chapter  2
34 Pages

Progressive Architecture for a Conservative Catalonia

ByS.A. Mansbach

Lluis Domenech i Montaner, like many well-educated Catalans of the period, was both a reformer and a nationalist. He and his intellectual colleagues sought a renewal that was as much aesthetic as it was social and political. In truth, these two aspects were fundamentally plaited in the Catalan world view of the time. And they were practiced coextensively as an effective means to achieve a national "redemption" through which the essential character, distinctive traditions, and singular identity of Catalonia could be both envisioned and actualized, especially by architects. In this powerful expression of Catalan cultural consciousness, Domènech has ambitiously and successfully brought into consonance exuberant ornament and rational geometry, emotional allusions and controlled engineering, fine handwork and industrial methods. The building had been intended from its earliest projection in the mid-19th century to its festive opening in 1908 to serve as the fitting site where Barcelona's social classes might constitute a new community compact through a shared Catalan culture.