Arquitectura Viva
Friday, April 03, 2020

‘Camera and Model’ at Madrid’s ICO Museum

Eduardo Prieto

Photography played a key role in the creation and dissemination of the iconography, and also the ideology, of modern architecture. This role of photography has much been an object of study outside Spain, producing numerous books that examine the careers and languages of the 20th century’s great masters of architectural photography, from Julius Schulman to Balthazar Korab through Lucien Hervé or Ezra Stoller, analyze the role of photography in forming the imagery of modern aesthetics, and throw light on the importance of photographs in spreading the new language among the public at large through mass media, including erotic magazines.

In Spain, drawing attention to architectural photography (which, as occurs in architecture’s incursion in almost all fields, has been later in coming and has had to start practically from scratch) has in large part been the work of Iñaki Bergera and his research group FAME, which is devoted to the laborious task of digging into archives of all sorts, many of them scattered and difficultly accesible, in order to bring out the work of theb photographers – Kindel, Pando, Català-Roca – to whom we owe our admiration for architects like Fernández del Amo, De la Sota, and Coderch, to name just three.

Bergera’s efforts have resulted in an excellent series of books and exhibitions, and the latest show is ‘Camera and Model: Photography of Architecture Models in Spain, 1925-1970,’ on view through 14 May at the ICO Museum in Madrid and accompanied by a voluminous and exquisitely illustrated catalog. Through a hundred images arranged in a labyrinthine scheme of Borgesian echoes and a stunning collection of period models, the exhibition takes stock of the relationship between two ways of depicting architecture, and, by extension, the fruitful relations that tend to be struck between architects and photographers. The overall focus is on the dates of birth, the comings of age, and the crises of Spanish modernity, from the period of building the discourse and image of modernity (the show pays attention to the GATEPAC and the ideological manipulation of photos and models in the magazine AC) to the decade of the organicist revision of modern paradigms (with special attention to Sáenz de Oíza and Higueras), passing through the years of formal exaltation of the modern project (featuring authors like De la Sota, Fisac, Coderch, and García de Paredes, but also less known figures of interest, such as Mitjans, Ribas i Piera, Perpiñá, Laorga, and many more). Overall, this is a rigorous and attractive exhibition which, under the guise of research into a seemingly modest theme, is able to give a history of modernity in Spain from a different angle, complementary to the usual and most fertile.
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