism. In this setting he mixed with other students who would go on to become important figures in contemporary Spanish architecture, such as Alejandro de la Sota, with whom he was great friends, Francisco de Asis Cabrero, Jose Luis Fernandez del Amo, Javier Lahuerta, Rafael Aburto, or Jose Marcide, all of whom were part of the architectural avant-garde that developed during the Fifties and Sixties.
Once he had finished his studies in 1942, he started work in the studio of Pedro Muguruza, where he again coincided with Francisco Cabrero and Rafael Aburto, and with Francisco Javier Saenz de Oiza, -who was still a student. During these years he collaborated with Ricardo Fernandez Vallespin on various projects for the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas.
After this his independence and personal vision of architecture distanced him from the normal circles of architects and the academic elite, although he kept in touch with the works of contemporaries such as Luis Moya, and enjoyed a deep friendship with architects like Jose Antonio Corrales and Ramon Vazquez Molezun, -frequent participants in his in house intellectual gatherings, as well as keeping in touch with old colleagues, as shown in the management of the project for the church in Vitoria, started with Alejandro de Sota’s team although with a different project, or the project for the competition for the Madrid Opera Theatre, in 1964, where he collaborated with Jose Ramon Azpiazu and Felipe Lafite. But most of the time he worked on his own, paying more attention to what was being done in other countries, -because of his numerous journeys, than to what was happening in Spain. In this respect, his friendship with Richard Neutra, which arose on a visit to see his houses in Los Angeles, is well-known.
Miguel Fisac’s relationship with painters, sculptors, and musicians was connected to his own work, he always sought the counterpoint of the artistic work as a way of completing and qualifying the architectonic. This began on the Chapel of the Holy Spirit, his first work, with the inclusion of high reliefs by Juan de Adsuara and frescoes by Ramon Stolz, but as he gravitated towards languages distant from classicism the list of avant-garde artists of the time who collaborated with him became endless. The sculptor Carlos Ferreira created the famous resting man on the façade of the Instituto Cajal, just as Susana Polack did the sculptures on this building and the exterior murals on the church at the Teologado de Alcobendas. Jorge Oteiza was responsible for the sculpture of Santo Domingo on the rear façade of the church of the Arcas Reales in Valladolid and other figures next to the cross, transforming this building into an important display of artists of the time, in addition to Oteiza, Juan Capuz collaborated on altar sculptures, Susana Polack on various figures and mosaics, Cristino Mallo on the Stations of the Cross, Alvaro Delgado on the paintings on the altarpiece in the oratory, Antonio Rodriguez Valdivieso on the pictorial ceramic tiles in the dining halls and Jose Maria de Labra on the stained glass windows, Fisac would work with him again on the Teologado de Alcobendas, although its main stained glass window at the end of the nave was done by the Austrian Adolfo Winterlich. In the church in Vitoria, however, it was Francisco Farreras who did the stained glass windows, and as at Alcobendas he hung a stylized Christ by Pablo Serrano on the altar, Serrano also did the stations of the cross on the right hand wall. This relationship with Pablo Serrano lasted all of Fisac’s life, his crosses continued to appear in other churches, such as the church of Santa Cruz de Oleiros in La Coruña, in 1967, and right up to his final works, the mausoleum for the naturalist Felix Rodriguez de la Fuente again had a group of sculptures by the same artist. Another artist who figured among his most important collaborators was the sculptor Jose Luis Sanchez, in 1966 he did the crucifix and the sculpture of the Virgin with Child for the altar at Santa Ana de Moratalaz and, as personal gesture, he did the bronze bust of Fisac’s deceased daughter Anäick. Another famous twentieth century sculptor who he frequently visited on his family trips to San Sebastian was Eduardo Chillida, whom he met through Pablo Palazuelo, and who was at that time beginning his career thanks to a contract with the Maeght gallery. His interest in painting, cultivated in his youth through uncountable visits to El Prado Museum led him, apart from Palazuelo and certain other modern artists, to a close relationship with Daniel Ortega Vazquez, whom he visited shortly before his death. As for other artistic disciplines, his friendship with the composer Cristobal Halffter is well-known, Halffter even composed a cantata in memory of Fisac’s daughter Anäick, who died suddenly at the age of six. This love of music really originated in the Thirties after Fisac arrived in Madrid, when he became a lover of the concerts given by Enrique Fernandez Arbos.
The architect’s connection to the world of literature came in part due to his wife’s vocation as a writer, Ana Maria Badell was the author of novels and tales that were highly acclaimed by the critics. This brought Fisac into contact with the most prestigious authors of the post-war generation. The Fisac household at Cerro del Aire was the scene of many intellectual discussions presided over by Ana Maria, and including participants such as Pedro Lain Entralgo and Rodrigo Uria, -friends and sometimes travelling companions, Eugenio D’Ors, Fernando Lazaro Carreter, Torcuato Luca de Tena, Jose Garcia Nieto or Camilo Jose Cela, who were all close family friends. Other frequent guests in the house included Jose Luis Martin Descalzo, Jose Maria Peman or Francisco Umbral. Art critiques were also favourable during the first part of his career, and personalities such as Jose Camon Aznar, Enrique Lafuente Ferrari, or Victor de la Serna praised the early works of Fisac on the pages of the ABC newspaper in the Fifties. Later the reviews and studies of his works would occupy books and magazines, but these usually came from the specialized media, although one or two of the writers, like Juan Daniel Fullaondo, were both architects and essayists.
Miguel Fisac’s concerns obviously led him to that level of transcendent knowledge appropriate to scientists, and he found the closest to his idea of the spiritual in modern science, to the extent that Einstein, Planck and Heisenberg gave him universal guidelines for his reflections, he also dedicated special attention to the 19th Century Austrian thinker Jacob Lorber. Therefore it is no surprise that he became great friends with the scientist who founded the CSIC, Jose Maria Albareda, who commissioned some of his first works on its campus at Colina de los Chopos. One can also see that he became very close friends with Doctor Gregorio Marañon, who gave the bride away at his wedding.
Finally, amongst his politician acquaintances can be found ideologically contrasting figures, the couple maintained a good relationship with Manuel Fraga Iribarne, but also with Enrique Tierno Galvan, and even more surprisingly with Dolores Ibarruri, the ‘Pasionaria’, whom they met on a visit to Russia, and with whom they maintained a long-lasting correspondence during her time of exile.