The Valencian Institute of Modern Art (IVAM) presents the exhibition “Félix Candela, the architect and his surroundings. 1910-2010.” Félix Candela is one the greatest Spanish architects of the 20th century, and due to the centenary of his birth, IVAM is showing a vast retrospective of his body of work. Candela was known as being able to transform concrete into visual poetry with his structural design based on hyperbolic paraboloids, or thin-shell structures, as they were more often called.
Félix Candela was not the prototypical architecture student in Madrid: he did not excel in maths or aesthetics, but he was always at the forefront when it came to structures and the theory of elasticity, which he helped the other students with. He had a versatile education and completed his training at the Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando, where he learnt his reinforced concrete shell techniques under the wing of Eduardo Torroja. Due to Candela’s PhD thesis he obtained a scholarship to continue studying in Germany, but sadly the Spanish Civil War put an abrupt end to his plans. Enlisted in the Republican Army, he wound up in a concentration camp in Perpignan, only to finally go into exile in Mexico in 1939.
In Mexico, Candela reached his professional peak and achieved creative fulfilment. He set up the company Cubiertas Ala, where he carried out a huge number of projects, most of them industrial related. He broke barriers between architecture and engineering that opened the way for other architects such as Santiago Calatrava. His structure designed as a squared umbrella with a central water pipe rapidly spread: its lightness, resistance, low cost and certain beauty being its biggest assets. In the 1970s Candela settled in the United States holding a professorship at the University of Illinois. He devoted his last years to academic activity and professional consultancy.
Felix Candela died in 1997 without seeing his posthumous and most representative work finished – the roof of Valencia’s Oceanogràfic (the oceanographic museum). He based the design on a previous project – the restaurant Los Manantiales in Xochimilco (Mexico) – to create a structure reminiscent of a water lily lying on a lake.
The exposition at IVAM revolves around Candela’s vast body of work and includes 21 scaled models, a selection of pictures from prestigious photographers, a documentary and a number of videos and animations of his emblematic work…in short, everything about this Spanish architect. But you will also find a hint of Candela’s enormous legacy with a selection from the archives of Princeton, Columbia and UNAM universities containing original plans, period photographs, projects, notebooks and even his university notes.