Arquitectura Viva
Friday, May 24, 2019

Rafael Aburto (1913-2014)

Rafael Aburto Renovales

Neguri, Vizcaya, 2-11-1913 — Madrid, 9-3-2014

Last 13 November 2013, shortly after turning 100 years old, it was lucidly and with the same humility and detachment towards himself which had characterized his professional life of five decades, that Rafael Aburto attended a well-deserved tribute to his person and career, jointly organized in time by the Council of Spanish Architectural Associations (CSCAE) and the Madrid Institute of Architects (COAM) to honor a centenary master of a prodigious generation of modern architecture in Spain.

Graduating from the Madrid School of Architecture in 1943, he went on to combine a silent but prolific dedication to building social housing developments for the Obra Sindical del Hogar with participation in competitions, and the project for the Casa Sindical de Madrid (1950) – carried out with his friend Asís Cabrero – is the most outstanding work of his career as well as his most far-reaching achievement in the modern chapter of our architecture. At the same time, he designed various interiors that reflect the variety, autonomy, and authenticity of architectural interests which led him, at the end of his active practice, to master an abstract language of high aesthetic and expressive quality.

Through the journal Revista Nacional de Arquitectura or his involvement in the Alhambra Manifesto, he took part in the discipline’s modern debate of the 1950s. In the following decade, his stint as a teacher at the Madrid School coincided with the Neguri housing (1969), the work of his maturity in architectural practice. Thereafter he devoted himself completely to his true passion, painting. And it was in this way, painting to express himself, playing chess, always accompanied by his wife, María Baselga, that Rafael Aburto spent the last decades of his long life.

In 1946 he published an essay titled ‘Para qué sirve un árbol’ [‘What Trees are For’], which justified in a veiled way his self-imposed ostracism – accurately described by Fullaondo in the Nueva Forma monograph of 1974 – and revealed aspects of his strong personality. Building a tree house, he withdrew from a professional and social context he had never felt at home in. The text ends with the certainly that, for whomever climbs it, “never will a tree bear better fruit.” And he enjoyed this fruit.

Iñaki Bergera, Doctor of Architecture

* See ‘Rafael Aburto: Autistic Modenity, Centenary Masters, Arquitectura Viva 150, 2013.

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