José Mª Bosch Aymerich
Girona 18.09.1917—Barcelona 16.02.2015
If we had to highlight one aspect of José María Bosch Aymerich’s professional career, it would undoubtedly be that of training. One indisputable fact is that when, in the early 1950s, the U.S. government asked the renowned MIT(Massachusetts Institute of Technology) to provide it with the names of Spain’s best-prepared technicians, Bosch Aymerich was at the top of the list.
From Girona, son of a lawyer dedicated to the mining industry and of an heiress of Castelló d’Empúries, he had to spend his childhood under the sign of the economic ruin of the family and an adolescence truncated by the unfortunate civil war in which his father and a brother were murdered. None of this, however, brought him down. At the end of the war, he prepared himself at the Academy of Mr. Humet in Barcelona to pass the second admittance exam for a degree in industrial engineering. Whilst in the first year at the Higher School of Engineering, the unexpected death of the director of the Academy ensued. In view of the high level of preparation and the exceptional ability of that young man, Mr. Humet’s widow, on the advice of the first-year professors, asked him to take charge of the management.
It can be said that Algebra, Geometry and Physics made him the “big brother” of a group of young people from the most powerful families in Catalonia, who were struggling to overcome the harsh admission barrier and the strict “numerus clausus” that was imposed on an engineering degree at that time. This work provided him with an economic independence that allowed him to study the first six years in Architecture (his great passion), which then consisted of 9 years.
He also completed the six remaining years for the engineering degree. With top honours, he was number one in the respective classes of the three Industrial Engineering Schools in Spain (Barcelona, Madrid and Bilbao) and also obtained the “National End of Degree Award” in 1944. The Minister of Industry, Mr. Antonio Suances, gave him the award in person and advised him to leave teaching to devote himself to management. The young engineer made such an impression on the minister that he was offered the position of delegate of the “Instituto Nacional de Industria (National Institute of Industry)” (INI) abroad, giving him the possibility of choosing which country. He chose the U.S., when World War II was not yet over. Without thinking twice, he headed for a destination that would mark him decisively: Cambridge, home of Harvard University.
Also on the advice of the minister, before circumventing German submarines across the Atlantic, he learned to weather the harsh conditions of manufacturing activity in the damaged Spanish production apparatus. While working as an ensign for the University Militias, he worked in the Elizalde propeller factory in Barcelona and then in the shipyards of “Empresa Nacional Bazán” in Ferrol. Also in the personal sphere, the winding journey, imposed by the war, of the liner “Marqués de Comillas” was decisive, leading him to the power that was profiled as the great victor of the conflagration. In those thirty days he met a young Catalan law student and future lawyer, María Rosa Escarpenter Fargas, whose family lived in Cuba. A few years later, he married her.
The second stage in Bosch Aymerich’s academic training was equally brilliant. At the mythical Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he had the privilege of attending master classes given by architects of the stature of Alvar Aalto, Le Corbusier or Walter Gropius. The exceptional circumstances of the moment also allowed him to convert the two years of postgraduate studies into a single year of intensive studies, graduating with a Master of Science in Business and Engineering Administration. He was probably the first Spaniard to get it. As a result, the U.S. Department of State offered him to lead the Puerto Rican Development Corporation, a position he did not accept because he believed his obligation was with his country.
The third significant achievement, on his return from the United States in May 1947 and already disassociated from INI, was to finish, in one year, the three years he still needed to graduate as an architect, then obtaining a doctorate in Engineering and Architecture. Shortly afterwards he was granted the honour of being part of the Board of Directors of the Royal Academy of Doctors.
Before describing the business and professional activity of José María Bosch Aymerich, it is important to highlight two significant events in the economic or training field. One is the appointment as representative of MIT in Barcelona and the other the foundation, together with a good friend, Dr. José Poal, of the Institute of North American Studies, in the city of Barcelona.
He did what he could to get licences for U.S. industrial facilities in Catalonia, but the Administration of the time did not approve of him. Faced with insurmountable obstacles, he concentrated his efforts in the opposite direction: to obtain and exploit Spanish patents in the United States.
For this he started the firm American Contant Card Inc. in Euclid (Ohio). But he had to delegate these activities when, in 1947, he won the position of Industrial Technical Director of the Free Trade Zone in Barcelona. Working for this body, he decisively collaborated in the installation of the SEAT factory in the Free Trade Zone, against the wish of the then general manager, Ortiz Echagüe, who was determined to take it to Bilbao. The reports presented by him in the Consortium were so conclusive, and posed such advantageous conditions, that they tipped the balance in favour of the Barcelona option.
From this same period is another technical audacity that reflects the vision of the future that he had in the field of urban planning: to create a 100-metre wide peripheral road through the Free Trade Zone. Far above the specifications that were fashionable at the time, and that politicians then considered a “real madness”. Time has proved him right and it has turned out to be a great success for Barcelona and the metropolitan area, especially for the Baix Llobregat area, when this gave rise to the Cinturón del Litoral (Coastal Belt) which, curiously, would later be planned by a company from the same Bosch Aymerich.
In spite of the few facilities that he set up in his land, it is necessary to point out some works of importance. For example, the Olympic Village for judges and journalists in Badalona (Montigalà), the Cap sa Sal luxury apartment complex in Begur on the Costa Brava, and the Reymar hotel in Tossa de Mar for his brother Alfonso.
At the same time he dedicated himself to the real estate activity in Barcelona. The company ECISA, also formed with former colleagues from his engineering degree, is noteworthy. The day after obtaining his degree, he presented the project of a half-block building in the Eixample to the College of Architects for this company. It was commented as the most remarkable of 1948.
His destiny, both professional and business, would be marked by a transcendental date in the contemporary history of Spain. On 26 September 1953, collaboration agreements were signed with the United States that put an end to the international isolation of the Franco regime.
The military bases to be established in Spanish territory were the most prominent part of the treaty. The U.S. Navy was in charge of building the Hispanic American bases and contracted several U.S. companies to design projects. One of the main ones was that of ex-admiral Frederic R. Harris, a company that designed the oil installations of the Persian Gulf. These companies were grouped in the AESB (Architects and Engineers Spanish Bases) and contacted José María Bosch Aymerich. “Bosch Aymerich y Asociados, SA” was then established. In a few days, the small architect and engineering studio became a large company with more than 300 employees.
However, what was even more decisive in his entrepreneurial trajectory was that which came shortly after finishing his work for the U.S. government. One of the most important contractors, Frederic R. Harris Inc., suggested to his Catalan partner that they continue working together. Thus the customer became a partner and Harris Bosch Aymerich SA was created, a company in charge of developing important public works in Spain and later in Belgium, US and South America. Of note are the motorway network in the Basque Country, the oil ports of La Coruña, Castellón and Tarragona, and the oil dock at the port of Barcelona.
As a culmination of the technical background he had accumulated, in 1965, another decisive event took place that would consolidate him in the business world. The company Planning Research Corporation, PRC, formed by the elite technical officials of the American administration, listed on the New York Stock Exchange, absorbed, among others, its partner Frederic R. Harris, which led Bosch Aymerich to become a small associate of PRC. In those days it was no small thing to be part of the tail of the great American lion. It was so much so that, from this fact, he would stop fighting like a cat belly up for the permanent positions in the first division, and would move to dispute the first positions of the classification. To get an idea of the magnitude of the company, it must be emphasized that more than 2,000 highly qualified technicians had been assigned to just one of PRC’s projects: NASA’s Columbia shuttle at Cape Canaveral.
Bosch Aymerich was appointed world director of the Architecture Division of the multinational and, together with his wife, became a tireless traveller to study, design and control the execution of the works developed by PRC on the five continents in the field. For example, for a contract with the Royal Commission for Jubail & Yambu, in charge of the pipelines from the Persian Gulf to the Red Sea, he designed and supervised the construction in Saudi Arabia of the oil towns of Jubail and, above all, Yambu.
Returning from the US, he set to work on the great dream of his life, this time located in the middle of Barcelona: in the golden triangle of Plaza Cataluña-Pelayo-Bergara, the coveted block that, in part, would be left free over the old Sarrià train station, in calle Pelayo. For this space, in 1955 he presented a project at the 3rd Biennial Hispanoamerican Art Competition, obtaining the Major Prize for Architecture. The following year the proposal was ratified with the First Prize of the International Exhibition of Architecture and Monumental Art. It was nothing less than a 40-storey building, an architectural audacity that was unthinkable for a city in which no buildings of this size were built before 1992.
But it seemed to him that he had paved the way. He just needed to get down to work, convincing friends, politicians and influential businessmen. With them he created the company “Iniciativas Barcelonesas, SA” (IBSA), chaired by Miguel Mateu Pla (former mayor of the city). Participants included Luís Olano Barandiarán, Baron de Viver (also former mayor), members of the Recasens family (founders of Cepsa), the Molins family (Ciments Molins), the brothers Luís and José Noguer Sunyol, (from Industrias Agrícolas, SA), his cousin José Ildefonso Sunyol, Dr. José Poal, Alberto Palachi, the stockbroker Pau Negre, the Bank of Madrid, the Condal Bank, Torras: Ferreries & Construcciones, the company MACOSA, etc. Other entities in the city, which included the Aluminium Company of Canada, which undertook to provide the most distinctive material for the work. The proposal provoked a great deal of controversy and the City Council held a tender to award the construction of a singular building on the country’s most coveted site. IBSA was the only company that came forward. But, as is easy to assume, there were other competing interests. Continuing oppositions and intrigues disillusioned him and he decided to abandon the idea. He ended up selling IBSA to a foreign company so that shareholders could recoup their investment.
He considered the project worthy of the monumentality of the Catalan capital, but maybe he had put it on the table too soon. He felt saddened when he said that “doing things in CATALONIA has been -at least for me- like an obstacle course, but I love my land very much and I want to stay here. On the other hand, working outside Spain has been more attractive for me.”
He also added that the Community of Madrid had been favourable to him. This is demonstrated by a series of emblematic buildings and the thousands of single-family homes built by Levitt Bosch Aymerich SA, which has become one of the leading companies in this field.
The restless spirit and always attentive to the opportunities presented to him led him to graduate as an Urbanist Technician in 1954, in the engineering and architecture branches, from the Institute of Local Administration Studies. In order to apply the acquired knowledge, he joined forces with Mateu Schohl, a hydrogeological engineer, with whom he set up the company called SAETA, Sociedad Española de Explotaciones Turísticas y Agrícolas, dedicated to creating urban land or reappraisal of agricultural land, recovering vacant land. As a result of these activities, the Property of some recovered lands is still conserved, as well as the Hotel de Suites Sa Punta de S’Estañol on the beach of the Bay of Alcudia (Mallorca), and also the land required for the Masella Ski Resort, a work of great difficulty of execution from the technical and landscape point of view that has been a determining factor in the economic dynamisation of the region of Cerdanya.
Act of inauguration in Masella of the street of Mr. Bosch Aymerich (28-03-2001)
This text comes from a book published in October 2006, entitled:
“El Sello de la Excelencia”(The Seal of Excellence), Entrepreneurial Business Leaders
Francesc Ribera Raichs
At 97 years of age and after having fought for his companies, he left a corporate legacy that he created over a lifetime of tireless work. Always supported by his loving, deceased wife M. Rosa Escarpenter Fargas and surrounded by good partners. His philanthropic initiative, in which, in recent times, he concentrated work and hopes, is the Bosch Aymerich Private Foundation, created in 1996, whose purpose, among others, is to promote studies and creation in the fields of Architecture and Urbanism.