The architect Genaro Alas and the foundations of modernity | Culture

The architects Genaro Alas and Pedro Casariego in their studio in 1980.
The architects Genaro Alas and Pedro Casariego in their studio in 1980.Alas Casariego Studio

Genaro Alas, from Madrid of Asturian origin, belonged to a generation of architects trained at ETSAM who, like so many others, looked to Europe in order not to lose the pace of history and to be contemporary and, therefore, modern. Born in Madrid in 1926, on February 10 he died in Cáceres due to complications derived from the covid.

Alas, after passing through the School, in which such disparate teachers as Modesto López Otero and Sáenz de Oiza coexisted, in 1954 he began to work at the extraordinary National Institute of Colonization in the province of Cáceres, directing or projecting Towns such as Vegaviana, La Moheda, Rincón de Ballesteros or Rincón del Obispo. There he reaffirmed his interest in artisan construction and its possible application to the modern, given the sad industrial conditions of autarkic Spain.

On his return to Madrid, he founded the Alas Casariego office in 1955 with his friend and career partner Pedro Casariego, developing more than three hundred projects together and in a shared manner until his death in 2002. From then on, he continued working with Gádor de Carvajal and with me until his complete retirement in 2007.

Studious, deep connoisseur of Geometry (his works on Gothic tracery, unpublished, are extraordinary) and defender of drawing as a fundamental tool of the project, he accepted the adaptation to the technique as a fundamental part of the profession. Thus, he was able to create with a pencil an elegant curtain wall with catalog metal profiles in the Monky factory (1960), an example of clarity and finesse, to draw with a pencil the octagonal staircase of the Centro Building (1965), around the which the offices are articulated, and to adapt with a computer the screwed metal structure of the Minuro Yamasaki project for the Picasso Tower, turning a prototype into the best expression of North American architecture.

Educated, cultured, quiet, but an excellent conversationalist, he worked in a disciplined and austere way, clearly differentiating his professional life, modern and open, from his family, traditional and closed. I thought that projects are developed on the board, and that meetings with many people were nothing more than a waste of time. When they finished, he intervened for the first time: “And now, to work.”

On the long night of Saturday, February 12, 2005, I attended with him the fire in the Windsor Tower (1975), which was in full renovation, and when asked if he was proud of how he resisted, he replied that he was proud of it. how it was built, and that this was not news at all. Its structural solution with a hard core and a light resistant facade, of great compositional strength, made its combustion slow and hypnotic, thus becoming one of the icons of modern Spanish architecture.

He remained a man of his time without changing, naturally incorporating the new, in which he was an expert in a short time. He respected the opinions of others, but in the end the same thing always happened: reason was on his side. Working with him was simple: he was an extraordinary person and an extraordinary architect.

His death certifies the passage of time, the disappearance of a brilliant generation of architects who were born in difficult circumstances and who were able to create the foundations of a modernity that we had so hard to achieve.

Fortunately, the void that he leaves is not such, as it is full of great works of architecture and also great shared moments in which, from his shyness and modesty, he taught us the important things in life.

Juan Casariego is an architect.

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