Oriol Bohigas, revolutionary Spanish architect, dies at 95

MADRID – Oriol Bohigas, a Spanish architect and urban planner who helped make Barcelona, ​​his hometown, one of the main tourist destinations in the Mediterranean, died on November 30 at his home. He was 95 years old.

His death was confirmed by his son Josep Bohigas, who added that his father had suffered from Parkinson’s disease for several years.

Working for the Barcelona city government, Mr Bohigas was one of the brains behind the city’s overhaul for the 1992 Olympics, in particular the transformation of its waterfront, which had become an industrial area. abandonned.

In partnership with two other architects, he designed a new marina, which hosted the Olympic sailing competitions, as well as a public park and a village to house the athletes, known as Vila Olimpica. The city rehabilitated nearly three miles of the waterfront into beaches, and the area became a popular residential area after the Games ended.

Pere Aragonès, the regional leader of Catalonia, paid tribute to Mr. Bohigas on Twitter, calling him “a great transformer of Barcelona”.

The impact of the Summer Olympics on Barcelona was a model for London and other cities that later hosted the event, while Mr Bohigas and his partners used their success as a springboard to add buildings and help rethink other parts of Barcelona, ​​including its run- in the Raval district. Some of their flagship projects have revamped unused infrastructure, such as the military barracks that became the new campus of Barcelona’s Pompeu Fabra University, which opened in 2000.

Mr Bohigas “has been fundamental not only in transforming Barcelona but in our understanding of cities,” Martha Thorne, Dean of IE Madrid School of Architecture and Design, said via email. “His ideas for urban acupuncture – small actions over time that could be understood as part of a whole, including new squares and small green spaces – were adopted by residents and had a positive impact. on the neighborhoods. “

Although Mr. Bohigas kept his focus on Barcelona, ​​he also contributed to the other major international event held in Spain in 1992: Expo ’92, in Seville, for which he and his partners built a deck. It has been neglected for decades, but it was reopened this year as the new headquarters of the regional archives.

He and his partners have also undertaken projects in Germany, France and Italy, as well as in Latin America. These include an apartment block on Kochstrasse in Berlin, a hotel in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, and the planning of new neighborhoods in the cities of Aix-en-Provence in France and from Salerno in Italy.

Oriol Bohigas Guardiola was born on December 20, 1925 in Barcelona. His father, Pere Bohigas, worked for the city of Barcelona and briefly ran the city’s theater school. Her mother, María Guardiola, was a housewife.

Mr. Bohigas enrolled in the Barcelona School of Architecture in 1943, when General Francisco Franco was consolidating his dictatorship after winning the Spanish Civil War. Mr. Bohigas was appointed director of the school of architecture in 1977, shortly after Franco’s death. He saw it as part of his life’s mission to liberate architecture and town planning from the conservative rigidity of the Franco dictatorship and to bring Barcelona back to the kind of innovative thinking associated with the main cultural movements that reshaped the city in the past. 19th and early 20th century.

“I remember that I spent all of my architectural studies, which I completed in 1951, only listening to people talk about classical architecture and defending ultraconservatism, in all its aspects. he recalled in an interview in 2010. “We have not learned anything about contemporary architecture. Yes, I believe that my generation is the one which made efforts to recover the modernity which was lost in the first stage of Franco.

In 1951, Mr. Bohigas joined forces with two other architects, Josep Martorell and David Mackay, to found a company which took its name from the initials of their family name: MBM. The company rose to prominence in 1974 with an award-winning project to build a school, called Thau, without classrooms and with as few walls as possible.

Its last major project was the building of the Design Museum in Barcelona, ​​which opened in 2014. But like an earlier MBM project to expand the Barcelona flagship store of Spanish retailer El Corte Ingles, the design museum did not everyone liked; a travel article in the New York Times, describing the building as a “chunky, zinc-plated structure with front and rear overhangs,” noted that it “was not exactly celebrated for its shape. exterior ”, adding:“ Some have taken to calling it the “stapler”.

Mr Bohigas was proud that he had never joined a political party, but he espoused left-wing ideas and held various positions in Barcelona’s municipal government – in town planning in the 1980s and then as a responsible for Barcelona’s Ministry of Culture in the early 1990s, when the city hosted the Olympic Games. He also supported the secessionist movement in Catalonia which started to gain momentum a decade ago.

His involvement in the cultural life of Barcelona extended far beyond the town hall. He was one of the founders of the Edicions 62 publishing house. In the 1980s he was president of the Joan Miró Foundation, created by the painter whose name it bears, and which has a museum in Barcelona which exhibits his works. He was also president of Ateneo Barcelonés, one of the city’s most influential cultural associations, resigning in 2011 after eight years in the post.

Besides his son Josep, Mr. Bohigas is survived by his wife, Isabel Arnau, from whom he was separated; four other children from their marriage, Gloria, María, Eulalia and Pere; nine grandchildren; a great-granddaughter; and his partner, Beth Galí.

In recent years, Mr Bohigas has criticized many aspects of Barcelona’s development, including the extension of the city’s Broadway-style thoroughfare, a project known as Diagonal Mar. And he lamented the rise of real estate speculation in Barcelona and defended the rights of squatters. live in abandoned buildings.

“It is clear,” he said in 2010, as Spain sank into a banking crisis sparked by bad home loans, “that a company that has so many empty houses and so many people without domicile is a sick society that faces a problem in terms of sharing its public and private goods.


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