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Esquina fachada principal

Detalle ornamental de la fachada principal

Vidriera emplomada de la escalera principal

Detalle de la barandilla de la escalera

Fachada trasera

Vista de la torre lateral com palmera

Detalle palmera


Esther is a friend and an active member fo our Club. Thank you for your text and photos, Esther!!!



The Longoria Palace: a Gaudí's Work in Madrid?

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 celebrated architect.
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 Retiro park.
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 man.
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 out.
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 usual.
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.
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.

Esther S. Ayuso


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