Functions of Urbanism under the Francoist Dictatorship:
Reconstruction in Belchite und Gernika
The dictatorship that emerged from the Spanish CivilWar (1936–1939) is justifiably regarded as a repressive, backward-looking regime. General Francisco Franco, who could not have won the civil war against the democratic republic without the direct support of Nazi Germany and fascistItaly, typifies the intellectually and culturally deficient dictator.Nevertheless, this dictatorship did not collapse until his death in 1975. A closer look shows that the Francoist dictatorship recognized early on how it could use urbanism for a wide variety of purposes. This helps to explain why Francoism was able to stay in control for so long. This presentation will focus on two examples of a commonly underestimated chapter of Spanish urbanism: the reconstruction from1938 onwards. My approach stems from a longer study of 20th-century Europeandictatorships with Harald Bodenschatz and other colleagues. In 2021, wepublished a book on this topic: Städtebau als Kreuzzug Francos. Wiederaufbau und Erneuerung unter der Diktatur in Spanien 1938–1959, edited by Max Welch Guerra and Harald Bodenschatz (Berlin 2021).
Architectural Reconstruction and the Construction of Power: The Case of Madrid’s Ciudad Universitaria
This research project examines the interplay between architecture, political power and national identity by studying the reconstruction ofMadrid’s Ciudad Universitaria (University City) and its role within GeneralFranco’s regime (1939–1975). The symbolic nature of this university campus during the war and its importance as a public institution made its reconstruction a key exercise that aimed to facilitate the formation of a new social and political identity. Hence, the interplay between its architectural reconstruction and the new political system will be analysed. To do so, this research looks at citizens’ interpretations, at ceremonies and at events in people’s everyday lives. Furthermore, it examines the official processes of selectively shaping social memory in the reconstruction of the campus and how this facilitated the formation of a new social and political identity during the three decades following its reconstruction.
The research methodology is a combination of archival and oral history methods. National, university, and architectural archives will offer graphical and written sources; interviews with former students, university staff and neighbours will serve to interrogate their perceptions. Thus, this thesis intends to shed light on the understanding of the interaction between architecture, political power and national identity through the study of symbolic meaning together with power relations and social memory.
Islanding the Border: The Reconstruction of Pheasant Island by the Late Franco Regime
Through a combination of original archival research, oral histories and material analysis, this presentation explores how the Franco regime mobilized colonial and settlement techniques to normalize its relationship with Western democracies during the Cold War, leading to rapid and intense economic growth supported by international loans and the development of international tourism. To illustrate this, I examine how the territorial border between Spain and France was consolidated architecturally through the reconstruction of an accident of geography: Pheasant Island, which had served as a symbol of the Spanish-French relationship since the 17th century. This shared piece of land on the border between Spain and France was rebuilt in 1972 and claimed as environmental and historical evidence of the “natural” relationship between the two countries, helping to overcome the complicated relationship betweenGaullist France and fascist Francoist Spain since World War II – one of the final obstacles in the integration of Francoist Spain into western Europe.
The occupation and reconstruction of this island for a political and economic purpose exemplifies the paradoxical position taken by the Franco government during the Cold War: the regime expanded as globalization required, but could only do so by applying imperial techniques to itself, redefining the relationship between Spain as a nation and Spain as a territory.
El Valle de los Caídos, sixty kilometers outside of Madrid, houses a colossal basilica and an eighty-meter-high cross that towers over the highway. The complex was commissioned by Francisco Franco’s fascist government to commemorate the twentieth anniversary of his victory over democracy. It is potentially the largest mass grave in the world, containing 33,800 bodies from 491 graves from all over the Spanish geography. Buried together with the dead fighters of Franco’s army, there are an unknown number of victims of enforced disappearance. Forty-five years have passed since the death of dictator Francisco Franco, yet no studies of the building’s ossuaries have been carried out. While it is known that there are 12,669 unidentified bodies interred on the site, it is impossible to confidently state the number of Franco’s victims inhumated there. The fact that we do not know the number of missing persons buried in El Valle de los Caídos is in itself a testament to the nature of the crime of enforced disappearance.
A little over a decade ago, a group of bereaved relatives discovered to their surprise that their missing dead were potentially buried next to Francisco Franco in El Valle de los Caídos. In their quest to exhume their loved ones, the bereaved relatives have encountered every form of systemic violence imaginable: from national to European courts, from newspapers to media rooms, challenging state institutions and the abbey of Benedictine monks that oversee the anti-monument.
Dámaso Randulfe’s research is titled Images out of the Deep: Ecologies of Extraction and Regimes of Visibility. This doctoral project investigates the relationships between the surface of the image and the depth of the Earth.In the face of ecological disaster and extractive ruination, a heightened attention to the underground sees a parallel in the contemporary centrality of the “deep” in relation to AI systems and processes of automated perception, from data mining to deep learning. The paradigm of depth extends from geology to the domain of machine cognition, yet this extension is not purely metaphorical: it is precisely through “deep” ways of sensing, imaging and knowing that humans can see, and excavate further, the depths of the Earth.
This research project argues that this entanglement of extraction and visibility regimes cannot be understood without a critical examination of the historical co-production of the imperial scopic and geological imaginations. To this aim, it mobilises a series of entwined paradigmatic cases to explore the multiscalar relationships between more-than-human ways of seeing and the geological column through film- and image-making. On the one hand, the project considers the ways in which an entangled understanding of extraction and visibility unsettles the opposition of surface and depth, human and machine, representation and operation. On the other hand, it explores the potential of visual forms of knowledge production to foster processes of environmental and social justice.