Who are the influencers of future architecture students?
Teaching the first couple of years of an academic programme provides a privileged vantage point for observing the transformation students undergo at University. You can see them validate certain ideas, let go of misconceptions, and, above all, you get to watch them as they discover architecture and its founding fathers.
Over the past few weeks, since the demolishing of Casa Guzmán over two years ago was made public, we have had to witness, with a balanced mix of astonishment, outrage and sadness, of the lack of connection between architecture and society. This was merely another piece of evidence. Still, it was painful as ever.
We shall not tackle this specific issue here and now, nor shall we look over its causes or consequences. These were all discussed at length, far better than we could do, by various colleagues in different media.
But it is true that architecture is out of sync with those who live alongside it. The fate that has befallen this house, built by Alejandro de la Sota in Algete (Madrid) in 1971, exemplifies this.
The architect Alejandro de la Sota is renowned as a master by the generations that followed him. His name, however, is little known, when not completely unfamiliar, to common people. One would expect those who have decided to become architects to know him as well as his work a lot better.
But is that really so?
A few years back, on the first day of University, we gave first-year students a short questionnaire. Amongst other questions, they were asked to name three foreign architects, three Spanish architects and three works they were interested in (or, in the worst-case scenario, that they simply knew of).
Who topped the list of architectural influencers?
The questionnaire was handed out after a presentation on Fallingwater, so the results on the international front should come as no surprise: Frank Lloyd Wright won by a landslide over second-ranked Le Corbusier. Norman Foster placed respectably third, followed closely by Frank O. Gehry (in a variety of spellings) and by Zaha Hadid in fifth position as the only woman on the whole list.
On home soil the top spot was occupied with an overwhelming majority of votes by Antonio Gaudí. Santiago Calatrava came second (Is that an effect of media campaigning or sincere admiration?) followed by Rafael Moneo. We find Alejandro de la Sota in fourth position, though with only a handful of votes, just ahead of Alberto Campo Baeza and Joaquín Torres (The previous year, at the peak of his media coverage, he had ranked third).
As far as architectural works go, the Sagrada Familia predictably placed at the top of the list (Fallingwater, despite the hour-long presentation that came before the survey, only amassed a third of the votes collected by Gaudí’s unfinished church). The Alhambra and the Burj Khalifa both made the top ten with an equal number of mentions.
We do know that these lists only have limited value. A larger sample and more time would be required to draw significant conclusions. Still, it comes as quite a shock that while internationally, role models come from modern movements or have designed recent architectural works, such as Foster, Gehry, or Hadid, on the home soil the models it is Antonio Gaudí, deceased in1926, and his unfinished edifice that stand as a beacon for those who set foot into the world of architecture in 2016.
If there is still work to do in terms of raising awareness and building a bridge between architecture and society, we dare say that even more needs to be done on the front of contemporary Spanish architecture.
Here is the information.
We look forward to receiving your opinions…
Authors: Raquel Martínez + Alberto Ruiz