December 21: deliver us from Gaudí

2012/12/21 § 1 Comment

Palau

On this day in 1850 Lluís Domènech i Montaner was born.

The intellectual center of one of the most politically charged Art Nouveau movements in late nineteenth-century Europe, Domènech i Montaner was a practitioner, professor and critic of architecture for over four decades.  During that time he built monuments across the Catalandscape (har, har) in the style and spirit of the Renaixença.  Best among them is the culturally profound and architecturally stunning Palau de la Música Catalana (1908).  For more extant examples of his brilliant inventive interpretation of Spanish and Moorish traditions in the creation of a new Catalan modernism, brace yourself and see: Ateneu de Canet de Mar (1884), Casa Roura/Ca la Bianga (1892), Palau Ramon Montaner (1896), Casa Thomas (1898), Casa Navàs (1901), Casa Lleó Morera (1902), Casa Lamadrid (1902), Grand Hotel in Palma (1903), Hospital de Sant Pau (1905-30), Casa Furster (1911). 

Biographies of Domènech i Montaner oftentimes mention, tantalizingly, the existence of his writings on architecture going back to the 1870s, suggesting that he was also the primary theorist of the Modernisme movement.  Sadly, this work–rare among Art Nouveau movements overall, with the exception of Otto Wagner in Vienna–remains untranslated in Catalan (which, we understand, is sort of a combination of Spanish, French and Portuguese with a hefty dash of paprika and not just a little finger-waving attitude).  Surely that was the appropriate language for these architectural independents, but it narrows the readership of these important works.  It appears that scholars who might be able to do the translation are, like most of the world who cares about fin de siècle architecture, so hung up with the more (inexplicably) famous of the Modernisme architects to trouble with them, which is all too bad.  Seriously, Catalan speakers: GET ON IT.

Image: skylight in the Palau (from this site)

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