This work is registered in the archives of the Museo Chillida-Leku, under number 1990.007.
'To construct is to build in space. This is sculpture, and generally speaking sculpture and architecture' (Chillida, quoted in I. Busch, 'Eduardo Chillida', reproduced in Chillida 1948-1998, exh. cat., Madrid 1998, p. 62-73).
Executed in 1990, Elogio de la Arquitectura XII is a monolith and a monument that pierces, explores and defines the space around it. The title, as well as the skyscraper appearance of the work, links it to architecture, Chillida's original vocation which he abandoned as a young man in favour of art. Since the late 1960s, he had paid homage to architecture, to its beauty and nobility, in a series of Elogios and Homenajes. In 1989, the year before Elogio de la Arquitectura XII was executed, Chillida's own contribution to that discipline was recognised when he was awarded an honorary degree by the High Council of Architects' Associations of Spain.
Chillida's sculptures share formal concerns with architecture; perhaps indeed these factors have evolved from his original intention to study it. The use of interior spaces within the domain of the sculpture resemble windows and rooms in buildings. In Elogio de la Arquitectura XII, this is accomplished in the window-like apertures at the top, which penetrate the sculpture and create an intense play of light and form. This is a miniature building both symbolically and in its own right, and because of this is all the more eloquent a tribute.
This same openness of space with the apertures in allows Elogio de la Arquitectura XII to interact with the world around it, to invite it in. Chillida is not just a sculptor in iron, steel, stone and other materials, but also crucially in space. Elogio de la Arquitectura XII is more than a monument that penetrates the location in which it has been placed. It is actively engaged in an elegant dance with the area around it, with the air and with the horizon and with any other features in its vicinity. The deceptive simplicity of the tower-like sculpture allows it huge scope to dovetail with the surrounding space, engaging in a complex relationship in which that space is defined as much as the sculpture itself.
Engaging with space in this way, the contrast between the solidity and monumentality of the sculpture and the empty air around it is accentuated. Chillida saw this as a contrast not of form or density, but instead of speed: 'The relationship between space and material - both things that are absolutely necessary to do with the sculptor - are absolutely different in stone, clay and iron. These are slow materials and space is a quick material, very quick, so quick in fact that we have the impression that there is nothing there' (Chillida quoted in the film Chillida, RM Arts and ETB Euskal Telebista (Basque Television), 1985). It is the contrast between the speeds of the media, of the sculpture and the space around it, that lends Elogio de la Arquitectura XII its quiet and timeless authority.
Chillida had become friends and worked with Martin Heidegger. One of Heidegger's philosophical beliefs concerned the concept that the forms in a landscape define that landscape, that it did not truly exist until a bridge or a statue had been placed in it. Likewise, Chillida's Elogio de la Arquitectura XII interacts with, defines and dominates the space in which it is placed, creating something new and allowing the viewer to appreciate not only the sculpture, but also the world around it. The jutting angularity that dominates most of the sides of Elogio de la Arquitectura XII belies the atmosphere of celebration that it introduces, an atmosphere that is accentuated by the almost organic curve and grooves of one of its sides. This creates a contrast within the sculpture, and indeed with many of Chillida's other works, that hints at life, at natural forms rather than the right-angle that dominates so much of his work. This faint, ghostly hint of organism, of life, on the one hand emphasises the degree to which architecture is necessary to humans and the extent to which our homes help to define us and allow us to survive. Yet it also heightens the strong sense of celebration of the eulogy.