Josep M. Jujol

With architecture and meaning drifting apart - believe it or not - this little volume comes as a message from another more enlightened world. It was to have appeared in 1979 for the hundredth anniversary of Jujol's birth, but no publisher could be found willing to take the risk - not even in Barcelona. The authors had everything ready: texts, plans, diagrams, their own photographs and layout. Since this first pioneering effort floundered several attractive books on Jujol are available. What makes the present one, which is a modest version of the one the authors originally intended, so timely and gratifying, is due to what the authors bring to bear about their singularly endowed subject and, indirectly, why his work is so relevant today. In fact the opening paragraphs put the reader on the right track straight away: In Jujol's world a detail's scope reaches beyond its actual size! Expanding on this pivotal statement the authors tell us that Jujol the architect made spaces in accordance with their use, whilst Jujol the painter bestowed upon them from unexpected moods. His decorations, we read, impart an ambiguous dimension, thus escaping from their usual isolation. In other words, Jujol's decorations are not merely something added which could just as well, or better, be subtracted (Loos-Oud), but a vital spatial ingredient. Such decorations are infact elaborations which strengthen the physical place-quality of the spaces made refining their appreciated human context. Jujol thus literally prepared his spaces for human use - still, after all, the architects primary job. How painfully different, this, when contrasted with the current sick wish to minimise the value of architectural detail and belittle attention for place-quality on the grounds that this detracts - from the 'big' central concept. Bigness, the latest magic word, is even expected to render architecture no longer necessary - obsolete. The obvious truth, of course, points to the exact opposite and is one which Jujol in particular substantiated so well: that only through architecture can oversize be successfully tamed - humanised. Architects are obliged to subdue Bigness (whatever it means) - gigantism and oversize. That too is their specific job.

Did Jujol drop those plates in order to put them together again over the curved surfaces of the world's most beautiful public seat? With this question the authors, at any rate, introduce the notion of a more inclusive -- 'surrealist' they call it -- rational; one which Jujol drew upon continually in one way or another. The solutions he came up with are as startling as they are ingenious; the result of what I like to call 'hendecagonic' thinking -- the unexpected efficacy of the unusual.

Little did we know that it was Jujol who had contributed such astonishing elaborations to some of Gaudi's masterpieces. The authors make it quite clear that Jujol was no minor Gaudi, but a small giant next to a large one -- an appropriate paradox about relative seize!

Aldo van Eyck