Fernando Higueras, the architect, but also the visionary, the painter, the musician, and the photographer, has acquired cult status thanks to social media and his ascendancy among young architecture students. An architect with an overwhelming personality that gave rise to an architectural style of the same character.
A man who disavowed rationalist architecture and affirmed that “more is more in both art and architecture”; that is to say that his exuberant and expansive architecture, with certain baroque and even futuristic touches in some proposals, perfectly matches with his powerful, assertive, and honest character.
One of Higuera’s international projects was for the Monte Carlo Competition, 1969. The famous underwater cinematographer Jacques-Yves Cousteau was on the jury and especially congratulated him despite not winning the competition.
Fernando Higueras belongs to a generation of Spanish architects who were conscious of participating in a process of renovation of architecture, he did not recognize limits to their architectural activity and lacked historical memory. Higueras’ architecture relates to nature and architecture. “I have learned a lot from vernacular popular architecture, it’s an infinite source of lessons. I have always appreciated its balance, adaptation, order, functionality, logic, economy, as well as discipline and diversity combined and harmonized at a level that I hardly find in contemporary architecture.”
In 1960 Fernando Higueras made the first work with the concept of housing, after participating in the competition for the National Architecture Prize, convened under the theme Ten residences of artists in the Monte de El Pardo. This work was published in many national and international magazines. Artists’ residences soon became one of the fundamental constants of his work. His idea of architecture for living will respond to reasons of economy of material resources, execution costs and deadlines, but will always be impregnated with aspects related to well-being, with the most elementary pleasurable sensations, and also with the world of dreams of his clients.
In 1961 Higueras won Spain’s National Architecture Prize for his project for the Centro de Restauraciones Artísticas, ‘La Corona de espinas’ (crown of thorns), in the Compltense University in Madrid, in collaboration with architects Rafael Moneo and Luis Roig d’Alós.
In 1963 Higueras was commissioned to develop an urbanization plan in Playa Blanca, in the south of Lanzarote. He traveled to the island with César Manrique and finds a wealth of natural elements for the development of his work that fills him with enthusiasm: La Geria, with its picón and the green of the vine, black beaches, lunar landscape full of volcanoes, the color of the ocean, etc. His proposal of absolute respect for the environment translates into non-intervention in the landscape. Later he would make his proposals for the City of the Seagulls in the Risco de Famara and Montaña Bermeja and the masterpiece of the Hotel Las Salinas in Lanzarote, a tourist reference of architecture at the sea’s edge.
A definitive work in Fernando Higueras career will be the construction of the Colegio Estudio in Aravaca, Madrid (1962), from which all the invariants of his later architecture work are based.
His Rascainfiernos (hellscraper), designed in 1973 just below the house he renovated for his wife and five children in a protected neighborhood in Madrid, is a two-story building below ground level. It could be imagined as the dark lair of a hermit – that of the “great forgotten architect”, as he has been called for many years, or the underground architect – and yet during the day it is generously lit by a skylight overlooking the garden and its rooms are spacious and comfortable.
It is also the ideal house to protect from the extremes of Madrid’s climate. “It has exceptional thermal conditions,” explains Lola Botia, Higueras’ former partner. “It doesn’t have air conditioning, but in summer we never get above 25 degrees, with a touch of humidity. When students and architects come to visit, they don’t want to leave, and we have to show them out”.
Throughout his life, Fernando Higueras, fed a legend of hedonist and pornographer. He boasted of having shot more than 2,000 porn movies in the eighties and spoke openly about drugs. He was also an accomplished guitarist and a painter. In short, he was an eccentric character who made his life a work of art almost as brilliant as the buildings he designed.