Modernism in A Coruña

A Coruña was, for centuries, the gateway to Galicia for liberal ideas and avant-garde artistic styles. In regards to architecture, the city stands out for being, along with Ferrol, the one with the most and best examples of modernism, both in public buildings and in private homes.

Some houses may go unnoticed, like the one Ricardo Boán designed in 1913, inspired by Muslim styles, across from San Nicolás Church; others are iconic, like Casa Bescansa, in the Marina. This building stands out greatly for its location in the centre of this outer block of the Plaza de María Pita … and also for not having galleries and for not being white but yellow. For this reason, the people from A Coruña baptized it “the golden tooth”. It was built in 1926. In the same area of ​​the Marina is the Casa Rey, a modernist reinterpretation of the galleries designed by Julio Galán in 1911. The iron works, made by the local factory Wonemburger, and the portal’s decoration, the door of which brings to mind a peacock’s tail made of wood and glass, are noteworthy.

A Coruña’s modernism is indebted to the Central European one, more sober than its French or Catalan relatives. This is the case of Casa Cabanela, another work by Julio Galán in the San Andrés area. Designed to house a grocery, the decision to light the stairs through the use of large oculi is remarkable. At the entrance from María Pita to the old town is the severe and French-styled Casa Molina, with its easily recognizable top crown, work of architect Rafael González Villar.

The cluster of modernist houses of the Plaza de Lugo deserves a chapter all of its own. At number 11, Casa Reboredo has swans on its tiles, reeds, and vases with fresh flowers. At the corner of Compostela Street, Galán built a lovely white mass with large stone balconies, a beautiful portal covered with stucco and decorations showcasing lions, eagles or caryatids. At number 13, Casa Arambillet draws attention for its arch-topped attic and the feminine face that presides over it; on the twenty-second story, the vegetal decoration of the lower floors is stops before the top floor, from where dozens of eyes seem to observe passers-by.

Another focus of architectural modernism is the Méndez Núñez garden. Here one can find the Kiosko Alfonso, one of the favorite recreational places for locals since its construction, in 1912. Its architect was Rafael González Villar, and it was a singing cafè, a restaurant, a theater and also a very peculiar movie theatre: patrons could see the film from both sides of the screen (those who did it from the back paid less). Right next to it is the Terrace, more sober, taken up by Televisión Española’s territorial center.

Outside of the usual tourist circuit, on Juan Flórez street, one can find the Labaca schools, built in 1912 by local philanthropists Ricardo and Angelita Labaca in what then was a working class neighborhood on the outskirts of A Coruña. Its exterior and its neo-Gothic tower are noteworthy.

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