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Eduardo Torroja and the Engineering of Technocratic Authority in Franco's Spain

Presented at the Staging the Space Between Society: Literature and Culture, 1914-1945. South Dakota State University. May 30, 2019

This paper and accompanying presentation examine the technocratic effects of the work of the late Spanish engineer Eduardo Torroja. Torroja’s exclusion from La Generación del ‘27 is at the center of the polemical relationship between avantgarde art and autocratic forms of government. La Generación del ‘27 was a collection of Spanish poets that pursued avant-garde forms of expression before, during, and following the Spanish Civil War from 1936 to 1939. The influence of this group extended past literary circles, affecting forms of material expression, such as the pioneering reinforced concrete work of Torroja and other structural engineers. The reluctance to include Torroja in La Generación del ‘27, highlights the critical relationship among arts, engineering, and the Franco regime in Spain. Many mathematicians, architects, and engineers left Spain during the civil war — exporting professional expertise to the Americas — while others stayed in the country to pursue the development of technocracy under the guise of authoritarianism. Torroja’s role in this technocratic history deserves as much attention as his structural innovations. This abstract continues a line of scholarship that focuses on the political context of his work from 1934, when he co-founded the Technical Institute of Construction and Building, until the end of the Spanish Civil War in 1939. Torroja’s material experiments have influenced engineers and architects worldwide by magnifying the intersection of politics and technology. The political space between mental and physical labor was integral to the historical transfer of construction knowledge between Europe and the Americas during the first half of the twentieth century.


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