Antonio Escario qualified at one of the most exciting periods in architectural history. Many may associate the 1960s with the functional engineering driven styles of the post-war era, but this was also a period of great optimism and experimentation, most aptly expressed in the Modernist style.
“It was a great time to emerge on the scene,” says Escario. “There was so much creativity and energy in my profession at the time, which I guess stemmed from a great belief in the future and what technology could do to enhance our lives.” These days we are perhaps a little more sceptical, weighing up both the benefits and disadvantages of progress, but it cannot be denied that even now we keep coming back to an era that produced many of the design classics that hold true to this day.”
“There were greats such as Oscar Niemeyer, for instance, but in reality the process had started even earlier, in the 1920s and 1930s, when ‘Los 5 Magnificos’, Le Corbusier, van der Rohe, Lloyd Wright, Aalto and the Bauhaus movement of Gropius, established the blueprint for what we call modern architecture and design today.” Building on their magnificent heritage, yet always mindful of the need to evolve and develop with the times, Escario developed an oeuvre of his own that has become a part of the cultural and physical landscape of Eastern Spain.
A Valencia landmark – La Pagoda
Still under thirty, he was commissioned with his then partners José Antonio Vidal and José Vives to design the Torre de Ripalda, a luxury new apartment building in one of the most sought after parts of Valencia. In what has since become known as ‘La Pagoda’, Escario and his colleagues created a much-loved Valencia icon and a landmark project for his ever-growing portfolio.
Asked how he conceived of a styling that is loved by inhabitants and Valencianos in general, Escario says: “I always get the process going by focusing on the essentials. Firstly, by looking at the setting and lay of the land, which gives you proportion and orientation. Secondly, by listening carefully to the client’s brief, which gives you the intended look and function of the building. It is when this is married to technical and practical requirements that the form, or style, of the project starts to take shape.”
The result is a modern classic that features timeless styling and a purity of form that incorporates only those embellishments that have a function too. One of the few indulgences involves the unusual way in which the converging lines are not conventionally acute, but rather wedge-shaped, opening and allocating, or not, wide flower boxes. It is this styling detail that has differentiated the building from others and earned it the popular nickname of ‘La Pagoda’, but for those lucky to call this edifice home it is above all the manner in which Escario recreated the comfort, elegance and space of a luxury villa in a city centre setting that has made this such a celebrated address.
Since that signature project, which certainly did his career no harm, Antonio Escario has hardly known a quiet moment, realising projects as diverse as delicately conceived art centres and modern churches located in an Albacete, his home town, park to ultramodern office blocks in Sevilla, university buildings, headquarters of research centers and, in the iconic 53-storey Gran Hotel Bali in Benidorm – for a very long time the tallest hotel in Europe.
In between came 18 years as lecturer at the University of Valencia, an institution that has produced, among others, the likes of Santiago Calatrava. Don Antonio Escario was in fact the man who tutored some of the degree projects of the young architect who was to become such an international sensation.
Asked about Calatrava, he emphasises he is “proud of him as he was a student of the Valencia Architecture University School, as a great architect and as a product of Valencia and its architectural tradition – a tradition which I believe has helped to put this city on the international map.”