Rogelio Salmona was a Colombian architect of Sephardic and Occitan descent. He was noted for his extensive use of red brick in his buildings and for using natural shapes like spirals, radial geometry and curves in his designs. During the latter part of his life, Salmona gained renown thanks to awards like the first prize at the 1986, 1988, and 1990 Colombian Architecture Biennials, and the Alvar Aalto Medal in 2006. His works are highly representative of Colombian architecture at the end of the twentieth century.
Colombian National Architecture Prize .
Prince Claus Award (1998)
Architect of the Americas Award, Panamerican Federation of Architect Associations (1999)
Professional Trajectory in Architecture Prize II, Iberoamerican Bienal of Architecture and Civil Engineering (2000)
Honoured with the Alvar Aalto Medal (2003)
Manuel Tolsa Medal, Autonomous University of Mexico (2004)
Honorary Fellow of The American Institute of Architects (2006)
Orden de Boyaca (2006)
Lapiz de Acero (2007)
He was born in Paris, but moved at an early age to Bogota, Colombia, where he studied at the French Lyceum Louis Pasteur. Upon graduating, he enrolled in the architecture program at the National University of Colombia, then led by German and Italian architects Leopoldo Rother and Bruno Violi. During Le Corbusier's trip to Colombia in 1947, young Salmona was invited by the great architect to work with him at his atelier in Paris. In 1948, Salmona interrupted his studies in Colombia due to the Bogotazo political revolt and returned to Paris. In France, he worked as draftsman for Le Corbusier for about a decade, assisting in the design of projects like the Marseilles block, the Pilot Plan for Bogota, Notre Dame du Haut, and Chandigarh. Later, he went on to study the sociology of art with Pierre Francastel, developing a critical vision of modern architecture. At the end of his long apprenticeship, Salmona traveled to Spain, where he discovered Islamic architecture. The brickwork in Granada, in particular, had a lasting influence on his work. Upon returning to Colombia, Salmona graduated as architect at the Universidad de los Andes in 1962. Though Salmona traveled widely, enriching his theory of architecture, he spent the rest of his life in Colombia, where he was commissioned important projects . During the 1980s, Salmona promoted conferences on Latin American architecture in Cali (1980) and Manizales (1987). These seminars contributed to the improvement of the exchange of information among Latin American countries, enriching the architectural dialogue throughout the region.
He died from cancer in Bogota on October 3, 2007.
"I am just an architect. Nothing more. Or should I say: somebody who is trying to be one. Because becoming an architect is very difficult. You never know what part of what you do has any validity. Time tells it. Good architecture will become ruins. Bad architecture disappears. But for you to know it is a ruin, you have to wait a lot of time. I hope the [Del Parque] Towers not to be ruins today but one thousand years from now".
"That thing about time being gold is a big stupidity. Time is life. I am interested in living it."
Salmona designed the following buildings in his native Colombia:
President's House for Illustrious Guests, Cartagena (1978 - 1981)
MAMBO (Modern Art Museum of Bogota), Bogota (1971-1988)
Jorge Eliecer Gaitan Center, Bogota (1980-unfinished)
National General Archives, Bogota (1988-1992)
Graduate School Building (Faculty of Human Sciences) at the National University, Bogota
Quimbaya Gold Museum, Armenia (1983-1986)
FES (Superior Studies Foundation) Headquarters, Cali (1987-1990)
Vicepresidential House, Bogota (1994-2005)
Virgilio Barco Public Library, Bogota (1999-2001)
Gabriel Garcia Marquez Cultural Center, Bogota (2004-2008)
Some of Salmona's works for the private sector include:
El Polo residential complex, Bogota (1959)
The Headquarters of the Society of Colombian Architects, Bogota (1961-1970)
The Free University High School, Bogota (1962)
Christian Foundation housing complex, Bogota (1963)
Del Parque Towers, Bogota (1964 - 1970)
Alba House, Bogota
Alto de Pinos complex (1975-1981)
Various houses in the Sabana de Bogota: Casa Puente, Suba (1976); Pasohondo, Tabio (1979); Sotara, Tenjo (1989); and three houses in Cota (1992).
Nueva Santa Fe housing complex and community center, Bogota
The Timiza residential complex, Bogota
House of the Writer (owned by Gabriel Garcia Marquez), Cartagena (1992-1995)
Gimnasio Fontana, Guaymaral (1992-2002)
Riofrio House, Riofrio (1997-2000)
Alto Chico Concrete House, Bogota (2001-2003)
Altazor House, Torca (2002-2004)
Together with his wife and partner, Maria Elvira Madrinan, Salmona worked on a series of future projects, which include:
French Cultural Center (Alliance Francaise), Bogota
Valmaria Campus (National Pedagogic University), Bogota
Cultural Center (University of Manizales), Manizales
La Candelaria residential project, Bogota
New wing for the MAMBO (Modern Art Museum of Bogota), Bogota
Some of these buildings are currently undergoing construction.
[*] Article about his life (Spanish)
[*] One of his last interviews (Spanish)
[*] The Centro Cultural Gabriel Garcia Marquez (Spanish)
[*] The Gimnasio Fontana Web site, with images of its facilities
The New York Times: Rogelio Salmona, Colombian Architect Who Transformed Cities, Is Dead at 78, by Simon Romero. October 6, 2007.
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