Located in the heart of Albacete and connecting to two of its main streets, Mayor and Tinte, is one of the great architectural gems of the city, the Pasaje de Lodares. Conceived from its beginnings as a commercial gallery, in the image and likeness of the Italian ones, the place has been considered as one of the most beautiful streets in Spain. In it resides a pure and luminous modernism, which gives the building a great solidity and monumentality.
The Pasaje de Lodares was designed in 1926 by the Valencian architect Buenaventura Ferrando Castell and built by Gabriel Lodares. The intention of this politician and landowner from La Mancha was to create a luxury commercial and residential gallery like those in Milan or Naples. Today, it is one of the only three Modernist galleries in Spain, together with those in Valladolid and Zaragoza.
It became a genuine temple of commerce that exuded ostentation and elegance. Today it is still the most unique building in Albacete and one of the most photographed places by its visitors. The passing of time has meant that the Pasaje de Lodares has adapted to new forms of business while the craft workshops that occupied the gallery from its beginnings have disappeared. They now house clothes shops, cafeterias and even a lottery office, as well as residential housing.
Pasaje de Lodares is a landmark for its architecture and concept. It is built in the form of a large gallery; configured by forty-four Ionic columns and twelve pilasters on which a three-storey façade and attic sit. Its harmony and distinguished character make this passageway one of the most elegant and stately streets in all of Albacete.
But there is no more extraordinary feeling for the visitor than the exuberant decoration provided by the glass skylight that covers the building. An image that leaves anyone speechless. One of the factors that contributes most to its photogenic nature.
Pasaje de Lodares continues to be an icon for Albacete today, as well as being the great protagonist of the modernisation of the city during the 20th century. This monument thus reflects the European trend of the Belle Époque and the typology of Italian commercial galleries.
The building is described as modernist because it has some decorative elements of this artistic trend that emerged at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century. Modernism attempts to create a new art form that breaks with the dominant styles of the time: the academicians, impressionism and realism. It is predominantly inspired by nature while at the same time incorporating innovations derived from the industrial revolution, such as steel and glass.
In any case, defining the architectural style of the Pasaje de Lodares is a little more complicated than it seems. In addition to the characteristic elements of Modernism, a number of other different styles mixed together complement this base. At the end of the 19th century, it was a widespread custom to accumulate decorative elements from other earlier styles in new buildings. It could therefore be defined as a historicist building of a post-modernist nature.
In fact, in Albacete there was a great construction boom in the first three decades of the 20th century with buildings of a modernist, postmodernist and eclectic nature. Until then, the city lacked a clear architectural tradition. It was the bourgeoisie, as a group of power, who promoted and marked all the architectural guidelines that were implemented. Albacete was enveloped in a wealth of influences from Madrid and Valencia that can be clearly seen today.
Symmetry acquires a special dimension when talking about Pasaje de Lodares. The whole work has a measured sense of rhythm thanks to the Renaissance columns and balustrades; as well as its sculptures. However, there is something that stands out in its exterior façade and that does not go unnoticed by anyone.
The building overlooking the Calle Mayor is much smaller than the one on Calle Tinte. While the latter offers a majestic symmetrical façade composed of four axes, the Calle Mayor has only two axes. The difference is particularly striking and it slightly disrupts the balance enjoyed by the rest of the building.
The reason for this difference is hidden behind a little anecdote. It seems that the owner of the house in the Calle Mayor, where today there is a pharmacy, refused to sell his plot to Lodares; so the project was conditioned from the beginning. This not only affected the exterior facade, but also the interior premises which had to be made to fit into a much smaller space than the other. However, the Valencian architect never abandoned the symmetry of the building and managed to ensure that the smallest wall also enjoyed elegant harmony.
When you enter the interior of the site it is easy to be amazed and at the same time overwhelmed by its decoration; as there are many details to be seen in order to acquire a complete view of the work. But if there is one thing that cannot go unnoticed, it is the four Greek figures sculpted as columns; known artistically as Caryatids and Atlanteans. These contemplate the true meaning or, rather, the intention that Gabriel Lodares had when he built this magnificent gallery.
The two Atlanteans that appear at the end of the site are male figures and represent the goods of the countryside and industry, in terms of Lodares’ status as a landowner and its intention to market its agricultural products. While the caryatids, the female figures, represent the arts. The major and minor arts correspond to his ambition to build a huge and majestic building full of elegance. Under each of these four sculptures is the face of Mercury, the god of commerce.
All this iconography keeps the history of Gabriel Lodares and the passage that bears his name. And the fact is that its purpose was clear from the beginning; the Passage was meant to become the “cathedral” of trade in Albacete under the orders of the god Mercury.
Gabriel Lodares was a conservative agrarian businessman and politician, belonging to the agrarian bourgeoisie. He was one of the great fortunes of Albacete at the beginning of the 20th century. As a man faithfully dedicated to politics, he worked to improve the urban development of the city; first as mayor between 1900 and 1906. Then, he was a member of the Cortes in 1914 and as a senator of the kingdom in 1918.
He was the driving force behind emblematic works in the city such as the Pasaje that bears his name or the Gran Hotel de Albacete; another similar modernist construction. During his time as Mayor of the city, he completed the service of drinking water for the population; which led to his recognition as Adopted Son of Albacete in 1917. King Alfonso XIII also wanted to reward him by awarding him the Great Cross of Isabella the Catholic during her visit to the capital of La Mancha when the water service was inaugurated.