Bofill, the last tribute in Barcelona

This information was published on the day 01/14/2022. The content refers to that date.

This has been the first time that the Polytechnic University of Catalonia (UPC) held a title award ceremony ‘honoris causa’ in Santa Maria del Mar, which as an improvised paraninfo has no equal, and, all things considered, the choice makes sense, because the honoree has been Ricardo Bofill, prophet of architecture, not only because he has preached it and has left countless disciples around the world, but also because of the cliché, because this, Barcelona, is his land, and in it he has always been suspiciously received. It has been a strangely beautiful act. Why?

First, of course, for the staging. Santa Maria del Mar is one of the most magnificent buildings in the city. If it were about deciding a podium, the debate would not be easy, but most of the rivals would be architectures after the demolition of the city walls, a question to which Bofill, in his acceptance speech of the academic title, made a very interesting reflection. It will be detailed later.

The point is that the altar, forum of belief, has been occupied for a couple of hours by science. Perhaps more than any other university in the city, UPC symbolizes science as a pillar of knowledge and there they were, with all their theatricality, the academics, with their caps, gowns, cuffs and, above all, their hoods, those capes that sometimes Throughout history they have been shortened, it is not very clear why, until they are above the elbows and in which each color symbolizes knowledge. There were turquoise blue, representative of the pure sciences, but Bofill, as an architect, has worn that almost bronze brown of engineers.

The rituals that are commonly celebrated in Santa Maria del Mar and other Catholic centers of worship in the city are well known. Those of the lay ‘honoris causa’, probably not. And they are very regulated.

The new doctor is introduced by a sponsor, in this case, Professor Félix Solaguren-Beascoa, in charge of exposing the merits of his academic godson. Most striking, however, is perhaps the final ‘Eucharist’, the act of consecration. As the protocol establishes, but this time on an altar framed by the 10 most majestic columns in the city, Bofill has been crowned with a cap which symbolizes the helmet of Minerva, was given a ring with which he has been handcuffed with wisdom and given to him some white gloves, color of purity. It’s almost like a wedding, which the new doctor doesn’t kiss. The principal gives A hug.

Before that final consecration, however, the new doctor gives a speech, and Bofill’s, like it or not the legacy he leaves in the city, has been more than interesting. At 82 years old and still active, with several projects underway, speak as always, without caring what they sayThat is why he is able to affirm that “Gaudí has ​​been the greatest genius in the history of architecture” (nothing controversial so far) and, minutes later, disdain the work of Le Corbusier, not because of its architecture, but because of its small stature as an urban planner. “He hated the city, especially the Mediterranean”.

Bofill is the most international architect from Barcelona, ​​what things are, thanks in part to Carlos Arias Navarro. Of that high position of Francoism, last president of the Government of the dictatorship, has also agreed in his speech. “I was then mayor of Madrid and he forbade me to build again in Spain, so I had to move to work in Paris for 30 years.” In fact, Bofill’s relationship with authority already had a history of rebellion. The Higher Technical School of Architecture of Barcelona (ETSAB) that this Thursday has elevated him to doctor is the heir to the same faculty in which he could not finish his studies due to ‘redness’. He was expelled in 1957 and had to complete his studies abroad. That and Arias Navarro made him involuntarily become a prophet in his land for part of his professional career, although always with the Walden building (the May 69 French building built) as a beacon of his creative potential.

While reading his speech at the altar of Santa Maria del Mar, on a screen what would be the miracles of Bofill have been projected, executed works and projects that due to ax or be in their day were left in a drawer. They are all visitable on the website of his workshop. But, what was said at the beginning, the reflection he has made on Barcelona, ​​a city that, in his opinion, is not like any other, has been especially tasty. His macedonia of architectural styles is really nutritious, he says, but what is striking, from the point of view of ‘honoris causa’, is that break that Barcelona suffered in the 16th and 17th centuries, during the Renaissance and the Baroque, constrained within walls that prevented anything architecturally striking from happening. Without architecture, the ideas of the Enlightenment did not arrive either, and that ailment, Bofill fears, may be reproducing itself again, not because of some walls, but because of the inbred vision of current politics.


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