The population of Spain was only 28 million in 1949, but growing at a rate of 300,000 per year. The country was devastated, and migration from the countryside was beginning to crowd cities. Building homes was a pressing concern. The contribution of Eduardo Torroja, director of the Institute later named after him, included calling a competition with this end: a line-up of systems for the annual construction of 50,000 industrialized dwellings. The competition, which had no precedent, was a success, bringing in 89 proposals from 17 countries (including Japan and the Belgian Congo) with 200 patents reflecting the innovation going on in a Europe destroyed by war and with the same urgent need as Spain to raise low-cost housing.
Intertwining technique, society, and economics, the story of the competition is told in this book which serves as a catalog for the exhibition shown at the Torroja Foundation, but which is in fact an excellent monograph on industrialization in the mid-20th century. It analyzes the proposals presented, describes similar experiences in other countries, and concludes by reproducing the competition rules, in themselves a lesson in sociology where one can read anachronistic lines like “the Spanish worker is intelligent” and “is well remunerated and placed.” Today there is a surplus of dwellings, but that we are suffering the consequences of a real estate bubble without having progressed much in industrialization, sending 800,000 workers to the dole, confirms that Torroja’s concerns in 1949 Spain largely remain valid.