Oriol Bohigas, composer and performer of this architectural and social symphony called Barcelona, anything but classical, has died this Tuesday a few days to celebrate 96 years of an extraordinarily fertile life from the intellectual point of view and in which he has been everything he has wanted and always, which is doubly meritorious, leaving a deep mark.
Architect, of course; also a professor of that university discipline, which literally revolutionized; writer and also editor, since he resurrected Edicions 62; A must-see columnist, because he was allergic to prudence and correction; politician with no attachment to the position, since as a councilor he planted Pasqual Maragall himself; and, above all, a man who barely slept so perhaps he could live longer. It could be said that he was a Renaissance man, but there is an adjective that defines him much better.
With Bohigas the last ‘noucentista’ has died. He was born in 1925 and, therefore, he can be considered the son of the successes of the Mancomunitat de Catalunya. He studied in the schools of pedagogical renewal, he was fed in the network of libraries recently founded by that institution, he attended as a child the jump in time that that cover-up Generalitat fostered in the infrastructures of Catalonia, and even, he also witnessed the reforestation of the country, something that, as will be explained later, his problems brought him with the Francoist authorities, precisely him, who for a part of the people of Barcelona, years later, would be simply Bohigas, the one with the hard squares.
Every Bohigas obituary will always be incomplete unless it already has the dimensions of a voluminous book to begin with. There will be those who now, communicated by the family of his death, who have been able to accompany him at home in his farewell, will summarize him simply as the father of modern Barcelona, but in a city like this, perhaps more than in any other, fatherhood is, more than bastard, very uncertain. She is the daughter of the ill-loved Ildefons Cerdà, that, of course. Also of its revolts, that is, of that kind of radical and incendiary urbanism of the anticlerical hubbub. It is also the opulence that the not always confessable overseas businesses of some families of illustrious names allowed. The barraquismo, to which Bohigas paid special attention with visionary reflections, can and must also claim part of that paternity. Bohigas, therefore, more than a father, was someone concerned that this city had good institutional and cultural foundations, so that she would not do, come on, the ridiculous poorly dressed, and the achievements that she consolidated in that sense are many. He presided over the Fundació Miró and, from that position, expanded the museum, opened the bowels of the Raval to fit the Macba and, which is perhaps the best example that he liked to lead through life without brakes, he corresponded with Mies van der Rohe to literally revive the defunct German Pavilion from the 1929 Exhibition without looking like an imposture.
One of his five sons, Josep, once recounted, in an open letter addressed to his own father, a very defining anecdote of the character. He said that during a family lunch (chicken curry, it was playing that day), the patriarch said something like that only there is something worse than having children. The pause to breathe between one sentence and another should make them eternal. He said it was worse not having them. According to Josep, you have to interpret very well what he meant. He was never a hottie. What comforted him were not the children, but the family, just as when he presided over the Ateneu he was excited about the institution, not the partners, and when between 1977 and 1980 he was director of the School of Architecture, the essential thing was the academic excellence of that place, which he achieved, and not the students, who did not cut themselves when demanding his resignation with graffiti on the walls, which corresponded in those times of student unrest.
One of those students was, for example, Juli Capella, who personally participated in a protest consisting of bricking up the hated director’s office. “When he left the School, because he received the call from Narcís Serra to join the Barcelona City Council, we breathed a sigh of relief, but in a few months we began to miss him”. His presence in this obituary is crucial because it was Capella who in 2000 curated a very comprehensive exhibition on Bohigas, whom he had recklessly detested and whom he ended up admiring deeply. In the catalog he gave the polymath a very personal look. He titled that text ‘Oriol Bohigas: terrorist noucentist’, that is, he emphasized that the architect was a kind of Puig i Cadafalch or Domènech i Montaner at the gates of the 21st century, or even more, an Eugeni d’Ors, with whom, by the way, he maintained a great friendship and a fruitful epistolary relationship. But, pay attention to detail, although the ‘noucentistes’ were above all people of order, on the poster for the exhibition Capella replaced the ‘o’ in Bohigas with the silhouette of an Orsini bomb. What a great success, what a great definition.
Indeed, although a hasty reading of his biography does not reveal it, Bohigas was a man who you never knew when an Orsini would launch in the middle of the political correctness huddle. He obtained an architect degree in 1951. He teamed up with Josep Martorell and created a study that first had only two letters, MB. He agitated the guild at the hands of figures such as Moragas, Coderch, Sostres and Pratmarsó with the founding of the self-styled Grupo R. He joined the Promotion of Decorative Arts (FAD) in 1957 and from there launched the creation of the FAD Awards. As of 1959 he directed a section dedicated to architecture in the magazine ‘Serra d’Or’, an exception in the gray Franco regime, since it was published in Catalan.
In 1962 he added David Mackay to his studio. They became the famous MBM. In 1963 he published his first book, ‘Barcelona between Pla Cerdà and the barraquisme’. In 1966 he participated in the Caputxinada. Not only is he arrested, but he loses his position as a university professor. In 1967 he landed at Edicions 62. In 1971 he refused to swear allegiance to the principles of the Movement, thus losing his status as a university professor. It will not be until 1977 that he regains his cap, already as director of the School of Architecture, which he academically removes to the ground. He leaves, perhaps relieved to end his war with the students, in 1980. Narcís Serra has called him to rescue Barcelona urbanistically. His first idea is to send a message to citizens. The old municipal slaughterhouse is reborn as an immense public square, that of Joan Miró.
In 1981 he agreed to preside over the Fundació Miró, which also piloted to new horizons. Pasqual Maragall appoints him plenipotentiary urban planner of the city, a brilliant stage, Olympic, of course, in which his MBM studio will give birth to a whole new neighborhood, the Vila Olímpica, and also a consequent stage: you are going to live the Reial square with his partner Beth Galí, because he considers that the political impulse is not enough to avoid the social and urban metastasis of Ciutat Vella, but that it is necessary to be exemplary. He has never left that home.
Maragall awarded him in 1991 with the Department of Culture of the Barcelona City Council, and he takes the challenge so seriously that he presents a plan of action so radical that the mayor is unable to take on. He resigned in 1994.
You had to be aware of his opinion pieces and public talks, because he was always intellectually uninhibited, but not because of ‘epater’, since when the media storm passed, the solidity of his arguments dawned.
You can already sense, in that succinct summary of his curriculum, his spirit of free verse. Every time he piloted an institution, political, cultural, editorial or academic, there was a before and after, but in order to distill the essence of what Bohigas was, there may be nothing better to remember every time he wrote an article in the press. or it was a voice invited to a talk or gathering. He rarely disappointed. One day he praised the Benidorm of the skyscrapers as an urban model, because in his opinion it was the quintessence of respect for the natural environment, since it did not prey on the territory, and another day, as in 1986, he gave the inaugural speech of Eina’s course with the Reina Sofía Art Center as the object of his analysis and a title written with a knife: “Uglier than El Escorial”. He was a ‘noucentista’, but he was, said with all due respect, a terrorist, which invites, now, finally, to tell how the defense of the trees led him to the bench.
It was because of an article he published in ‘Serra d’Or.’ ‘Els arbres de les carreteres’. He had grown up in a country in which rows of beautiful trees lined the county roads and complained of that furious fever with which the Franco mayors had begun to cut them down, which from his point of view was a landscape, environmental and urban nonsense. , and maybe even, or at least that was hinted at, a wooden ball, because it was not clear who had ended up selling and getting a slice of that attack.
He retired from professional life years ago. His body, once a torrent of energy, was no longer the same, but it retained the clarity and curiosity of always. It was not strange to see him in his wheelchair at events in Barcelona’s social life. The reception of La Mercè was arriving, nothing from the other Thursday really, but there it was. Happy at the big party. Lluís Permanyer In 1964 he subjected him to a Proust questionnaire, you know. direct and clear questions formulated to define a character. What city would you like to live in. He offered a zigzag answer, with conditions and some doubts. In a dense and noisy place, but, in the absence of a clearer option that met those conditions, it would settle for Barcelona. In 1999, at Capella’s request, Permanyer caught him off guard and gave him the same questionnaire from top to bottom, something Bohigas had probably forgotten. This time, he did not hesitate. In Barcelona, he replied. He did not say it because he was the father of this city, but because, knowing another of his facets so far not commented, that of an unrepentant seducer, Bohigas was actually his most passionate lover.