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The New York Attraction Hotel

This interesting project, never carried out, remained completely unknown till 1956, after many years of indifference -even hostility- towards Gaudi's works. First of all it is necessary to dwell on the figure of the sculptor and gaudinist Juan Matamala Flotats (1893-1977), who divulged this project, the son of the sculptor Lorenzo Matamala Piñol (1856-1927), who married the daughter of the sculptor Juan Flotats.

Juan Matamala started working in the Sagrada Familia workshop in his youth an made the well known Gaudí bust in 1925 and also made his death mask. He gave valuable first hand data for Gaudí's scholars. Matamala tells how, in may 1908, two North American businessmen visited the Sagrada Familia workshop (and also the works at Casa Milà, Park Güell, apart from the Güell Palace, and, previously to their trip to Barcelona, the Mallorca cathedral) to commission him a singular building: the Attraction Hotel. Gaudí had even planned to travel regularly to New York to survey the works, just what he did with the restoration of Mallorca cathedral. Unfortunately we don't know two capital things: the two commissioners names and the reason why the hotel was never built. A reasonable answer for the second question may be that the fact of erecting a building 360 metres high in 1908!, when there weren't in New York any buildings with those dimensions, it should have been a very expensive enterprise. The hotel consisted in a higher central core with the shape of a revolving paraboloid crowned by a star, that was flanked at the cardinal points by four lesser buildings intended to be museums, art galleries and concert halls, and being very similar to the Milá House façade, that was being built at that time. Five large superimposed dining rooms were intended, some 70-85 metres high, that would represent the five Continents. The first one, in the first floor, was dedicated to America. The building was crowned by the Homage to America room, that was 125 metres high, namely one third of the total height of the hotel.


This script, written in 1956, 30 years after Gaudí's death consists in the following parts:

1) Introduction
2) Biographical notes
3) Description of the building
4) Notes
5) Illustrations index

Matamala tested his memory concerning with facts that happened 48 years ago, when he was only 15 years old with many data that at that time were not regarded important or that deserved not to be remembered (such as the commissioners names), or given that his understandable inexperience, especially for the draughts, even more for a non-architect. It is a crucial fact, that must be kept in mind when we analise the material contained in the report. It is precisely because of this reason that we may classify all the adjoining graphics in two groups: the drawings by Matamala's hand and others that aren't, that is the artist's drawings and others being neatly architectural that couldn't at all been drawn by him,as he lacked the necessary training required, for instance the ground plans, sections and some sketched wiews of the hotel.

It is very suspicious that those architectural plans employ the catenary profile, and that with the first scientific study of the hotel project a funicular or hanging chain model has been made, that wholly predetermines all the shapes appearing in the drawings.
So we can discard Matamala as being the sole authorship -or even the invention, as some maliciously suggest- of the whole drawings, then we can certainly speak of another author, an architect, probably Gaudí.

Matamala couldn't invent anything starting from zero, having no architectonic training, such a technical feature and even scarcely used by the very architects, excepting Gaudí, to whom we may soundly make the attribution of the project (Let's remember that Matamala collaborated with Gaudí from his youth in the Sagrada Familia workshop and it's very reasonable that he could be aware of the hotel project).

Despite the mysteries that surround the genesis and failure of this singular building, we can add a new very actual item -for being very recent- the Royal Gaudí Chair has offered Mr. John Garvin, the head of the commission charged to rebuild the so called Zero Zone of Manhattan, after the terrible facts of the late September, 11th, 2001, the news of the offering of collaboration for the possible building of the Attraction Hotel there, as a proper memorial for the victims of that terrible day, and by Antonio Gaudí. We should remark that the answer to that letter arrived only eight days after it was posted. After all the time gone since its design (nearly a hundred years) this building is still worth and it is even revolutionary nowadays -and neatly modern- in many ways -it is even higher than the beautiful and chronologically later, the Empire State Building, that has recovered the rank of being the highest building of the city- and Gaudí always deserves, especially nowadays, having a second chance.