Barcelona Cultura

Josep Lluís Sert, 35 years without the driving force of architectural rationalism in Spain

Casa Bloc was promoted by the government of the Generalitat de Catalunya during the Second Republic. The building, with more than 200 homes, was built with the aim of improving socially the living conditions of workers in the industrial district of Sant Andreu, many of whom, at that time, still lived in huts or precarious conditions.

The architects Josep Lluís Sert, Josep Torres Clavé and Joan Baptista Subirana, members of the GATCPAC (Group of Catalan Artists and Technicians for the Progress of Contemporary Architecture), were the creators of the project. The Casa Bloc proposed affordable housing with quality building materials and spaces that covered the basic needs of people. At the same time, they suggested new forms of coexistence and collective identity, formalized with a new urbanism, based on a new concept of a city.

The GATCPAC, with its innovative spirit, its social commitment and its high level of demand, as aesthetic as ethical, promoted avant-garde architecture in Catalonia, which also took shape in Barcelona, in works such as the Miró Foundation building, the Casa López or the Casa Rodríguez Arias.

Today, Friday, March 15, we commemorate the 35th anniversary of the death of Josep Lluís Sert. Born on July 1, 1902 in Barcelona, he was one of the founding members of GATCPAC and one of the most recognized architects of our country; with distinctions such as the Gold Medal of Architecture, the Gold Medal of the Generalitat de Catalunya, the Gold Medal of the AIA (American Institute of Architects), the Gold Medal for Merit in the Fine Arts and the Twenty-five Year Award, as well as an award from AIA, which is delivered to buildings and structures with a strong symbolic component that have far surpassed the passage of time.

Sert studied at the Higher Technical School of Architecture in Barcelona and, before finishing his studies, he moved to Paris to learn first-hand the basics of modern architecture, including architectural rationalism, in the studio of Le Corbusier. In 1930, he began designing his first buildings, deprived of unnecessary ornament, making rationalist constructions for the first time in Spain. During the Spanish Civil War, in 1937 he designed the Spanish Republic Pavilion at the Universal Exhibition of Paris in collaboration with Luis Lacasa; where they presented works like "Guernica" by Picasso and "El segador" by Miró, a close friend of the architect.

At the end of the Civil War, Josep Lluís Sert was repressed by the Franco government and disqualified from practicing architecture. At the end of July 1939, he left for the United States to go into exile thanks to Walter Gropius, who had invited him to give a series of lectures, and who he replaced years later as dean of the Graduate School of Design at Harvard (1953-1969). Here he combined teaching with projects in the United States, South America and the Mediterranean, such as the projection of the central campus of Boston and Harvard universities and the urban plan of the colombian city of Medellín. He founded Town Planning Associates (1941-1956) with Paul Lester Wiener and Paul Schultz in New York and also Sert, Jackson and Associates in Cambridge in 1957, from where he projected the workshop of Miró in Palma (1955) and the Maeght Foundation (1959-1964), a precedent for the art centers that proliferated following the appearance of the Pompidou Center.

Casa Bloc is a member of Iconic Houses. We are offering a new opportunity to visit one of their recovered homes, the 1/11 home, every Saturday at 11 am. Buy your ticket now and don’t wait any longer!

Ajuntament de Barcelona