The ‘yacht’ elevated to ‘ocean liner’1. History of the Real Club Náutico de San Sebastián beyond the Lecorbuserian myth, 1905–1929

Miguel Ángel Ruano Hernansanz


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The 1929 extension of the Real Club Náutico de San Sebastián (San Sebastian Royal Yacht Club), the work of Joquín Labayen and José Manuel Aizpurúa, was quickly labelled as a work influenced by Le Corbusier’s style paquebot, despite the fact that its authors never acknowledged this influence. Research into the history of the building, including the three main reforms it underwent in 1905, 1916 and 1929, revealed that all the reforms had sought the same naval appearance that the Donostia architects pursued in 1929, and that this decision had, on each occasion, come from the club’s board of directors. Indeed, Aizpurúa confessed to Giedion in a letter that the project was chosen because it resembled a ship. The previous projects were misunderstood because they were compared, out of context, with ocean liners; they were neither of the right size nor from the right period to be identified with this type of ship, whereas the 1929 refurbishment was. The ship model of the 1905 and 1916 buildings was the ‘schooner’, a smaller, lighter, sailing ship used for maritime competitions. Elements of these buildings which had so far been considered ‘decorative’, such as the mast, portholes, or hatches, were in fact defining features of this naval typology. First José Ángel Sanz Esquide broadened the spectrum of Aizpurúa’s influence, and later José Ángel Medina Murua practically delimited the inspiration of the Real Club Náutico building project to the ideas of Le Corbusier. But we might ask whether this intense, but anecdotal, Lecorbusierian influence really took place, or whether it was just the brainchild of the club’s historical tradition, of significant quality but without greater theoretical pretensions.

Palabras clave

Real Club Náutico de San Sebastián; Le Corbusier; José Manuel Aizpurúa; Joaquín Labayen; Streamline moderne


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