A recently published photography book recounts how some of our best 20th century architects designed more than 300 new towns throughout Spain under the auspices of the National Institute of Colonization (INC). Alejandro de la Sota, José Luis Fernández del Amo, José Antonio Corrales and other young designers designed marvelous bell towers, contemporary houses inspired by vernacular architecture, churches decorated with the art of El Paso Group and an experimental and innovative urbanism.
The images of Inhabit the water (Turner Publisher, 2020) by the architects and photographers Ana Amado and Andrés Patiño tell us their story and give us the keys to understand this piece of our past.
Price: € 28.50.
“In 1939 the Franco Regime, with the entire industry devastated by the conflict, proposed promote agriculture by converting unproductive rainfed lands, especially in Andalusia and Extremadura, in irrigated areas next to the Hydrographic Basins “, Ana Amado, architect, photographer and, together with Andrés Patiño, author of the book, tells us. To do this, they took up an ambitious, unfinished program of the Second Republic that already contemplated building new infrastructures hydraulic systems and a multitude of villages for farmers. “These villages were designed to house the 55,000 families that colonized and worked these fields for almost 40 years. The funny thing is that they hired those who would later become some of the best designers in our country and, thanks to the director of the INC, José Tamés, who gave them a certain wide sleeve, they had a certain freedom to experiment at an urban and formal level and achieved very interesting results, “he continues.
They were asked to be different peoples from each other although they had to meet some requirements, such as a central square in which the Town Hall and the Church had a representative role. “There are beautiful formal solutions, for example in the bell towers of towns such as Llanes de Sotillo, designed by Corrales, or Valfonda de Santa Ana, projected by José Borobio. We owe the most experimental urban planning to Fernández del Amo, who introduced solutions such as separation from wheeled traffic with pedestrian traffic and integrated the houses into nature “, Amado explains.
“Also, thanks also to Fernández del Amo, and although it seems incredible considering the historical context of a dictatorship, in some churches have works by artists from the El Paso Group. It is especially interesting the Way of the Cross of Villalba de Calatrava“, concludes the architect.
The evolution of these towns has paralleled that of their neighbors. Some are almost abandoned and suffer closely from the problems of emptied Spain, others have become second homes or dormitory towns, but in many there has been generational change and their dynamism has not slowed. This is what Ana and Andrés verified and discovered when in 2016 they toured 33 of the 300 villages, camera on their shoulders, carried away by the curiosity to know “what had happened to those innovative projects of the Regime that we studied in the Faculty,” Amado concludes.
The result is a magnificent book (promoted by the Ministry of Agriculture) in which the images speak for themselves and which has been selected for the Best Book of the Year of PhotoEspaña 2020. It is exposed, in fact, in Factory From the capital. “In addition Andrés videotaped many of the conversations we had with the people of the towns. We did it as a mere record but now we would like, with time and means, to mount a documentary,” says Amado, who concludes: We obtained a closer, emotional and closer knowledge by talking with its inhabitants. We discovered the industriousness of some settlers who, for so many years, forged and built a collective memory of work, memories, experiences and solidarity. The settlers -emigrants in their own nation – they had to start from scratch, brand new everything, creating new festivities and rituals. They needed to build a new identity on that abstract, unifying architecture, in a guarded place, with rules, and subjected to very hard work. They found a “new tradition”. After 40 years of hard work, they could become owners of these assets. Many succeeded. ”