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CARLOS FERRATER SINCE 1971

The career of Carlos Ferrater (1944) got under way in the context of a an outdated modernism; that is to say, a modernism that was ongoing, but wholly adapted to a different setting. His first piece of work, fifty-four dwellings in the Sant Just Park housing complex in Sant Just Desvern (1974-1977), was rooted in the oeuvre of José Antonio Coderch: it announced a recurrent wish for realism, for efficiency, virtual reality glasses for tempered rationalism adapted to the context, for professionalism. The two apartment buildings in Barcelona’s Calle Bertrán—the first from 1981-82 and the second from 1983-85—and in the El Port building in L’Estartit (1979-80), were demonstrations of his ability to progress in terms of typological invention and to develop an attractive and elegant language. These early buildings showed how the expression of modern architecture, with its abstraction, repetition, transparency and use of industrial materials, could be brought into line with Mediterranean classicism, with the rigor of the composition. This same period witnessed the designing of different sports centers by have recourse to the lightness of pavilions in which mass dematerialized, the inspiration being the architecture of Mies van der Rohe, as shown by the sports pavilion in L’Ametlla del Vallés (1984-88) and the market in Vila-seca−Salou (1986-87), both projects with José Luis Canosa. And that first phase culminated in the Guix de la Meda house (1984) and the design for the Sailing Club in L’Estartit (1988-91).

The boom prior to the Olympic Games was a busy time for Ferrater, as his team took on a number of projects that were highly representative of Olympic Barcelona: the three city blocks in the Olympic Village (1988-92), the dwellings in Vall d’Hebron (1989-92), the Hotel Juan Carlos I (1988-92), and the Botanical Garden, the competition for which he won  in 1989, although ten years would go by before it was finished. His two great urban undertakings to do with communal housing—the three city blocks in the Olympic Village and the residential complex in Vall d’Hebron—are notable for the way in which they are situated in relation to their setting, endowing the latter with a new, morphologically unified order in which strength, clarity and precision dominate. This volumetric forcefulness led to the creation of almost intimate open spaces inside the city block, thus endowing public space with a new dimension and character. It was in the design of these beautiful, abstract garden that his collaboration with landscape architect Bet Figueras began.

Following the Olympic period, the possibility arose for new experiments like the “minimalism” of the IMPIVA Technopark in Castellón (1993-95) and the introduction of fractal forms, first developed in the Fitness Center for the Hotel Juan Carlos I (1993-96). Ferrater’s team made two further experiments: the studio-house for a photographer in Llampaies (1993-95), and the Arruga Film Studios in Sant Just Desvern (1995-97). During that time there were two projects on an urban scale for Barcelona: the schemes for the opening up of the Diagonal (1989) and for the Poblenou seafront (1995). And the period concluded with the Convention Center on the Diagonal (1999-2004).

Prior to the creation in 2005 of OAB (Office of Architecture in Barcelona), some of the practice’s most representative buildings were completed, such as the Zaragoza-Delicias Intermodal Station (1999-2004), and crucial projects like the Benidorm Promenade begun, the latter after winning the 2002 competition. Previous to founding OAB, Ferrater began to count on the collaboration of his daughter Lucía Ferrater, with the two of them creating such highly regarded works as the apartments, amenities and public space between Calles Roger de Flor/Alí Bei/Ausiàs March (2001-2004). The competition design for the Musée des Confluences in Lyons (2000) would not come to fruition, but its advanced diagrammatic scheme would be magnificently applied in the Science Park in Granada (2004-2009).

Text by Josep Maria Montaner