April’s Brutalist Building of the Month on the Brutalist Calendar 2023 is the colossal concrete museum and monument to the sculptures of Ángel Mateos, an artist local to the Salamanca region of Spain, who spent his life experimenting with the material. Photograph by Roberto Conte.
Located in Spain in Doñinos de Salamanca, the Ángel Mateos Museum is a habitable concrete sculpture designed by its namesake artist to house his collection of concrete sculptures. Built between 1997–1999 and inaugurated in 2002, the building marked the culmination of Ángel Mateos’s artistic career, and its architecture takes visitors on a journey through a permanent collection of more than 170 works made between the 1970s and 1990s, showing the artist’s evolution from figurative to abstraction to minimalism.
Ángel Mateos was born in 1931 in Villavieja de Yeltes, Salamanca, to a family of stonemasons and builders. He developed an interest in the material of concrete from a young age, as well as the skills required to work with it. Then, at 21, he moved to Seville to study Arts and Crafts, and then to Madrid to attend the San Fernando School of Fine Arts.
“Concrete is the most representative material of our century. In the same way that stone defined an era, this will be the age of concrete" — Ángel Mateos
Yet he soon returned to his hometown to pursue art independently, setting up an experimental workshop in Vitigudino, Salamanca, in 1957. His career kicked off in 1966 when he won first prize at the national sculpture competition the Salón de Otoño in Madrid, and exhibited for the first time at the National Exhibition of Contemporary Art in Madrid.
In the 70s, he secured some public art commissions in the region, such as the 12m-high sculpture ‘The Concrete Age’ on the A-7 highway, and ‘Cyclope’ in front of the Helmántico stadium in Salamanca. Then in the 80s, Ángel Mateos began working with materials including precious metals and Corten steel, for example his radical floating sculpture exhibition which passed through the city of Salamanca down the Tormes River.
The final projects of Ángel Mateos represented his ultimate dedication to the material of concrete. In 1994, he completed the 25m-tall ‘Obelisk’ at the entrance to his native Villavieja, and then in 1999, his most technically complex sculpture, ‘Inversión VIII’. Yet his largest devotional work was the ‘concrete museum’ using 420 m³ of concrete in its construction – the very last project of this ‘disciple of concrete’.