Josep Torres Clavé

Barcelona, 1906-1939

Josep Torres Clavé

Architect, designer, urban planner and revolutionary, Josep Torres Clavé was one of the foremost exponents of the Spanish artistic avant-garde of the 1930s. He introduced the Modern Movement to Spain and was the author of emblematic modern works. In 1929, he was a founding member of GATCPAC in Catalonia, which would lead to the creation of GATEPAC in Spain. More than 60 years after his death, several of his designs are still being produced.

 

Josep Torres Clavé graduated from the Barcelona School of Architecture in 1929. He began his professional career as a student in the studio of his uncle Jaume Torres Grau and later carried out projects in collaboration with Josep Lluís Sert, with whom he became a partner in 1930.

 

In 1929 he became a founding member of GATCPAC (Group of Catalan Architects and Technicians for the Progress of Architecture), giving rise, a year later, to the creation of GATEPAC at the state level. This group of professionals, immersed in the European rationalist school of thought, joined forces to denounce and combat cultural decadence in design and architecture. They proposed a new professional ethic entailing greater social commitment. The group was dissolved when the Spanish Civil War broke out, and most of its members were forced into exile. Others died, as was the sad case of Josep Torres Clavé, killed in the war aged 33.

 

His architectural projects include some of the most emblematic buildings of Catalan rationalism such as the Central Anti-Tuberculosis Dispensary and the Casa Bloc, both in Barcelona, designed in partnership with Josep Lluís Sert and Juan Baptista Subirana.

 

As a designer, his contributions began with furniture for family homes and for his own use, and he ended up devoting himself fully to the work carried out at GATCPAC. These pieces were exhibited in MIDVA (Barcelona), a store founded in 1935 with J.L. Sert and Antoni Bonet, to promote new designs aimed at providing solutions that could be standardised, using cheaper materials for architectural applications. Both MIDVA and the magazine AC (Documentos de Actividad Contemporánea), with Torres Clavé himself at the helm, became the main forums for the dissemination of the GATCPAC ideology.


A letter from Josep Lluís Sert to Raimón Torres, son of Josep Torres Clavé, evidences of the importance of his colleague's work and humanity: "The years of collaboration with GATCPAC and CIAM, your father's enthusiasm, energy and talent, set an example for us all that kept the group active and united. AC magazine is a product of his dedication and tireless work. I cannot conceive of Casa Bloc, Dispensari, Ciutat de Repós, Plà Macià or any of the major projects without your father's contribution. GATCPAC itself as a working team would never have materialised without his drive, his enthusiastic spirit and his capacity for work and organisation".

                    

Humble and gracious, Josep Torres Clavé left his mark on Spanish design and architecture in the most human way. Santa & Cole has put together a book outlining Torres Clavé's career, including images of his most representative pieces, from design icons to his own illustrations.  

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