Arquitectura Viva
Saturday, December 07, 2019

Guillermo Cabeza dies

Francisco de Gracia

On 4 April, at too young an age, the architect Guillermo Cabeza left us with the legacy of a devotion to the teaching of a variety of subjects that in both quantity and quality always exceeded the usual standards of university education. His forty or so years of academic activity at the Madrid School of Architecture (ETSAM) make it necessary to highlight the professorial part of his career, even though he engaged in other professional endeavors related to architecture.

A man of firm ideological and ethical convictions, he always operated in full awareness that he was working at the service of the public, whether he was in the classroom with students or circumstantially acting as secretary of the ETSAM or occupying other administrative posts. He kept alive a reluctance to go by the self-promoting academic model that has had a heyday these past decades, clearly based on deceptive merits. In fact he always stayed clear of intellectual exhibitionism or any kind of professional capriciousness that could tag him as a mediatic architect.

An outstanding draftsman and caricaturist, he started out as a teacher of drawing to later focus more on architectural theory, but he also did work connected to preserving our built heritage. In this regard I remember his detailed documentation of the historical quarter of Santillana del Mar. And here we must mention his dissertation, titled ‘The Dialectic of the Wall’ (1983), a text he refused to publish even when it had become a fundamental reference for those addressing an element so complex on account of its double constructive function (resistance/distribution) and its two-sided nature in the definition of architectural spaces.

Being, as he was, a sharp analyst of realities, he was incisive in architectural analysis. His critical lucidity was laudable, but he was never much inclined to showing it outside the classroom. I would say that his last lesson was the composure and serenity with which he faced his imminent death, surrounded by loved ones. As for what concerns me in particular, he was an excellent friend and colleague. It is thanks to him that I was initiated in university teaching.
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