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Publication date 20 July 2022

Corberó Space: New Life for Hidden Jewel

Visit of the Corberó Space. From left to right: Natascha Drabbe, Corberó’s widow Maria Dolores Rica, Silvia Vilarroya and Marga Viza.

There are those magical places, that have been on my wishlist for years and that you are so grateful for if you ever get the opportunity to visit them. One of those places is the Espai Corberó, the Corberó Space, near Barcelona. In October 2021, Maria Dolores Rica, the widow of Xavier Corberó, was so kind as to give me the opportunity to experience Corberó’s life's work with two of our valued members of the network, Marga Viza, Director of Culture at La Pedrera and Silvia Vilarroya, the Curator of La Pedrera.

Impressed by what we discovered there, we immediately became concerned about the future of this unique creation: who will ensure its preservation to be enjoyed by new generations? Now, with the purchase of Espai Corberó by the Municipality of Esplugues de Llobregat, there is a prospect of a sustainable future. Read below the article about these latest developments in La Vanguardia.
Natascha Drabbe
Executive Director and Founder of the Iconic Houses Network

The Work of a Lifetime

Text: Teresa Sesé
La Vanguardia, Barcelona, 18/07/2022

The Espai Corberó (Corberó Space) is immersed in the old town of Esplugues de Llobregat. A surreal and labyrinthine place in which he began to work in 1968 and was obsessed with it until his death in 2017. La Vanguardia archive. 

New Life for Corberó Space, the Hidden Jewel of Esplugues de Llobregat

City Council finalized a 2.9 million euros purchase and will turn it into a cultural facility, open to the public!

In the medieval heart of Esplugues de Llobregat, Xavier Corberó (1935-2017) began to build in 1968 what would be the great work of his life. An epic project that was born with the purchase of a country house, Can Cargol, as a place to live and work, and a refuge for other artists, to which over the course of five decades another eight buildings would be added, with their labyrinthine rooms, stairs that recall the impossible architectures of Escher, ponds, gardens, patios with cement arcades at various heights and a forest inhabited by characters in stone and bronze.

The Space XC, where Corberó invested everything he was earning and on which he continued to work obsessively when he died at the age of 81, is today an authentic inhabitable sculpture, a total and almost secret work even though in recent times it has become place of pilgrimage for film shoots and fashion shows. But its destiny is about to take a 180-degree turn. The City Council of Esplugues de Llobregat finalizes the purchase of part of the complex to give it a new life as a cultural facility open to the public.

The sculptor Xavier Corberó Albert Santamaría. Photo: La Vanguardia archive. 

As La Vanguardia has been able to learn, the operation is well advanced and could be finalized in the coming weeks, only missing some administrative procedures related to its status as a cultural asset of local interest included in the Inventory of the Architectural Heritage of Catalonia. Last May, the plenary session of the City Council chaired by the socialist mayor Pilar Díaz approved a budget increase of 2.9 million euros to be able to deal with the acquisition. Currently, the only tenant of the complex is the artist's widow, Maria Dolores Rica, who is also in charge of preserving Corberó's legacy.

The space occupies a plot of 2,055 square meters archive. Photo: La Vanguardia archive. 

The Corberó Space, built around the old Casa dels Cecs and linked to his own residence, workshop, and museum, consists of 1,995 square meters built on a 2,055-meter plot. It basically consists of a lateral body built on the ground floor perpendicular to Calle Iglesia, various patios, water reservoirs and an underground auditorium with capacity for between 250 and 300 people. This last space, of about 700 square metres, has an open floor plan with a vaulted ceiling and no supporting columns, which gives it great architectural interest due to the uniqueness of its structure and composition.

The space has 2,000 square meters built and an underground auditorium

Inside the plot, between two patios, another building is built based on reinforced concrete slabs and semi-circular arches that form a series of rooms and open or semi-closed terraces at different heights. The complex also includes around thirty sculptures that would become municipal property, adding to those already in various spaces in Esplugues de Llobregat such as Samurai, La família or Trobada.

Xavier Corberó lived a large part of his life abroad (Switzerland, the United Kingdom and New York), although Esplugues was his definitive home. With work in more than 30 museums around the world, including the MOMA in New York, the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam or the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, he said that when he turned 19, he went to a notary public to formally disinherit himself, because he considered that he needed to start from scratch if he wanted to dedicate himself to art one hundred percent. Influenced by the ideas of the Bauhaus, in 1972 he created, together with his residence in Esplugues, the Center for Artistic Activities and Research of Catalonia (CAIAC), a residence for artists and artisan workshops that permanently welcomed a group of creators of various specialties. Among them, the one who was his partner, the jewellery designer Elsa Peretti.

Photo: La Vanguardia archive. 

'The drama of art schools is that the only possible way out for their students is genius. And a genius only happens very rarely. In our centre it is possible that geniuses will come out, but at least it is certain that good professionals will come out who will be able to earn a decent living', Corberó explained to Soledad Balaguer in an interview published in La Vanguardia shortly after the opening of the centre. For this purpose, the sculptor had been acquiring various orchards and farmhouses located next to what was already his residence on Montserrat street. And the company was not proving to be easy at all: 'My long hair, my gypsy appearance and above all, saying that I am a sculptor, does not exactly make it easy for me to request a loan from a bank, to do something so totally chimerical'.

Although its use has not yet been defined, the will is to turn it into a cultural centre open to the public

Corberó mortgaged himself many times to carry out that colossal work that in recent years, and despite leaving it unfinished, he described as ‘a miracle’. Since his disappearance, the artist died in 2017, his widow has maintained the house by renting it for events and advertising campaigns. Woody Allen chose it as the workshop for the painter who is the protagonist of the film Vicky Cristina Barcelona, played by Javier Bardem, and it has hosted the 080 catwalk shows.

Parade of the 080 catwalk at the Espai Xavier Corberó. Photo: Gaspar J. Ruiz Lindberg. 

The artist, who designed the medals for the Olympic Games, played a decisive role in the public sculpture plan promoted by the Cultural Olympiad, advising Mayor Pasqual Maragall and making it easier for Barcelona to have works by artists such as Lichtenstein, Richard Serra, Botero, Anthony Caro or Claes Oldenburg, among others.

This article was published in La Vanguardia on 18-07-2022.

Watch Xavier Corberó in this video in the Nowness series In Residence.

Publication date 20 July 2022