Who was Demetrio Ribes?

Demetrio Ribes Marco, one of the most relevant architects of the early twentieth century, was born in Valencia in 1875. The first years of his university life were spent in Barcelona, where he studied physics and mathematics, though he later moved to Madrid to study architecture. There, Ribes took in all the theoretical debate of the moment around architectural options and trends such as eclecticism, modernism, regionalism and rationalism. Throughout his life, Ribes took an interest in the theories of his time, from Otto Wagner and the Vienna Secession’s proposals to L. Rucabado’s regionalism, creating his own version that adapted to new needs and uses of materials.

 
nord valencia frontal

The profile of Demetrio Ribes’s architectural work is largely industrial; he tended to build factories, railway infrastructure, offices, garages and warehouses. He was the expert architect for Spain’s Northern Railway Company all his working life, from 1902 to 1921. While working for the company, he designed various railway buildings, including the Príncipe Pío twin buildings in Madrid, Barcelona station, and all the facilities they required (garages, turntables, sheds, freight platforms, etc.). Valencia’s Estación del Norte is Ribes’s most renowned project, as the most monumental and representative example of his modernist work yet with hints of the Secession movement. This station, which was opened in 1917, became one of the city’s most iconic monuments.

 

Alongside these railway projects, Demetrio Ribes designed industrial buildings in Valencia. He also worked as a consultant and advisor for other contractors, as was the case for F. Mora’s Mercado de Colón. In 1916, he created his own construction company alongside J. Coloma. In this capacity as a contractor, he participated in the construction of the commercial docks at the Port of Valencia under the company ‘Sociedad Coloma y Ribes, construcciones en hormigón armado, Valencia’: a project in which he debuted the use of reinforced concrete in Valencian civil construction.

With the arrival of the twentieth century came new architectural categories. In order to adapt to new needs and uses of the city, Ribes built unique garages, warehouses and factories, including the Gran Vía garage and the Calle Maderas warehouse.

Some of his buildings have since been demolished, such as the warehouses for the E. Ferrer ironmonger’s shop. Some projects were carried out under the guidance of a second architect, such as the trade fair hall (‘El Palacio para la Feria Muestrario’) in Valencia.

demetrio despacho
 

He also turned his hand to public and religious architecture, as seen in projects such as Castellón Post Office, Xàtiva Bull Ring and the Marquesa de San Joaquín Sanctuary. This civil and religious architecture allowed Ribes to display and develop his more varied skills and facets, which he adapted to the functionality required by the buildings (eclecticism, application of decoration to new spaces, appropriate space distribution, use of reinforced concrete, etc.).

Private housing was another area where Ribes honed his architectural skills. Under this umbrella we find projects in Valencia’s Eixample district, renovations of the fishing neighbourhood, affordable and labourers’ housing, and even work on his own family home.

This multifaceted, enthusiastic character died at the all-too-young age of 46, leaving a great legacy that can be examined through each of his projects and constructions. The Cátedra Demetrio Ribes aims to pay homage to one of the most interesting architects of the twentieth century, to his work and to his career.

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