Since its foundation until 1957, the Special School of Civil Engineering followed the French model of teaching in service to the government. It was a training centre for future public servants of the Ministry of Public Works. The appointment of Vicente Machimbarrena as director of the School brought a change in its teaching orientation in which, without abandoning basic, fundamental training, reinforced practical and humanistic contents. In particular, the faculty was joined by prestigious engineers who stood out for their professional and business activity. One of those new professors was José Eugenio Ribera.
José Entrecanales also followed his mentor’s steps along this academic path. Five years after taking his degree, he returned to the School of Engineering as assistant professor of port engineering. He later joined the Professorship of Foundations and Stonework Bridges headed by José Eugenio Ribera. When Ribera retired in 1931, José Entrecanales was appointed the Chair of that professorship.
For 26 years, his classes in geotechnics, foundations and stonework bridges were famous in the classrooms of the School of Engineering in Madrid’s Cerrillo de San Blas. His knowledge of the subject meant the introduction into Spain of the most modern theories of ground engineering, which position him as the man who brought geotechnics to our country.
The new doctrines propounded by Swedish and Austrian authors, or Terzaghi’s concepts, published only four years earlier, were introduced by Entrecanales in his teaching programme, which laid the foundation for the training of the potent Spanish school in the soil mechanics discipline. In view of the lack of Spanish literature on this subject, he wrote and published, with the invaluable aid of his assistant, Carlos Lorente de No, an extensive collection of Department Chair Notes on ground engineering that even today, 50 years later, remain interesting reference texts for civil engineers.
In 1957 he stopped teaching of his own volition as the result of his disagreement with certain provisions of the new Technical Training Reform Act. He returned full time to his business activity.
In recognition of his work, he was made Honorary Professor. He always missed his years of dedication to the School. As he himself remarked when he received the Medal of the Member of Honour of the Association of Civil Engineers in May 1983, when he left the School, “I returned to my habitual behaviour, which meant studying and working; but I realized that a very important stage in my life had ended, that is, that I had left my entire youth in my contact with the School.”
His love of teaching remained after his retirement. He endowed the School with a Prize for the Best Doctoral Dissertation on subjects related to geotechnics, foundations and stonework bridges, as well as scholarships for doctoral candidates who stated their intention of preparing their dissertations on those subjects. This capital endowment gave rise to the Foundation that bears his name. José Entrecanales never lost interest in geotechnics and regularly attended international conferences on soil mechanics and ground engineering. In particular, after the congress held in Rotterdam in 1948, he founded the Spanish Society of Soil and Rock Mechanics with José Luis Escario.
In recognition of his studies, professional work, teaching and business activity, he was awarded the Grand Cross of Alfonso X the Wise and the Grand Cross of Civil Merit.
In 1928, José Entrecanales associates with Manuel Távora Barrera to collaborate in the construction of the San Telmo Bridge, in Seville.
The good understanding between D. José and D. Manuel culminates with the construction of the oil deposits of the Port of Pasajes, as well as several works in the Dock of Our Lady of the Rosary in Cadiz. For this reason, on March 11, 1931, they founded the construction company Entrecanales y Távora, S.A., which they jointly directed until the death of Manuel Távora in December 1940. The company created by José Entrecanales was established as an executing company of works and projects, offering its clients an extensive service based on new technologies and quality.
In this sense, he always instilled in his students, and extended to his company, the devotion to “technical excellence”. He considered that the primary secret of competitiveness lies in this excellence, since, if it were to be achieved, almost everything else was given in addition. Entrecanales also promulgated and carried out in his company the continuous training of technicians, to such an extent that the engineers themselves, young heads of work, continually received notes and extracts from magazines and technical books, sent directly by the manager himself with reference to clarifications on the works they were doing at that time.
Entrecanales and Távora S.A., in 2006, that is to say 75 years after its foundation and after the merger in 1997 with Cubiertas and MZOV, continues its expansion under the name of ACCIONA.
After his time as a student, José Entrecanales began his professional career as an official in his native Bilbao, joining the Board of Works of the Port of Bilbao, where he carried out the construction of the breakwater and the access of the railroad from Portugalete to Santurce.
However, the career of Entrecanales in the public sector was brief. In 1926, he moved to the private sector with José Eugenio Ribera, who appointed him Head of the Technical Office of the company Hydraulic and Civil Constructions (Hidrocivil), where he coincides with the engineer Eduardo Torroja Miret.
José Eugenio Ribera, introducer of reinforced concrete in Spain, had a special relevance in the entrepreneurial scene of the first third of the century, demonstrating that work in private enterprise could be as valuable and honest as in Public Administration, and laying the foundations for the future development of large construction companies in our country. Master and godfather of Entrecanales, his teachings obviously influenced the mentality and the formation of his disciple, and would mark his way of understanding business activity throughout his life.
However, José Entrecanales did not stop developing activities for the Administration. In 1929 he was appointed member of the Joint Commission of Marine and Public Works for the Study of the Projects of Situation of the New Fishing Ports in Spain, and in 1937, the Bilbao City Council appointed him Engineer Director of the Municipal Office of Reconstruction of the Bridges of the capital of Biscay (destroyed in the Civil War), position that occupied during two years.
He also published numerous technical articles and reports as an active member of the Permanent Association of Navigation Congresses, a position he held until his passing.