|Photo: Colegio Oficial de Arqutectos de Madrid (COAM) / El País|
A story from last month's El País that I have been hearing echoes of: the owners of one of the three works by José Antonio Coderch in Madrid have applied for a demolition permit: the Vallet de Goytisolo house of 1956 in Arturo Soria's Ciudad Lineal (Linear City).
Private houses from the 60s and 70s are in critical danger now, as they pass from original clients to new owners or heirs and require major renovations. Given changes in living programs and high land values, the pressure to demolish is strong. The market is picking up again after years of paralysis. And preservation measures are way behind.
Architects raise the cry in favor of these works, but does anyone else really care?
Architecture is valued among architects, and only among a very few, who are as rare and irrelevant to general society as butterfly collectors. And we want to tell people that they can't tear down that old house.
Coderch was one of the pioneers in reviving modern architecture under Franco, after the hiatus of the Civil War and the monumental national styles of the regime's early years. The house looks like a gem. Collectors in the US would be all over it. But no one collects contemporary art in Spain, not to mention contemporary architecture. You have to slip architecture in on the sly, as Alejandro de la Sota advocated – "Dar liebre por gato", reversing the old saying of how to trick clients with the ingredients of a stew. It's one of those elegant, pithy expressions that you can't really translate. In De la Sota's version, the clients ask for cat meat and you serve them hare. But then they treat it like cat meat anyway. And there you are, getting your architectural jollies at the clients' expense. And indifference.
Philip Johnson once said something rather similar: he never talked about design issues with the client. If his AT&T Tower on Madison Avenue had a Chippendale top, it was to let out hot air.
"Amenaza de derribo para una obra madrileña de Coderch"
El País, March 17, 2017