Obituary | Oriol Bohigas, a great cultural agitator

As an urban planner, Oriol Bohigas opened Barcelona to the sea, and he did so decisively, just as Hausmann transformed Paris and Otto Wagner remodeled Vienna. The result, praised by many and criticized by those who emphasized his spirit of enlightened despot, little attentive to dialogue with the city, not only modified the ‘skyline’ of the city it changed her forever. Bohigas tried to do the same as a cultural agitator. He strove to open Catalonia to the world, piloting some of the most important cultural institutions. He got involved in it despite acknowledging that Catalonia “is a very small and hardly autonomous country within a State that is clearly hostile to it, has a very scarce or, at least, not very up-to-date cultural tradition, has not managed to find an industry to set up a system of scientific and technical research, and has a very minority of its own language & rdquor; (2003). Despite that skepticism, he was the animator of many initiatives that shook the world of culture and ideas in Catalonia.

Son of a noucentista republican a regular at the Ateneu Barcelonès who would preside for nearly a decade, and from the Institut Escola de la República that marked his liberal training and critical spirit, Oriol Bohigas was a true cultural agitator during the late-Franco period, the Transition and democracy. He did not break into the world of Catalan culture through a doubling of his personality but as a consequence of his conception of the city, understood as ‘a cultural event’ that plays a central role “in the great adventure of modernity, the avant-garde, creativity, innovation, political nonconformity & rdquor ;. Heir, in a way, of the enlightened spirit by Lluís Domènech i Montaner and Josep Puig i Cadafalch, Bohigas could not conceive the city without thinking about the country, and that is how he got involved in cultural adventures such as the founding of Edicions62, in the mid-70s, the presidency of the Fundació Miró, in the early 80s, or of the Ateneu Barcelonès, in the early 2000s.

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Nonconformist he was until the end, when he went to live in the Plaza Reial, with the architect Beth Galí, provoking the friends of the old ‘gauche divine’ who saw a ’boutade’ of difficult sustainability. Always irreverent – “the Sagrada Familia is a global shame & rdquor; -, noted for his status as an acute polemicist and little lover of political affiliations. During the darkest years of Franco, he defended modern architecture, aware that it was incompatible with the lack of democracy and freedom. This is how the censor called separatist red one of his first articles sent to the magazine ‘Destino’ about the Gatpac (1950). He was never a member of any anti-Franco opposition party, but he did not hesitate to get involved in collective democratic causes. Such as the foundation of the Sindicat Democràtic de la Universitat de Barcelona (SDEUB), which took him to the dungeons of the Superior Police Headquarters, where he would pass again on the occasion of a tribute to Dr. Rubió and the arrest of some architecture students.

Oriol Bohigas had won the university examinations in 1971, but could not hold office until the death of the dictator for refusing to swear to the principles of the National Movement. And a few years later, in 1977, he assumed the direction of the Escola d’Arquitectura, a position that he would leave shortly after to accept the proposal of the Barcelona city planning delegate that the mayor Narcís Serra did. His complicity with Maragall led him to be a councilor in the Barcelona City Council, and to culminate his career as an urban planner with planning the Vila Olímpica and the design of the new maritime façade, but he never stopped participating in the debate of ideas, from La Miró, as founder of Edicions62 and as president of Ateneu Barcelonès, where he combined a profound reform of the building with the positioning of the institution in favor of sovereign positions that he embraced in the last two decades of his extensive biography.

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