City and building / Palau de la Música

Oriol Bohigas. Architect. Barcelona, 1925


One of the problems facing architecture and town planning in recent years has been the lack of meaningful morphological correspondence between city and building in terms of their social and structural aspects, a problem which stems from certain undesirable directions taken by the two disciplines, or rather by the single discipline which should conceptually embrace them both. Those examples of architecture which are the least representative, as well as the designs by architects held in the highest academic esteem, and even those who enjoy the greatest publicity, show a blatant disregard for solidarity. They rely for their singular prestige on being different and, one might go so far as to say, their dissonance, and on their disregard for the expressive continuity of the city. Moreover, the penultimate theoretical statements (and I say penultimate because I have a certain degree of hope in the latest statements on urban plans and projects) and the majority of works undertaken which, under a false seal of modernity, simply yield to the pressure of the market, defend the idea of a disperse, informal city, subject to the priority of sporadic operations and autonomous access systems. Both trends coincide in the successive destruction of cities which have a tradition of formal design and consolidation and in the creation of new suburbs which, at best, are graced with architectural objects which display absolutely no solidarity. The struggle against this degradation of the urban phenomenon is one of the priorities in the present social and cultural debate, especially for those of us who believe that the city is not just possible but indeed indispensable in modern life. / That is why I am particularly interested in the endea-vours of Oscar Tusquets and his team toward solving these urban contradictions. Most of his buildings are conceived with a unitary image which is explained through the arrangement of their constituent parts and even their relative autonomy. At the same time, however, and without sacrificing that image, they attempt to respond to their surrounding urban structure by adapting to or substantially reforming it. In other words, without sacrificing the autonomy of the architectural object, they integrate it into the continuity of the city and contribute to it their design for new public spaces. / The most characteristic and at the same time the most successful example of such endeavours is undoubtedly the renovation and extension of the Palau de la Música Catalana in Barcelona, a very long and complex project which has undergone the inevitable schedule corrections and overlays, and which is developing along two lines. On the one hand, it underscores the autonomous value of the building, and even resolves the difficulties inherent in Domènech i Montaner’s project, which, because of the constraints of both the shape and the location of the plot, could only constitute an isolated episode in the alignment of the pre-established streets. In other words, it is a building which was forced to manifest its monumental nature through the efficacy of its composition and its ornamentation. On the other hand, however, by completing the identity of the building it is creating urban spaces which overcome restrictive linearity to create new urban forms which permit a new interpretation of its surroundings. That is to say, by completing the autonomous identity of the building, the project succeeds in creating a new city segment in the very heart of the historic city centre.

Con Juli Capella and Oriol Bohigas