The name Rafael Manzano holds significant recognition within our Network. It resonates with diligent students participating in the Rafael Manzano Summer School in New Traditional Architecture and with accomplished architects and craftspeople awarded the Rafael Manzano Prize for New Traditional Architecture for their enduring commitment to living building traditions. These initiatives, organised by the Traditional Building Cultures Foundation in collaboration with INTBAU, stand as a testament to Manzano’s strong support to the promotion of traditional architecture in modern times.
Art historian Pablo J. Pomar Rodil brings us the opportunity to get to know Rafael Manzano more in depth. In his article Rafael Manzano: ‘Traditional architecture is not unprogressive, it is a compendium of the old and the new’, (published in Spanish by El Debate), a recount of a friendly encounter at Manzano´s charming Sevillian home, Pablo unveils some of the details behind the architect’s extensive career.
In Pomar’s words, Rafael Manzano represents the ‘hope in a future where architecture returns to human scale and proportion, rooted in the legacy of the past and harmoniously engaging with its inherited surroundings‘: a staunch advocate for traditional architecture since the second half of the XX century.
The interview provides glimpses into Manzano’s life, from childhood memories to lessons in classical architecture, intertwined with his architectural philosophy, emphasizing the integration of old and new elements in traditional architecture. The candid nature of the conversation becomes evident with Manzano’s revelation that despite his outstanding career, he has felt misunderstood and ridiculed for his dedication to classical architecture:
‘Many colleagues have belittled me, as if what I have done were not authentic architecture. It’s somewhat absurd because it’s the same architecture that was done a century ago, and they do consider it as such [as architecture]. It’s not as if traditional architecture is unprogressive. It’s a blend of the new and the old’.
Advocating for the relevance of traditional architecture in modern times, Manzano discusses the economic viability and superior quality of traditional technologies in rural areas and shares anecdotes about how well-designed architecture can positively impact people’s lives, citing examples from his own projects in Spain.
‘In rural areas, classic technologies can continue to be used with competitiveness and economic advantage, providing usage qualities that are often superior to those of contemporary architecture’.
Added Manzano in response to Pomar’s comment that people usually think one cannot continue to build like before unless you are wealthy.
Furthermore, Manzano explains that traditional architecture in modernity is not a radical copy of historical styles, but rather architectural gestures drawn from the surroundings, ‘because each city has its own constants’.
The conversation touches on the challenges faced by contemporary architecture education, criticising a focus on modernity at the expense of coherent and contextually sensitive design.
‘Modern architecture is a good intuition, a wise intuition, and it is extremely difficult to convey these intuitions from teacher to student. […] In this, classicism has a huge advantage over modernity’.
Said Manzano, reflecting on today’s architecture education.
Pomar’s article concludes with a review by Manzano of the influence of past masters and colleagues, emphasizing the importance of preserving the traditions and quality of craftsmanship. Read the full article (published in Spanish).
Rafael Manzano Martos, architect, academic and professor of the History of Architecture, has dedicated his life to the study of Classicism, both in the West and in the Islamic world, restoring multiple monuments in Spain and realizing an architecture that, within the modernity imposed by our time, has never renounced the values of classical legacy. Read more about Rafael Manzano, his trajectory and legacy here.
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