The pleasure of living 30 years in a ‘bohigas’, by Carles Cols

Oriol Bohigas, an architect in the antipodes of Calatravism, has died, if for this reason it is understood that in that professional facet he seldom looked for monumentality, as if of scale and shapes, and of the quality of the marbles and the size of the metal arches, the size of the ego of the author of the project could be deduced. It was not his case. Barely 24 hours have passed since his placid death, at home and in the company of his family, and the best way to face a second and well-deserved obituary (the first, ‘The lover of Barcelona’, tried to be a compendium of 95 years of life , which is not little) maybe it is to share a coffee with Salvador Matas, architect, like Bohigas, but, above all, tenant for 30 years of a ‘bohigas’, that is, one of its first and most representative residential buildings, at number 50 Escorial street in Barcelona. It is, well this is a preview of the final conclusion, a work that, although a plaque right at the entrance recalls that it was the 1962 FAD Prize, still retains an exquisite modernity.

Perhaps it will seem strange that the way to head an obituary of a capital character in the history of Barcelona, ​​like Bohigas, is to start the first phase by underlining what was not, that is, Calatravian or, by extension, one of Those architects who currently feel so comfortable working in exchange for large fees for the Saudi authorities, with projects that are pornographically expensive and of megalomaniacal dimensions. In its own way and with great humility, this way of starting is only an outrageous tribute to the uninhibited, provocative and radical way of expressing himself that Bohigas himself had, a referential figure in the history of Barcelona, ​​for which a funeral of those in which friends and acquaintances carve a monument of words with his figure is not even planned. He decided long ago that his body would be donated for science and that there would be no goodbye ceremonies.

Remember, before continuing, what happened in 1986. That year, like so many others, he was in charge of delivering the inaugural speech of the Eina design school course and he thought it appropriate to point out to the students that the recently opened Centro Cultura Reina Sofía it was architecturally “uglier than the Escorial”. With a single shot he had just knocked down two icons of Madrid pride. The controversy (you know how she was then and she is still the scoundrel) was skinny, but Bohigas never seemed to care.

The point is that it is not without its what the fact that now, by pure chance, this chronicle could have been perfectly titled ‘More beautiful than Escorial, 50’, postal address where Matas lives, on the top double floor of one of the tallest buildings in Gràcia, misunderstood by many, but a wonder if you have the opportunity to visit it. Not in vain, two years ago, during the celebration of Open House BarcelonaIt was a floor that can be visited. Matas himself was in charge, although just in time, to facilitate the rotation of the public, he was in charge of highlighting the residential peculiarities of that farm.

It is not without its grace that his own Matas was a student at the School of Architecture when Bohigas was the director. The dreaded and hated director, to be more exact. His direct character, like a fist, did not make him sympathetic in the eyes of the students, but in truth the animosity they professed had more to do with the context of the moment, in which a director did represent power and was, in a way, the rival in the pulse. Matas confesses that he was present that day that his office was bricked up, which is supposed to be the worst offense if it is the architects’ union, but he assures that he at least did not put any brick.

That is why 30 years ago he ended up buying a flat in that architectural rarity of Escorial street, in which the first thing you breathe is the extent to which the traveling Bohigas in his youth stage was soaked in the new ways of living that were emerging in Europe. The estate has something, if not much, of Le Corbusier’s Unité d’Habitation de Marseille, a residential building considered the rebirth of postwar architecture. It also has something, because the main wall of the dining room is entirely made of glass, by Mies van der Rohe, a confessed filia of Bohigas. But those two notes should not be misleading. Escorial 50 is not a pretentious tower. It is popular architecture, underlines Matas, a remarkable example of economics in construction and, above all, a place to live.

On this last statement, this architect and neighbor invites you to enjoy the corridor that connects all the apartments on the ninth floor. It is not a covered hallway. “It’s like a & rdquor; street. It is a place where if you pass a neighbor you do not say hello briefly and goodbye, but behave, a bit, as if you met him on the real street, but with exceptional views towards the east of the city . It is a privileged viewpoint, since we are, on the two holy metropolitan families, the one that Bohigas detested, that is, the one that was continued after the death of Antoni Gaudí, and that of Sant Adrià, those three chimneys without which the metropolitan ‘skyline’ would be much more insubstantial.

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“Everything in this building is sober, nothing is ostentatious, there is nothing superfluous & rdquor ;, Matas invites you to observe. That’s how it is. It even has a slight brutalist echo. The main walls are bare concrete, not only on the outside, but also on the inside of the floors. Architecturally there are 18 floors, but since each apartment is a duplex and the elevators stop only at the intersection of every two apartment blocks, in reality the elevators only make four stops. That, at the end of the 50s, when a still thirty-something Bohigas participated in the project, was, it could be said, an economy of architectural warfare.. Today it is a filigree that the new regulations would not allow, but its survival in the urban fabric of this city, which has changed so much and not always for the better, is a luxury.

Barcelona has just lost, what has been said, someone who loved it so much that he made it, to the best of his ability, a better city. His heritage is especially visible at street level. But Bohigas was so many people at the same time that even this visit to one of his first buildings, which will seem modest, serves to portray him as someone great and, even, who knows, so that one day, in Eina’s inaugural speech, someone will say , by way of maximum praise, that something is more beautiful than Escorial 50.

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