Architecture, Art Nouveau, Casa Navas, CoupDeFouet International Congress, Gaspar Homar, Gaudi Centre, Institut Pere Mata, Lluís Domènech i Montaner, Modernisme, Pabellon dels Distingits, Pavilion 6, Reus
Oh, you thought my adventures in Barcelona were over? Well… they weren’t over just yet! The next morning we were expected at the Plaça Catalunya at 9 am where a comfortable touring car was already waiting for us. Our group had become quite close in the past few days and it was nice to have a chat with everyone on the way to our destination: Reus.
Due to its textile- and liquor trade Reus experienced a phenomenal growth in the eighteenth and nineteenth century. At the turn of the 20th century Reus had grown só much that it had become the second largest city of Catalonia, after Barcelona.
Catalan Modernism, the local variety of the international Art Nouveau movement, was welcomed in Reus with open arms. The arrival of architect Lluís Domènech i Montaner in 1898 – when he was asked to build the Institut Pere Mata – marks the beginning of a glorious era; there are close to one hundred modernist buildings in Reus (private buildings, public buildings as well as shops) that reflect the taste of the wealthy bourgeoisie around 1900.
The first building we went to visit was of course the beautiful Institut Pere Mata, originally built as a psychiatric hospital between 1898 and 1912, some two kilometers out-of-town. The previous hospital had been right in the middle of the filthy industry but new theories had demanded a healthier environment. Peace and quiet, nature and beauty were to be the answer to mental illnesses.
The 1897 plan for the hospital contained 11 pavilions, separated by spacious gardens. Based on type of illness, social class and gender the pavilions were divided into three groups. We visited pavilion 6, Pabellon dels Distingits, an oasis of luxury for the wealthy who could afford to pay a considerable contribution to the institute.
To measure up to the standards the upper class clientele was accustomed to, Lluis Domènech i Montaner not only called in the help of his regular workers like Lluís Bru, he also contracted first class professionals to come to Reus. Casas y Bardés, Joan Paradís, Rigalt and Granell i Cia to name a few. And they only used the best materials. Tiles, ceramics, stained glass, wrought iron, marquetry. You name it, it’s there. The furniture was designed by Josep Prat and Joan Montagut; the walls were painted by Figuerola and Vernis. Walking around in these quarters, we didn’t know where to look first. Who wouldn’t want to recover here for a few months?
One more thing that is very interesting to note is the fact that Domènech i Montaner implemented several solutions in the Institut Pere Mata that show his interest in adapting the architecture to the function of the building. There is no eye in the center of the staircase to avoid accidents for instance. And to make cleaning more easy, toilets and bathrooms were completely tiled. For the same hygiene reasons semicircular ceramic parts were used to avoid corners between walls, ceilings and floors.
After again a breathtaking experience, we walked part of the ‘Modernisme Route’, from Plaça del Nen de les Oques to Plaça del Mercadal, where we would visit the Gaudi Centre and the cream of the crop Casa Navàs.
The Gaudi Centre is a small touch & feel museum where Gaudí’s philosophy and work is explained by means of maquettes, photo’s, films etc. A nice way to get some insight without having to read all the books.
Our guide at Casa Navàs was one of the owners of the building, a descendant of Joaquim Navàs Padró. Navàs had commissioned Lluís Domènech i Montaner to build him a house with a shop on the ground floor. What is probably most significant here, is the fact that Navàs gave Domènech carte blanche with the commission. “Do what ever you like.” And that is what Domènech has exactly done! Room after room, the splendour just doesn’t end. We were not allowed to take pictures inside the house, and maybe that was a good thing. Otherwise we would still be taking pictures…
Pictures in the verstibule were allowed. Impressive, isn’t it? And that’s just the entrance of the house!
Fortunately for you, I have a friend who visited Casa Navàs some 15 years ago. He managed to take some old-fashioned photo’s. You know what I mean, with negatives, printed on photographic paper. Valentí scanned his photo’s for me so that I can show you at least some of the pomp and circumstance that Domènech and his talented workforce bestowed upon us.
Most of the interior decorating was done by the legendary Gaspar Homar (1870-1953), who was one of the finest craftsmen of Catalan Art Nouveau. If you would like to see more interior photo’s, there are some really nice ones circling the web which I’ve collected on Pinterest.
For lunch we were feasted on delicious tapas and a Vermut tasting. And then, off to Tarragona for another guided tour. Now Tarragona is really nice, and our guides were rightly proud of their city. But compared to what we had already seen, it didn’t do it for me. Most beautiful Art Nouveau object we saw in Tarragona was probably the tomb Lluís Domènech i Montaner made for king James in 1908. It is currently on display inside the city hall as it was never actually used.
Back in Barcelona some of us decided to have a drink at the Palau de la Música Catalana in order to end the day in style. But then, it was really over. A fantastic week had come to an end.
I have enjoyed being part of the group and part of the II coupDefouet International Congress tremendously and all that is left for me is to recommend this congress to anyone who is interested in Art Nouveau. The team that organizes this congress does everything in their power to make you feel welcome and to make your participation unforgettable. If you add up all the entrance tickets, guided tours, meals and concerts, you end way higher than the registration fee for the congress. And don’t forget the invaluable contacts you’ll make. From all over the world Art Nouveau lovers gather here to tell about their latest discoveries, about the projects they are working on or places they have visited.
Thank you Mireia Freixa, thank you Lluís Bosch and thank you to all the other wonderful people who made this II coupDefouet Congress unforgettable for me!
II coupDefouet International Congress
Especialistes en l’Art Nouveau europeu faran la Ruta Modernista de Reus
Gaudi Centre Reus
Un grup de participants al Congrés Internacional Coup de Fouet visiten Reus
Restaurant Vermut Rofes
After this trip I have produced a 2016 Calendar with some of my photo’s of Gaudí’s beautiful architecture. You can see, and order my calendar when you click here.