Félix Candela, Structural Artist

The Manuscripts Division is pleased to announce that the Félix Candela Papers (C1455) are now available for use by researchers in the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections. Félix Candela (1910–97) was an internationally renowned architect, structural engineer, and master builder. He is best known for his innovative designs using reinforced thin-shell concrete to create the highly efficient hyperbolic paraboloid shapes utilized in his construction of many well-known churches, factories, stadiums, and other buildings, primarily in and around Mexico City in the mid-20th century. The Candela Papers are a recent transfer from Princeton’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, School of Engineering, where they had been housed since their acquisition in 2006 and 2007 by Professor Maria E. Moreyra Garlock and Professor David P. Billington, who are the authors of Félix Candela: Engineer, Builder, Structural Artist, Princeton University Art Museum Monographs (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Art Museum, 2008). The finding aid is available online.

Candela had to leave Spain because of the Spanish Civil War and adopted Mexican citizenship in 1941. An award-winning athlete in his youth and successful student of architecture at La Escuela Técnica Superior de Arquitectura de Madrid (1927–35), Candela abandoned plans to continue his studies in Germany in 1936 to join the Republican struggle against the Nationalist forces of General Francisco Franco (1892–1975). During the Spanish Civil War, he gained practical construction experience as the Spanish Republic’s Captain of Engineers and led projects to renovate old buildings for military use. His work, however, led to his eventual capture and imprisonment in an internment camp in Perpignan, France, until the end of the war in 1939, when he was one of a few hundred prisoners sent by ship to Mexico.

Candela’s practice flourished in Mexico in the 1950s and 1960s, where he and his siblings, Antonio and Julia, founded Cubiertas Ala S.A., a company dedicated to the construction of reinforced concrete shell and laminar structures. Candela’s 1950 design for the Pabellón de Rayos Cósmicos on the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México campus was the first to employ his novel hyperbolic parabaloid shell structure, and remains one of his best-known works, remarkable for its incredible thinness of 5/8 inch, allowing for the measurement and study of cosmic radiation. A number of photographs of the laboratory, along with photographs of many of Candela’s other structures under construction and in completion, are present within Princeton’s holdings, including images and drawings of L’Iglesia de la Medalla Milagrosa (1953), La Capilla Lomas de Cuernavaca (1958), Los Manantiales Restaurant at Xochimilco (1958), the Bacardí Rum Factory in Cuautitlán (1960), and the Sports Palace for the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City.

The papers include a large quantity of photographic materials in several different media, including black-and-white and color photographs, slides, and negatives that document Candela’s professional projects. In addition, there are architectural drawings and designs, notes and typescripts of lectures and published articles, a group of professional and personal correspondence, itineraries and documents regarding professional travels and conferences, daily appointment books, student notebooks and artwork, awards, personal documents, and reference files and clippings on various topics in architecture and structural design, as well as on Candela’s own work. The Candela Papers complement other engineering collections held by the Manuscripts Division, including the Anton Tedesko Collection (C1456), John A. Roebling’s Sons Company Records (C1483), Arthur M. Greene Collection (C0434), Lewis B. Stilwell Papers (C0584), and soon to be accompanied by Anton Tedesko’s own papers (C1478), recently transferred from the School of Engineering.

For information about using the papers, contact rbsc@princeton.edu. Photographic materials and architectural drawings are housed onsite, while writings, correspondence, personal materials, and reference files are stored offsite. Please consult with the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections about having offsite materials recalled to Firestone Library, a process that normally takes 48–72 hours notice.