Jean-François Lejeune (University of Miami)
Alejandro de la Sota’s modern villages: vernacular abstraction and surrealist modernity
Asked to implement General Franco’s ambitious “hydro-social dream” of modernization of the countryside, Falangist planners, engineers, and architects of the Instituto Nacional de Colonización (I.N.C.) developed a national strategy of “interior colonization” that, along with the reclamation of extensive regions, included the construction of 302 modern pueblos between 1944 and 1970. Alejandro de la Sota (1913–1996) was one of the first five architects of the I.N.C. He designed Gimenells (1943), which set up the standards for the 1940s, and then four innovative villages: Esquivel (1952), Entrerríos (1954), Valuengo and La Bazana (1956). Based on research within the archives of the Fundación Alejandro de la Sota and the Ministry of Agriculture, this paper summarizes the modernity of his pueblos: the separation of traffic, the propagandistic concept of the open plaza, the volumetric abstraction of the vernacular house, and his ironic use (as understood by Ortega y Gasset) of the Spanish classical. The research emphasizes how de la Sota transcended the functionalist elements of modernity in order to mobilize memories of the real and produce a “surreal” reality. In so doing, he reversed the fundamental reference to the countryside that characterized Spanish surrealism to bring surrealism within the process of Franquist rural modernization.