Happy Birthday J. A. Coderch


‘No, it is not geniuses what we need right now. I believe that geniuses are events, not goals or aims.’ said Josep Antoni Coderch de Sentmenat, born on 26 November 1913, in Barcelona.

The story of Coderch’s genius begins with the first private houses in Catalonia by employing a basic syntax of whitewashed, roughcast walls and narrow openings let into the load-bearing masonry walls – what makes it almost impossible to distinguish between the earthwork and the main body of the house.

Ugalde House

Ugalde House

Coderch’s genius attains its first truly convincing formulation in the famous canonical Mediterranian vacation house: the Ugalde House (Caldes d’Estrac, Barcelona, 1951). It is a house that derives much of its spatial form from the rough stone, whitewashed podium on which it sits; a stepped earthwork that is countered and controlled by the knife-edge of a shallow pitched, concrete roof whose wide span is achieved with the aid of a single, free-standing tubular column, jointly serve to animate and frame a series of kaleidoscopic vistas opening onto the oceanic horizon.

The single-storey Coderch House (Caldes d’Estrac, 1955), depends for its unity on straight out-riding walls and, on a broad all embracing, shallow-pitched, tiled roof. It is this tension that will animate his work throughout his career; on the one hand, an engagement with the liberative space-form of the avant-garde, on the other, a profound respect for the role of tradition in architectural culture.

The serene horizontality of this single-storey house emphasised on it southwestern face by a thin cantilevered flat roof, shading the swimming pool terrace at high noon, would accord Coderch instant international recognition. Coderch will amplify and even transcend the brilliance of the Coderch’s Catasús House (Sitges, 1956) in four successive rather large, luxurious, single-storey, flat-roofed dwellings completed during the first half of the 60s; namely the Uriach House (L’Ametlla del Vallès, 1961); the Rozes House (Roses, Girona, 1962); the Luque House (Sant Cugat del Vallès, 1965); and the Gili House (Sitges, 1965). 

Coderch regarded low- to medium-rise, high-density housing as being the toughest challenge facing architects in the second half of the century. His first work of such kind is the Instituto Social de la Marina (Barcelona, 1951) is an eight-storey apartment block with narrow floor-to-ceiling windows with adjustable wooden shutters and a comparable thin slab overhang at the eaves.

In the course of the 60s, Coderch and his partner Manuel Valls i Vergès were able to project two exemplars of low-rise, high-density housing for a heavily wooded site on the Costa Brava, their Torre Valentina development (Sant Antoni de Calonge, 1959) and the medium-rise urban quarter known by the name of Las Cocheras (Barcelona, 1968).

Torre Valentina

Torre Valentina

Coderch’s rationalisation of the outer configuration and inner spatial articulation of his buildings testifies to the continued viability of Coderch’s designs amid all the vain and spectacular confusions that attend our contemporary scene.

Would you like to know more about Coderch?
There is a series of events in the city to commemorate Coderch, Bonet and Moragas’ 100th birthday!
For more information, please go to HIC*centenari-etsav
by Mia Pujol, ESARQ_UIC Team

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Filed under Barcelona, Cultura

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