When I speak with
people and arises my admiration towards the Catalan architect,
it happens often that they frequently ask me (and in some occasions
they also dare to assert), whether the building is now being
occupied by the see of the General Society of Authors, was built
by Gaudí. It was formerly known as the Longoria Palace.
To this point reaches the ignorance towards the work of the
This lack of information, has partly been caused because Madrid
is a city with a scarce Modernist tradition. The buildings erected
at the beginnings of the XXth century followed a rather eclectic
taste, which had somewhat a classical Parisian influence. They
did not have at all their sources in liberty, youth, modernity
and rupture which had proclaimed the ideals of the new architecture,
apart from being them subdued to the rigid rules imposed by
the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando, which did not
admit certain "stylistic mischiefs". Hence that the
current citizen from Madrid is not used to distinguish the so
many special characteristics of this movement, which, however,
was shown in Catalonia with all its plenitude, granting the
city with unique buildings, easily recognisable.
Therefore, in the capital, there are very few examples that
can be framed within this style. In fact, the scarce samples
we have of it, mostly obey the French and Belgian influences
of the Art Nouveau, expressed with a different architectural
language (with more naturalistic motifs), from the one employed
by the Catalan Modernism artists, which impregnated their works
with the feelings of the Renaixença.
In any case, anyone knowing a little the trajectory of Antoni
Gaudí, there wouldn't room for such a possible confusion,
given that the lines and decoration of the Longoria Palace don't
look at all like any of the gaudinian works. However, this singular
building from Madrid was actually conceived by a Catalan artist,
José Grases Riera, who developed his professional career
in our city, and together with the architects Eduardo Adaro
and Fernando Arbós, he played an important linking role
between the XIXth and XXth centuries. Other buildings by him
in Madrid are; the "La equitativa" building, in the
Alcalá street, and the Monument to Alfonso XII, in the
Once this point has been made clear, as there isn't in Madrid
any building projected by Gaudí. I must add something
more: there is a rumour, or the doubt (not yet being confirmed),
that a family supposed to belong to the Catalan bourgeoisie,
had to move to Madrid because of business affairs in the first
half of the XXth century. They also brought a private chapel
with them, supposedly designed by Gaudí, which was installed
in their new residence. As this piece belonged to the private
sphere, and given that there doesn't exist any document or photograph
which attests so, this information remains a mere speculation,
for it doesn't exist any checked data which proofs the existence
of the aforesaid chapel, not even from the very family. Is this
a legend or reality? We presently remain with the doubt, but
who knows so whether eventually, looking up in an old archive,
new data will be found to cast some more light on this matter.
What I may have realised in my hometown, is that for the immense
majority there exists a deep ignorance of the personality and
work of Gaudí. This fact is for me hardly understandable,
for the architect is, together with Picasso and Dalí,
one of the three great artistic geniuses of the gone-by twentieth
century in our country. A proof of this is his universality.
And however, save for a few ones, he is still a great unknown
It is clear that everybody has seen photographs of the Sagrada
Familia, the Pedrera, the Park Güell, etc. But, really
How much people knows in a simple way, the ideas and the innovative
concepts which brought to the creation of such works?
I've often come to think that, within the History of Art, Gaudí
has been during many years, and even in a certain way he still
is, the great ignored.
He doubtless lived in a difficult age, which marked his vital
and professional path. He was from his youths an acknowledged
prestigious architect, and he also earned the popular admiration,
nevertheless after his death; there came almost the oblivion.
To this contributed the political circumstances and the new
architectural trends which contempt systematically everything
being made during the previous artistic cycle.
Nevertheless, Gaudí's work had always been standing there,
for many times being underrated and surviving to the hazards
of time. Until that, fortunately, in the mid XXth century some
prestigious scholars and historians started showing us under
a different point of view the singular structural geniality.
(A fact something being manifested in the buildings and in every
the architect's artistic work in general), often relegated to
a second term favouring a misunderstood originality.
Since these years, in which the figure of Gaudí had to
be recovered so as to, very slowly to grant him the place that
corresponds to him (being unjustly deprived of), a long time
has passed by. Things have changed for better, luckily. Many
achievements have been got and many projects have been carried
In this sense, the last year 2002, "The International Gaudí
Year", was a round success, of which all gaudinists may
be proud of it. From Catalonia a great effort was made, being
logically focused in Barcelona (for being this city the one
owing the bigger number of buildings by Gaudí). The informative
and co-ordination tasks were excellent.
That who writes so, who had the immense luck of enjoying most
of the acts celebrated to commemorate the 150 Anniversary of
the architect's birth, cannot but to congratulate from these
lines all the people which, from the different fields they worked
to make this idea real. And also, of course! To all the people
of Barcelona, which, being used to be invaded by waves of tourists,
with their camera ready to shoot, welcome us so splendidly as
Presently, Barcelona is occupying the first place being the
chief cultural destination preferred for the Spaniards. And
it is also the most visited city by the foreign tourists, which
are attracted mainly by the architect's work. As states the
fact that either the Sagrada Familia temple or the Pedrera are
among the two places in Spain which receive the greatest number
of visitors during the whole year. This doesn't mean that Barcelona
doesn't have anything else to offer than the Gaudinian work,
being this nothing more beyond reality, however they have manage
to take profit of this important cultural heritage (not the
only one), to promote even more such a cosmopolitan city like
It is for this reason that it becomes a paradox, and it is also
sad to check that, the reply to this international range event,
which was intended to diffuse the work of this universal artist,
has been rather scarce in Madrid, in a city that because of
its "capitality" should have been to the height of
the circumstances. ¿To whom must we put the blame?
The fault is not, of course, of all the citizens from Madrid.
I'm aware that the citizens are thirsty of knowledge, the same
happens in other places, but for this both the public and private
institutions must play their role, by promoting the exhibitions,
lectures and conferences, and all those acts which will contribute
to a wider spreading of culture. But this very fact, during
the "Gaudí Year", did not become a whole success
in Madrid, for the disgrace of all who love the work of the
genial Catalan from here, which are a legion. And doubtless
we would have been even more had there been a bigger approach
to his work for the citizenship.
It is evident that
the architect's work must be visited in the place where it had
been built. For instance, the MNCARS (Museo Nacional Centro
de Arte Reina Sofía), which is a space devoted to the
artistic trends of the late XIXth century, and to the first
vanguards of the XXth century (which has essentially painting,
but there are also samples of sculpture, photography, and other
disciplines). It doesn't seem to me out of all reason the idea
that there would be a hall devoted to Gaudí, too, who
is doubtless the most internationally acknowledged Spanish architect.
In that hall there could be a permanent multidisciplinary and
interactive exhibition, which would ease the comprehension of
his work by means of the exhibition of drawings, models, plans
and photographs of his buildings. Somewhat like the "Espai
Gaudí" in la Pedrera, but in Madrid. ¿Do
you think I'm asking too much?
As you see there remain many things to be done and a long way
to be walked. And, in a certain way, all the scholars and passionate
of his work "have the duty" to contribute to this.