Masters of Geography

Richard Ingersoll 

Despite its undeniable quality, I doubt that the work of the Catalan architects Enric Batlle and Joan Roig will ever be recognized for its original style or for its technological innovations, but I am certain the office will be remembered for its unique territorial scope, including landscapes that stretch across vast zones of metropolitan Barcelona. Not since the extensive urban visions of Frederick Law Olmsted in late-19th-century America has an office had such a profound impact on shaping the geography of a city. Except for some recent works outside Catalonia, a substantial park in Santander, the grounds of the Zaragoza Expo, and a plaza in Amiens, France, Batlle i Roig are firmly rooted in Barcelona, where both were born and where both trained during the 1970s, first under the theoretical stimulus of Rafael Moneo and then under the radical bent of Elías Torres, for whom they eventually worked for a few years. Moneo inspired them with his penchant for rational eclecticism, synthesizing the modest good sense of Nordic masters such as Alvar Aalto and Arne Jacobsen, with the Pop culture breakthroughs of Americans such as Charles Moore and Venturi & Scott Brown. As with so many of the leading offices in contemporary Spain, the resulting architecture seems to leave no resemblance from one project to the next, no master narrative uniting their collected works into an overwhelming style. Instead Batlle i Roig sustain that every site and every program yields different solutions requiring a unique attitude to style and technology. Working with Torres introduced them to the creative potential of landscapes and infrastructures, and here Batlle i Roig discovered their mission, which has endured and allowed them to achieve a remarkable career of reshaping the hills and valleys of periurban Barcelona...

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