Leopoldo Torres Balbás

Leopoldo Torres Balbás

Leopoldo Torres Balbás has been one of the key figures in the monumental restoration of the early twentieth century.

Born in Madrid in 1888, he studied Archeology and Architecture.

Although, he is well known for having been the restorer of the Alhambra between 1923-1936.

However, he knew how to put an end to a fantasy and destructive restoration work, which was the previous trend.

RUSKIN AND VIOLLET LE DUC

Heir to the conservative theories of Ruskin and against the trend of Viollet le Duc, he respected the ancient buildings to the fullest.

In Granada we owe him a lot, since much of our heritage is preserved, very faithfully as it was originally, thanks to him.

Definitely, he was a great visionary of scientific and modern criteria.

According to his thoughts, he wanted to:

“Preserve the buildings as they have been transmitted to us, preserve them from ruin, sustain them, consolidate them, always with great respect for the old work, never complete them or redo the existing parts.”

LEOPOLDO TORRES BALBÁS

At the age of 34 years old Torres Balbás was named architect of the Alhambra and the Generalife of Granada.

Practically lacking experience in restoration work, although he did have a very solid theoretical background.

HIS RESTORATIONS IN THE ALHAMBRA

His work has been essential to maintain many of the buildings in Granada that are standing today thanks to him.

Most importantly, in the Alhambra he will create the new entrance to the Royal House or Nasrid Palaces, which is the palatine nucleus of the Alhambra.

He would restore, the so-called Courtyard of Machuca, at the entrance of the palaces, and he also intervened in the Mexuar or Palace of Justice, carrying out some reforms in the Palace of Comares and in the Courtyard of the Lions.

Besides, he restructured the Partal Palace with some gardens, in the form of terraces, where the protagonists are the cypresses.

And, he planted many of them that still endure in these beautiful gardens of the Partal.

Apart from that, he made projects for the completion of the Palace of Charles V and the repair of the Convent of San Francisco, which is currently the Parador of Tourism.

And, he will restore in the real street one islamic Mansion and the Royal Bath or Hamman in the Alhambra.

Already with a great experience behind him,  he extended the intervention method, experienced and refined in the Alhambra to other monuments of the city since 1929.

HIS RESTORATIONS IN THE CITY OF GRANADA

This is how he had restored the temple of San Juan de los Reyes in the Albaicín (old city), the Corral del Carbon in Granada capital next to the town hall of the city, the Casas del Chapiz located at the foot of the Albaicín.

As well as the Dar-al Horra Palace which is a true Muslim wonder and the House of the Girones.

Even more, he saved our famous entrance to Granada, the Bib-Rambla gate, avoiding his stone being used for other constructions placing it in the middle of the Alhambra forest, where it is located today.

But not all of it was favorable, since one of his interventions, in the Courtyard of the Lions of the Alhambra, led him to be widely criticized by many sectors of Granada society.

And, he dismantled some Persian domes that were placed in the Courtyard of the Lions by Modesto Cendoya, being a fictitious additions, he decided to intervene.

But those domes were very tasteful from the people at that time, and the idea of withdrawing them was not welcome.

Besides, one of his great friends, Manuel de Falla, had to mediate criticism.

SPANISH CIVIL WAR

The military uprising of 1936, the ensuing Civil War and the establishment of the Dictatorship, led to the dismissal of Torres Balbás, who dedicated the rest of his life to teaching and research.

The Civil War surprised him in Soria, his house in Madrid was sacked by Republican militiamen and unfortunately his personal file was destroyed.

Finally, I would like to finish my article by adding that he was an international figure for his modern and scientific postulates in the field of conservation and restoration.

Unfortunately he had a very sad ending, since he died in 1960 at the age of 72, hit by a motorcycle in Madrid.

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