Antonio Bonet, the great unsung name of modern Spanish architecture

Antonio Bonet Castellana (1913-1989)

Antonio Bonet Castellana (1913-1989)

Antonio Bonet has been unfairly overlooked in modern architecture in Spain. Antonio Bonet Castellana (1913-89) has been unfairly overlooked in modern architecture in Spain. Born in Barcelona, Bonet studied at the School of Architecture in his home city and was still a student when he joined Josep Lluís Sert and Josep Torres Clavé to found GATCPAC (the Group of Catalan Architects and Technicians for the Progress of Contemporary Architecture). In June 1936 he moved to Paris, where he worked at the atelier of the Swiss architect Le Corbusier. Bonet remained in Paris after the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War and worked on the project for the Republican Pavilion representing Spain at the Paris International Exposition in 1937. Finally, in 1938, seeing how the situation in Europe was deteriorating with the rise of Nazism, Bonet moved to Argentina and settled in Buenos Aires.

The foundation of the Austral Group

In Buenos Aires, jointly with the architects Jorge Ferrari Hardoy and Juan Kurchan, he founded the Austral Group, following the principles of the GATCPAC. The group’s mission, as stated in its manifesto, was “the study of architecture as an individual and collective expression; man’s deep knowledge […] as the driving force of our achievements; the visual integration with painting and sculpture; the analysis of the main urban problems facing the [Argentine] Republic: this is the path our actions must follow.”

The years that followed were a time of intense activity in the fields of architecture, urban planning and design for Bonet, both in Argentina and in nearby Uruguay. Some of his works from that period are the studios for artists on the corner of Paraguay and Suipacha streets in Buenos Aires; La Gallarda, Rafael Alberti’s summer residence in Punta del Este (Uruguay); the BKF chair, designed jointly with Kurchan and Ferrari; and a project in Punta Ballena, also in Uruguay, comprising a housing development, the La Solana hotel, and the Berlingieri house, among other works.

BKF chair, designed by Antonio Bonet, Jorge Ferrari Hardo and Juan Kurchan.

Building La Ricarda

The first time Bonet returned to Spain after the war, in 1949, the textile entrepreneur and music lover Ricardo Gomis and his wife Inés Bertrand Mata commissioned him to design La Ricarda as their weekend and summer residence. Construction did not begin until 1953 and was completed ten years later, in 1963.

From then on, Bonet began combining his work in South America with an increasing presence in Spain, where he designed important projects such as the Canódromo de la Meridiana dog race track, the Mediterráneo building, and the Torre Urquinaona, all in Barcelona, as well as many other buildings, housing developments and private residences all over Spain.

Antonio Bonet died in Barcelona on September 13, 1989, at the age of 79.

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