WORLD DESIGN SPOTLIGHT: Fernando Moreno Barberá
20 Sep 2022 /

WORLD DESIGN SPOTLIGHT: Fernando Moreno Barberá

If there is one architect linked with the university image of the city of Valencia, it is Fernando Moreno Barberá. His buildings, planned from the end of the 1950s, are completely modern: the Faculty of Law (1956-1959), the School of Agronomic Engineers, which he carried out jointly with Cayetano Borso (1958-1967), the Faculty of Philosophy and Literature (1960-1970) and the Sports Campus (1961). Moreno Barberá also took charge of the works of the Universidad Laboral of Cheste, from 1965 to 1970. 

Exposed concrete, glass and wood were the materials that Fernando Moreno Barberá coordinated in his way of implementing and understanding architecture applied to his Valencian constructions; those which are set out along Avenida de Blasco Ibáñez and along which many university students of the city have walked, many of them without knowing that each day they were entering to learn in one of the buildings that represents the Modern Movement of the 50s and 60s in all its splendour.

The vestiges of Mies van der Rohe, with the treatment of steel and glass, and of Le Corbusier, with the powerful concrete, are captured in these university buildings. This constructed an essential part of the heritage of the city and a magnificent example of the best architecture created in Valencia in the 20th century.

Fernando Moreno Barberá (1913-1998), whose mother was Valencian, undertook conventional Architecture studies in Madrid, and immediately after having obtained his degree, in 1940, began his training in Germany. There he experienced a very advanced environment in architectural terms, expanding his knowledge of urban planning at the Technische Hochschule Charlottenburg of Berlin, and the following year at the Technische Hochschule de Stuttgart, under the tutelage of Professor Paul Schmitthenner, from whom he learned the importance of technique and materials. 

All Valencian works by Moreno Barberá, who had a clearly cosmopolitan attitude, show a way of understanding the modern based on formation, the knowledge of Le Corbusier’s ideas, and a complex and personal approach to the project, which the architect had already demonstrated, for example, at the Calvo Sotelo Research Centre in Madrid (1945). The Valencian architectural ensemble goes beyond the importance of each of its buildings, to form part of a design idea of what would be the long avenue. 

In the Universidad Laboral of Cheste (1965-1970), first conceived in the style of the Ville Radieuse by Le Corbusier, and then created with certain organisation-oriented criteria, Moreno Barberá also introduced a component of neo-brutalism, with large volumes of exposed concrete like he had already used at the Technical School of Agronomic Engineers of Córdoba (1964-1968), without forgetting the importance of the outside space. At the same time, he continued to cultivate his interest in the construction materials and techniques of modernity, but paying special attention to the topography, climate, orientation and vegetation of the surroundings.

The architect’s great skill in construction is clear in the details of his works, whose maintenance was planned through the materials used, the design of the finishes, and the technical precision that he used, generally guaranteeing their preservation over time.

Despite the exceptional characteristics of his works, Fernando Moreno Barberá has received less recognition within the History of Architecture by specialised critics than he deserved for them.

The year 2000 was a turning point in this regard, and he was rescued from obscurity, first thanks to the Faculty of Law of Valencia being included in the 1925-1965 Register of Modern Architecture (DOCOMOMO Ibérico), with the recognition that this entails. Secondly, Fernando Moreno Barberá von Hartenstein, the architect’s son, donated the full professional archive to the Regional Association of Architects of Valencia, opening new possibilities in the research of his works. 

Since then, the study of the figure of Fernando Moreno Barberá has been realised in exhibitions, doctoral theses and publications. 

Today, all his works of the Blasco Ibáñez Campus are included in the register of DOCOMOMO Ibérico, an entity which highlighted the Faculty of Law of Valencia among the most important Spanish projects of the 1925-1965 period.


Photos: Eduardo Manzana and Fundación DOCOMOMO.