chapter  3
30 Pages

The Modern and the Mediterranean in Spain: Sert, Coderch, Bohigas, de la Sota, Del Amo

BySert, Coderch, Bohigas, de la Sota, Del Amo JEAN­FRANÇOIS LEJEUNE

The origin of the Spanish intellectual quest toward a “re­discovery” of the Mediterranean can be located at the beginning of the twentieth century, when the major protagonists of Catalan modernity, industrialist Eusebi Güell and philosopher Eugeni d’Ors, embraced a cultural and political project for Catalonia that would be based upon the return to a mythical Mediterranean classicism dominated by the Greek ideal – “a metaphor of progress, sea, commerce and opening of the borders.”2 D’Ors titled the movement Noucentisme. His writings about the new Catalonian cultural identity defended the classical, Greco­ Roman, inheritance as well as unequivocal “imperial” aspirations. For d’Ors, the goal was “to discover the Mediterranean in ourselves and to affirm it, in imperial work, among men.”3The intellectuals supporting Noucentisme actively engaged in the new institutional and political context issued from the elections of 1901 and the pivotal victory by the Catalan nationalist parti, the Lliga Regionalista [Regionalist League], dominated by industrialist Francesc Cambó and the theoretician of Catalan nationalism Enric Prat de la Riba. Culturally, it was the Mediterranean that was to anchor the legitimacy of the new parti, allow Catalonia to re­discover itself, and establish the system of reference for the concept of Catalunya Ciutat [Catalonia­City] – the Noucentiste vision of Catalonia as an “ideal city” of sort, embracing a new civic ethos of collective life at once urban and modern. It is significant that, from 1908 onwards, Josep Puig i Cadafalch had been leading the excavation works at Ampurias (in Catalan, Empúries), a Greco­Roman town in proximity to Cadaqués whose discovery nurtured the roots of the Renaixança in the Mediterranean:

Emporium . . . Ampurias . . . It is a blue horizon that extends its serenity to the Mediterranean father, Mare Nostrum! . . . Sometimes I think that the ideal ambition of a redeeming Catalonian gesture would come down nowadays to discovering the Mediterranean.4