August 2, 2021

Julio Cortázar and his link with Wright, Le Corbusier and Gaudí

Mario Minervino / mminervino@lanueva.com / Twitter: @mrminervino1

This note inspired Julio Cortázar. It was when in his novel Hopscotch, he wrote: “I am tormented by your love that does not serve as a bridge because a bridge is not supported on one side only, Wright or Le Corbusier will never make a bridge supported on one side only”.

Julio Cortazar

Curious decision of the writer to take these two great masters of Modern architecture to refer to a work that, to a large extent, is part of the world of engineering.

Neither Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959) nor Le Corbusier (1887-1965) – who despite being recognized as architects did not have that academic training – built bridges. It was not part of his usual occupation. However, the first one left the project of a bridge that, if it had materialized, would have modified the way of thinking about this type of work. The Swiss, for his part, made it clear which was his favorite bridge and why he chose it as the most beautiful in the world.

Butterfly effect

Considered by many scholars as the most outstanding architect of the 20th century, the American Frank Lloyd Wright designed a bridge over the San Francisco Bay in the 1950s, which he named the “Butterfly Bridge”. It was based on a reinforced concrete structure, which sought to be much more than a step.

It was supported by giant hollow almond-shaped pillars, to give the work anti-seismic resistance. Long, curved arms would carry six lanes of traffic and two pedestrians, supported by two arches connected by a butterfly-shaped park that formed “a pleasant, stopping relief for traffic.”

That was the unique and different idea: a bridge that also offered itself as a place to be. “A bridge for all time, without the need for maintenance”, mentioned the car of the Cascada house.

The work was never close to being built. For several reasons: its cost, the opposition of various public officials and the questioning of some engineers. “It would have been brilliant and very influential, and possibly changed the course of how other bridges would have been designed. A beautiful sculptural form. People crossing the bridge could come to this landscaped park and enjoy views of the bay,” some mention scholars of the project.

As an additional detail, the first film Duro de Matar, starring Bruce Willis, has a scene where a model of a great work is observed. It is precisely the bridge designed by Wright, the butterfly ever built that earned its place in this film.

Since the late 20th century, architects have been involved in the design of bridges. They think of them as sculptures, as urban equipment, as crossroads, but also for permanence and observation. Today Wrigt’s idea has several materialized examples. Cortázar could have discovered that in addition to being supported by two sides, this bridge had a place of meeting and permanence.

Le Corbusier and the most beautiful in the world

The author of the Villa Savoye did not design any bridges either, but he was dazzled by the George Washington Bridge, on one of his visits to New York City, in the United States.

The bridge is of the suspension type and spans the Hudson River, connecting Washington Heights, in Manhattan, with Fort Lee, in New Jersey. It was inaugurated in 1931 and this is what Le Corbusier wrote about the work.

“The George Washington Bridge over the Hudson is the most beautiful bridge in the world. Made of steel cables and girders, it glows in the sky like an inverted arch. It is a blessing. It is the only seat of grace in the messy city. It is painted in aluminum color and, between the water and the sky, you can see nothing but the bent rope supported by two steel towers. When your car goes up the ramp, the two towers rise so high that they bring you happiness; its structure is so pure, so resolute, so regular that here, finally, the steel architecture seems to laugh. The car comes to an unexpectedly wide platform; the second tower is very far away; innumerable vertical cables, gleaming against the sky, dangle from the masterful curve that descends and then rises. The pink towers of New York appear, a vision whose harshness is mitigated by distance ”.

Final, Cortázar and Gaudí

Returning then to Cortázar’s writing. Wright and Le Corbuseri did not build bridges, but it is clear that they thought about them and loved them.

And because today is the day of the architect, there is also a reference to the Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí and how his colorful ceramics played a key role in the childhood of the author of Hopscotch. Cortázar Account:

“Between one and a half years (of age) and three and a half years I lived in Barcelona until in 1918, once the First World War was over, my family was able to return to Argentina. I have inaccurate memories of those years, memories that worried and tormented me a little when I was a child. Around the age of 9 or 10, from time to time, very disjointed, very scattered images came back to me that I could not match with anything known, and then I asked my mother: There are times when I see strange shapes, such as tiles or majolica with colors. What can that be? And she told me: That may correspond to the fact that as a child, in Barcelona, ​​we took you almost every day to play with other children in Park Güell. So my immense admiration for Gaudí begins perhaps at the age of two, unconsciously ”.

Park Güel, Barcelona

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