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The creation in 1928 of the GATCPAC group in Barcelona, followed by the foundation of GATEPAC (1930) by architects, mainly from Zaragoza, Madrid, San Sebastián and Bilbao, established two groups of young architects practicing the Modern Movement in Spain. Josep Lluis Sert, Fernando García Mercadal, Jose María de Aizpurúa and Joaquín Labayen among others were organised in three regional groups. Other architects explored the Modern Style with their personal views: Casto Fernández Shaw with his visionary work, most of it on paper, Josep Antoni Coderch, with his integration of the Mediterranean housing and the new style concepts or Luis Gutiérrez Soto, mostly influenced by the Expresionist tendencies.

In 1929 World's Fair was held in Barcelona and the German pavilion designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe became an instant icon; amalgamating Rohe's minimalism and notions of truth to materials with a De Stijl influenced treatment of planes in space. The large overhanging roof famously 'hovers' apparently unsupported.

During and after the Spanish civil war and World War II, Spain found herself both politically and economically isolated. The consequent effect of which, in tandem with Franco's preference for "a deadening, nationalistic sort of classical kitsch", was to largely suppress progressive modern architecture in Spain. Nevetheless, some architects could make coexist in their works the official approval and the advance in the construction, like Gutiérrez Soto, interested in tipology and rational distribution of the spaces whose prolific work alternated historical revivals and racionalist image with ease. Luis Moya Blanco's achievements in the construction with brick vaults deserve also a mention. His interest in the traditional brick construction lead him to a deep investigation in the modern formal possibilities of that material.

In the last decades of the Franco's life, a new generation of architects rescued the legacy of the GATEPAC with strength: Alejandro de la Sota was the pioneer in that new way, and young
architects as Francisco Javier Sáenz de Oíza, Fernando Higueras and Miguel Fisac, often with modest budgets, investigated in prefabrication and collective housing typos.

In Catalonia were a special movement of modernist architecture with Antonio Gaudi. When the city of Barcelona was allowed to expand beyond its historic limits in the late 19th century, the resulting Eixample ("extension": larger than the old city; by Ildefons Cerdà), became the site of a burst of architectural energy known as the Modernisme movement. Modernisme broke with past styles and used organic forms for its inspiration in the same way as the concurrent Art-Nouveau and Jugendstil movements in the rest of Europe. Most famous among the architects represented there is Antoni Gaudí, whose works in Barcelona and elsewhere in Catalonia, mixing traditional architectural styles with the new, were a precursor to modern architecture. Perhaps the most famous example of his work is the still-unfinished La Sagrada Família, the largest building in the Eixample.

Other notable Catalan architects of that period include Lluís Domènech i Montaner and Josep Puig i Cadafalch.


The death of Franco and the return of democracy brought a new architectural optimism to Spain in the late 1970s and 1980s. Critical regionalism became the dominant school of thought for serious architecture. The influx of money from EU funding, tourism and a flowering economy strengthened and stabilised Spain's economic base, providing fertile conditions for Spanish architecture. A new generation of architects emerged, amongst whom were Enric Miralles, Carme Pinós, and the architect/engineer Santiago Calatrava. The 1992 Barcelona Olympics and the World's Fair in Seville, further bolstered Spain's reputation on the international stage, to the extent that many architects from countries suffering from recessions, moved to Spain to assist in the boom. In recognition of Barcelona's patronage of architecture, the Royal Institute of British Architects awarded the Royal Gold Medal to Barcelona in 1999, the first time in its history the award was made to a city. Bilbao attracted the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation to construct a new gallery which opened in 1997. Designed by Frank Gehry in a deconstructivist manner, the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao became world famous and single-handedly raised the profile of Bilbao on the world stage. Such was the success of the museum that the construction of iconic architecture in towns aspiring to raise their international profile has become a recognised town planning strategy known as the "Bilbao effect".

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