Contents and Arrangement Expanded View

Collection Overview

Candela, Félix, 1910-1997
Félix Candela Papers
Manuscripts Division
Permanent URL:
1767-2007 (mostly 1924-1997)
37 boxes and 32.0 linear feet
Storage Note:
  • This is stored in multiple locations.
  • Firestone Library (scamss): Boxes 1-4; 6-11; 14
  • ReCAP (scarcpxm): Boxes 12-13; 15-37
Spanish; Castilian English


Félix Candela was an influential Spanish-born architect and structural engineer, known for his innovative designs using reinforced thin-shell concrete to create the highly efficient hyperbolic parabaloid shapes used in his construction of many well-known churches, factories, and other buildings, primarily in and around Mexico City in the mid-20th century. The collection consists of professional and personal papers, including photographic files documenting his projects, architectural drawings and designs, drafts of lectures and published papers, correspondence, appointment books, student notebooks and artwork, personal photographs and albums, awards and certificates, architectural reference books and magazines, construction materials catalogs, and clippings on various architecture and design topics and on Candela's own work.

Collection Description & Creator Information

Scope and Contents

The collection documents the professional and personal activities of Félix Candela over much of his lifetime and contains a diversity of materials ranging from his childhood photographs from the 1910s and notes from his school days in the early 1930s in Madrid, to photographs, architectural drawings, writings, and correspondence, representing his life and professional contributions to the field of architecture from 1950 until his death in 1997.

The papers contain a wide range of photographic media documenting Candela's buildings under construction and following completion, architectural drawings, plans, calculations, and notes for some of his famous churches, stadiums, and factories, typescripts, drafts, and clippings of lectures and published articles on various topics related to structural analysis and design, a group of professional and personal correspondence, as well as travel itineraries and receipts related to his participation in international architecture conferences and gatherings. Also included are Candela's appointment books and personal expense ledgers, student artwork, college course notebooks and study guides, awards and certificates honoring his work, personal and travel photographs, identification papers and official documents, reference files and clippings on different architectural styles and topics, clippings of writings by and about Candela, and several VHS tapes regarding his work.

Rather than serving as traditional project or business files, such as his Cubiertas Ala office files, which are held elsewhere, these papers provide a broader view of Candela's personal life and practice of architecture, including ample photographic documentation of his buildings and major structural acheivements using hypars, fans, umbrellas, and other unique shapes. Also represented here are materials related to Candela's role as a lecturer and proponent of efficient thin-shell design at international architecture conferences and colleges, as well as materials demonstrating the relationship between his education and the trajectory of his professional career. The original arrangement of Candela's files was preserved when it was discernable, and often observes thematic relationships rather than strict chronological or other practical divisions.

Researchers should be aware that, in keeping with the bilingual nature of materials in this collection, Candela labeled some of his files in Spanish and others in English. Original folder titles were transcribed in the language in which they were found, and thus reflect this variation. Occasionally, a folder with a title in Spanish is followed by another folder with the same title in English. This practice reflects original divisions of some materials by language, and reflects Candela's international practice. When no original file labels were present, titles were generally supplied in English.

Collection Creator Biography:

Candela, Félix, 1910-1997

Félix Candela (1910-1997) was an influential Spanish-born architect, structural engineer, and builder, known for his innovative designs using reinforced thin-shell concrete to create the highly efficient hyperbolic parabaloid shapes used in his construction of many well-known churches, factories, and other buildings, primarily in and around Mexico City in the mid-20th century. His work is known for its unique shapes and forms as well as its highly efficient use of readily available materials. After gaining recognition for his early work in Mexico as a designer and master builder, Candela went on to serve as a structural consultant for projects around the world.

Born in Spain, Candela studied architecture at La Escuela Técnica Superior de Arquitectura de Madrid from 1927 to 1935. Just as he was leaving to pursue further formal education in Germany, his studies were quickly interrupted by the start of the Spanish Civil War in 1936, when Candela returned to Spain to fight with the Spanish Republic against Francisco Franco and the Nationalists. During the war, he gained pragmatic construction experience as the Republic's Captain of Engineers, working to restore buildings for military use. Candela was imprisoned in a internment camp in Perpignan, France, until the end of the war in 1939, at which point he moved to Mexico as an exile and adopted Mexican citizenship in 1941.

After gaining experience working as an architect, engineer, and builder of traditional beam and column construction in Mexico in the 1940s, Candela started his own company, Cubiertas Ala S.A., along with his siblings, Antonio and Julia Candela, in 1950. Their company, which specialized in reinforced concrete shell and laminar structures, flourished in the decades following the Mexican industrial boom, leading Candela to build over 300 works and participate in over 900 projects. 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 hypar shell structure, and remains one of his best-known works. Although he never formally studied shell design and construction, Candela developed his expertise in this area through self-education and hands-on experimentation.

Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, Candela built his reputation by designing and building many structures utilizing variations on the hyperbolic parabaloid shape, including the Iglesia de la Medalla Milagrosa (1953), Capilla Lomas de Cuernavaca (1958), Los Manantiales Restaurant at Xochimilo (1958), and the Bacardí Rum Factory in Cuautitlán (1960). His design was also chosen for the Sports Palace used in the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City. Beginning in the 1950s, Candela also made a point of regularly publishing papers and lecturing publicly at conferences and events around the world, arguing fervently against traditional means of structural analysis. His professional contributions afforded him a role as a leader in the field of thin-shell construction. Candela began working as a professor and academic lecturer in the early 1950s, including at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (1953-1970), Harvard University (1961-1962), and the University of Illinois (1971-1978). He resided in the United States permanently after 1971, where he eventually became a citizen in 1978. He died in Raleigh, North Carolina in 1997.

Collection History


Gift of Dorothy Candela in 2006-2007, as confirmed in writing by her daughter, Jane Struble, in 2013 (AM 2014-6).

Custodial History

Prior to their move to the Special Collections, the Félix Candela Papers were housed at the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, where they were used as research materials for Maria Garlock and David Billington's book, Félix Candela: Engineer, Builder, Structural Artist (Princeton University Art Museum, 2008). Maria Garlock facilitated Dorothy Candela's donation of these materials to Princeton University beginning in 2006-2007, as an addition to what was then referred to as the Maillart Archives.


All materials were retained during 2014 processing, with the exception of a blank internal hard drive, which was discarded.

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Kelly Bolding in May-July 2014. Finding aid written by Kelly Bolding in July 2014.

A box of oversize materials, formerly housed in Box 5, were rehoused into flat files in September 2021. As a result, there is no Box 5.

Access & Use

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

The Trustees of Princeton University hold the copyright for materials in this collection that were created by Félix Candela. Single copies may be made for research purposes. To cite or publish quotations that fall within Fair Use, as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission is required. For instances beyond Fair Use, any copyright vested in the donor has passed to The Trustees of Princeton University and researchers do not need to obtain permission, complete any forms, or receive a letter to move forward with use of donor-created materials within the collection. For materials in the collection not created by the donor, or where the material is not an original, the copyright is likely not held by the University. In these instances, it is the responsibility of the researcher to determine whether any permissions related to copyright, privacy, publicity, or any other rights are necessary for their intended use of the Library's materials, and to obtain all required permissions from any existing rights holders, if they have not already done so. Princeton University Library's Special Collections does not charge any permission or use fees for the publication of images of materials from our collections. The department does request that its collections be properly cited and images credited. More detailed information can be found on the Copyright, Credit and Citations Guidelines page on our website. If you have a question about who owns the copyright for an item, you may request clarification by contacting us through the Ask Us! form.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

For preservation reasons, original analog and digital media may not be read or played back in the reading room. Users may visually inspect physical media but may not remove it from its enclosure. All analog audiovisual media must be digitized to preservation-quality standards prior to use. Audiovisual digitization requests are processed by an approved third-party vendor. Please note, the transfer time required can be as little as several weeks to as long as several months and there may be financial costs associated with the process. Requests should be directed through the Ask Us Form.

Credit this material:

Félix Candela Papers; Manuscripts Division, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library

Permanent URL:
Firestone Library
One Washington Road
Princeton, NJ 08544, USA
(609) 258-3184
Storage Note:
  • This is stored in multiple locations.
  • Firestone Library (scamss): Boxes 1-4; 6-11; 14
  • ReCAP (scarcpxm): Boxes 12-13; 15-37