From Almeria, 40-year-old Jesús Barranco is an architect turned businessman. His profile on LinkedIn is an intensive list of masters and postgraduate degrees: from ESADE, from IESE, from the Instituto San Telmo and from the Universidad Camilo José Cela.
He met his wife, a Dominican civil engineer, on one of these courses. Today, they are the parents of three children aged ten, 7 and 6.
Although he does not remember it, he lived in a camper van until he was 2 years old, the result of his parents’ business audacity, who sold the family home to build a warehouse.
He loves cooking and has become hooked on the fourth season of the series ‘Fargo’, inspired by the film directed by the Coen brothers.
We arranged to meet in the square before the cathedral in Almeria and, under this architectural allusion that shadows him, he explained its construction details. And we continue our walk through the School of Art and the Central Market, a symbol of the iron architecture of the 19th century.
You chose the meeting place. Now, as an architect, it is your turn to explain it.
We are before the only cathedral fortress in Spain and this square, made of Macael marble, is the work of the architect Alberto Campo Baeza. The palm trees are arranged to symbolise the three interior naves, and, theoretically, on reaching maturity they should simulate the domed vaults over the naves. Another issue is the fact that the quality of the palm trees has not allowed the primordial design to appear.
Do so many Masters mean you like collecting qualifications?
Not at all. I chose each one carefully according to my interests.
Am I in the presence of a scholar?
No, not by a long chalk. I think it is essential to know a minimum about the world around us. And I am a believer in Umberto Eco’s theory, who had a library containing 30,000 books and one day he was asked: have you read all of them? And he replied: that is not the question; the important point is how many I have left to read.
But, what is the last book you have read?
‘The Black Swan’ by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, a Lebanese writer who says that our knowledge and our society are based on what we already know and we do not take into account what could come, what never happened. I see it to be closely in line with the situation that we are living through today.
Have you ever asked yourself where this intellectual curiosity came from?
I suppose my parents instilled in me the value of knowledge and effort, but there might also be a genetic element because, although I come from a family with no education, who worked in the fields, my father went to a relative’s house after work to learn to read and write; my maternal grandfather, at the farmhouse, listened to classical music and narrated the novels on the radio to us. And my paternal grandfather recited ‘trovos’ at family get-togethers.
What caught your attention about studying architecture?
I think that, at the time, I considered it a challenge because it was a highly technical career that combined aspects of Fine Art. I found this merging of technical and artistic ideas both complicated and at the same time attractive. Therefore, when I was around 16 or 17 years old, while the other kids were on the beach, I went to technical drawing and descriptive geometry classes.
I gather that you are a frequent museum visitor.
Yes, I am and I try to instil this in my children. Let me tell you a story: a few weeks before the lockdown we took our last family break to the Tramontana mountains in Mallorca and as the days went by, my seven-year-old son said to me: aren’t you going to take us to any museums during this trip?
Your favourite museum.
In order to get off the well-beaten track of the best known ones, I would say the Sorolla Museum in Madrid and the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.
What is an architect doing in this sector?
Life takes you in unforeseen directions, but I am very happy doing what I do. It could be that my parents’ business audacity was the seed behind this path. They were the architects of all this. The merit is all theirs; I just took up the baton.
I suppose that you have a beautiful house. Did you design it yourself?
Well, we like it. My house is the result of a refurbishment, in which both my wife and I have poured all our knowledge.
At present, from this point of view, which is for you the best designed city?
Bilbao, without any doubt. A city that was dark and grey underwent a unique transformation that turned it into a green space that brings quality of life to its inhabitants. The only failing that Bilbao has, in my opinion, is its weather.
I have been told that you love cooking and that you combine the dishes very well. Where has this hobby come from?
Yes, I really enjoy being in the kitchen at the weekend. Really, this leaning came about as a result of going out for ‘tapas’ and wine at university. With our lean student budget, my friends and I looked for places to drink wine and discover the best food. We even started up a business, making meals in a farmhouse and selling entry tickets. In fact, some of us still meet up around a table.
And talking of wine, the top wineries in our country resort to architecture as a seductive marketing element. Have you ever thought of using the same idea?
Not at the moment. My end-of-degree assignment was the design of some wine cellars in the Valle de Lecrín, in Granada. This work made me start visiting the wineries in La Rioja. For the wineries, architecture is essential and it brings them brand positioning, at the same time as providing an experience for visitors. At Marqués de Riscal, Frank Gehry designed the hotel. Jesús Marino Pascual, an architect from La Rioja was the author of one of the best wine museums, for the Vivanco Dynasty. The wineries of Ysios are designed by Calatrava and Zaha Hadid participated in the winery for López de Heredia.
What is your latest cooking design?
I think I am very daring when cooking, but it turns out well. I invent my own recipes and the last one was rice with beef, chickpeas and mushrooms. This weekend we will celebrate an ‘I brought’ party, as they are called in the Dominican Republic. I brought cheese; I brought ‘mantecados’; I brought wine. We will make up a combination of cheeses and wines and then have a meat barbecue.