Imprescindibles. Josep Lluís Sert: a nomadic dream

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Josep Lluís Sert was the first Spanish architect of international reputation.

“Apostle of the rationalism in Spain”.

Apostle of the rationalism in Spain and Dean of the Faculty of Harvard’s Architecture during almost two decades, Sert was also a man full of contradictions. A rebellious spirit. Free verse in a world dominated by the copy and the reproduction seriada.

Architect of forefront.

“As all the exiles, it was a vitalist of sad spirit”.

Member of a known aristocratic family and out-standing republican militant, Sert had the presumption of being an architect of forefront in a country where it was governing the most absolute aesthetic conservatism.

It was catholic and libertarian. It was also, as all the exiles, a vitalist of sad spirit, a craftsman of the common sense to whom he had to live in an extreme world.

From the exile to the world prestige.

He travelled, emigrated, fled. It sheltered where it could: Paris, Havana, New York and finally Boston.

Son of the count of Sert and nephew in the second degree of the first Marquess of Inverted commas, Josep Lluís had to hide in The United States after the Civil war.

And there it was capable of reconstructing a professional career that led him to turning into one of the most important architects of his generation.

“One of the most important architects of his generation”.

Sert opened doors, I cultivate friendship and it represented Spain during decades in the most select circles of the contemporary architecture. A man, definitively, the one that only still has for fulfilling a dream…

“As many architects, in the bottom I am a painter”.1

How does idea arise?

The idea of doing a documentary on the figure of the architect Josep Lluís Sert arose for two motives. The first one was the need to claim the figure of a creator who, for diverse reasons, has stayed rather to the margin of the history of the Spanish architecture.

“Sert is an architect who enjoys a great popularity between the architects”.

It is evident that the exile has played an important paper in this sense, but he does not stop being a stranger that a figure like his enjoyment of such a limited recognition.

Sert is an architect who still enjoys today a great popularity between the architects, a professional an exciting life that, nevertheless, has never received the recognition that yes other illustrious exiles obtained in his day.

Architect and person.

What we are interested here, beyond his architecture, is his vital path. And because of it precisely the second motive is imposed.

“Sert shows an unusual indifference for the architecture”.

While it was shuffling the idea of doing this documentary there fell in my hands a qualified book Josep Lluís Sert. Conversations and writings. Places of meeting for the arts.

The book edited by Patricia Juncosa, is formed by a set of interviews in which Sert speaks on his relation with the art and with the artists.

It is a question of a book in which Sert shows an unusual indifference for the architecture, a set of texts in which there is listened the voice of an anxious man, with a certain conscience of the frame into which it had to fit his work.

“The history of an interior and exterior exile that consists of trying to harmonize two irreconcilable worlds”.

There the most human Sert is. And there there is the history that we want to count from the beginning: the history of a flight that never seems to finish, the history of an interior and exterior exile that consists of trying to harmonize two irreconcilable worlds.

One tells the history, definitively, that starts in an indeterminate moment of Sert’s childhood.

In Patricia Juncosa’s book there are several levels of reading. On the one hand there is the meticulous description of the problems that worried the Sert architect. But for other one also we can find the list of the topics that always claimed the attention of the humanist Sert.

In the book we see the anxious and meticulous adult, it is true, but also to the boy who was observing his uncle, the muralista Josep Maria Sert, and he was feeling a deep emotion.

1. “Like many architects, I’m a painter at heart.” Sert’s declarations in the article “A House Epitomizes a Way of Life” (Una casa personifica una forma de vida). Washington Post, on September 24, 1967.

By PABLO BUJOSA / IMPRESCINDIBLES.

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