Òpera Prima. Overlapping condition. [Jujol without prompter] | Arnau Tiñena

A landscape to be invented, to petrify the gravity, to stretch the space of a plot, to splash with light a wall, to turn the city to enter to the theatre … everything in an instant, a slow and alive instant, an instant out of the time.

A brief instant that is expanded without end, a process always unfinished … Architecture of intuitive, fresh gestures, of floating ideas executed in situ that transform constant … mutate, play, are exchanged, there are mixed … collections of frozen occurrences, catalogues of spots, colors and holes, whirlpools of formless energies.

The first work of an architect who starts sailing in solitarily.

The ideas seem not to exist, Jujol seems to project for overlapping, for accumulation of episodes… It is not possible to do a linear reading of the project, we do not find a concept that guides his development … it is the direct relation between a man and the manipulation of the matter. Jujol operates for overlapping of contradictory conditions to exploit the contrasts and to find the only and peculiar situations: Rapid and slow, enormous and insignificant, solid and liquid (and at some time gaseous), in three possible acts of the same prime opera: Time, space, matter in the transformation of the Theatre of the Working Patronage of Tarragona, known from 1930 like Theatre Metropol.

1st ACT

Jujol left his natal Tarragona, where it was born in 1879, and moved to Barcelona in 1886, where it initiated his studies of architecture in 1901. His skill in the drawing opened the doors him to work with big architects of the moment as Gallissà, from 1901, Font and Gumà, from 1903, and Gaudí, from 1906, (I joust the year in which it was obtaining the architect’s title), with whom it never stopped working. Jujol would initiate his trip in solitarily on 1908, arranging the collaborations with his own works. A trip that would gravitate between the Camp of Tarragona, the territory that saw it to be born, and Barcelona, the city where it studied and initiated the professional activity.

It was the same year when Jujol received, in plenary session he debates between supporters and detractors, the order of the working Patronage of Tarragona, which at the time concerned in the associative denominational network, of constructing a theatre in the lot that was occupying the garden of his social place placed in the number 46 of the Ravine Nongoes of Tarragona. The project had been proposed initially to Gaudí, probably to request Francesc Vidal and Barraquer, ecclesiastic district attorney at the time of the archbishopric, by the intention of ” raising the cultural standard, morally and religiously of the workers “. Gaudí yielded the order to a young person Jujol, who after two years of intense collaborations, had gained his confidence himself.

The project of the theatre Metropol begins in 1908, but the strong opposition of a sector of the Patronage impedes his ending. The life of the theatre will not be simple, it experiences continuous demolitions and transformations… The bombs of the pro-Franco army during the civil war and a series of reforms for the conversion of the theatre in cinema in 1939 spoilt the magic of Jujol’s plastic delirium, that there was not recovered up to the curosa Josep Llinàs’s intervention, very entered the nineties, in an archeologist’s exercise surgeon who deserved a prize FAD in 1996.

And it is that Jujol’s works move habitually in the comfort of the elastic time that stretches and contracts, hastens and moves back. They expand in the time, develop and are constructed slowly, transform, degenerate, are perverted and recover, but simultaneously they manage to preserve the immediacy and the fleetingness of the moment, the gesture of the hand that draws them and constructs them … something that Jujol will transmit and execute personally always in his architecture.

Gestures, traces, brands of the processes, unexpected opposing colors “in situ” flood obsessively ceilings, soils and walls, probably done in the silence of the night of a construction by half.

2nd ACT

To think this theatre as a project of overlappings… Arrhythmic and fragmented, conceived as a system of aggregations … the coherence, finally, comes in last term, if it is that it has to come. A set of crossed, alive ideas, which still today continue crossing and mixing to form diverse, autonomous atmospheres … the just and necessary thing in every moment, without prejudices or comities. Is everything possible, why not?

This inclusive attitude, sumatoria, that some of them have wanted to separate from the trend to Gaudí’s continuity, more worried by the formal homogeneity of the projects, allows to understand the Theatre as a set of small projects, small scenes that Jujol weaves and juxtaposes … the room, the access, the court, the stairs, the ceilings, the windows …. every element deserves to be rethought. The spaces and the elements clash, sometimes they are contradictory and sometimes they coexist, it is not important. Some are trodden to others, are pushed and fight for the light … Given the small dimension of the lot, The project of the Theatre Metropol is an exercise of introversion, of exploration of the interior world, of recreation in the details, which far from being mere decorative strategies, are capable of organizing the space and of restructuring the systems of forces multiplicacando the physical space of the accesses and the principal room.

The small room is an ovum prepared to be fertilized by the spectators, that, acceding from the Ravine It Nongoes, they cross a complex and narrow tangential way occasionally bathed by the light of an interior court, which today is the terrace of the cafeteria of the theatre. This ceremonial walk before the spectacle is the most intense point of the project and develops in different platforms to several levels, which they lead to orchestra and amphitheatres.

Dynamic space and movement, probably a project conceived from flows … spectators like water currents… Lightness, fragility, transparency and light … soaked deep rails, light stairs, metallic explicit structure, perforated and visual walls to expand the space.

3rd ACT

Though it is true that inherits a certain visual and methodological baggage of his first teachers, and it is not possible to understand Jujol without Gaudí, Gallissà, and Font Gumà, and without Ruskin, Horta or Olbrich, and without the visit to the baroque churches of Rome or his deep faith it christens and his rooting to the Field of Tarragona, Jujol is, over everything, a lover of the matter.

Any material is an opportunity. Jujol multiplies his range of possibilities undressing them of his significant habitual ones to find his vital content. To recycle, to re-use… It joins Them, doubles them, cuts them away, joins them, pierces them … in plastic operations nearer to Tristan Tzara’s fragmented writing, or to the actions of Dubuffet, Matta Clark, Pollock or Duschamp.

The slogan is always to include, always to adhere, to never reject.

Contact of the body with the surfaces, calligraphies and tracks that despliegan on the epidermis of objects that they find like in a chance way in a holiday of disguises … waves, fish, shells, probably a building under the water… The matter takes life and transforms, the ceilings fall apart, the painting slips and the stone becomes liquid…

To leave space at random and to the first intuitions… Jujol gets confused, turns aside and amuses itself. It confronts every problem of a local and referential way … a banister, a step, a bank, a handle…

To return to see the things as if we saw them for the first time. To invent.

Many consider to be the Theatre Metropol that first work that contains the genetic sequence of good part of his later work. In the Metropol there is a fragment of Manyac, of the Tower of the Creu, of Bofarull, of Negre, of Planelles … and also of Batlló, Milà and Güell… A made project of many projects … a beginning of many ends.

Arnau Tiñena. architect
barcelona. april,2012

– C. Flores, J.M. Jujol, J.F. Ràfols. La arquitectura de J.M, Jujol. Archivo histórico de urbanismo y diseño.  Publicaciones del coac. 1974.
– Montserrat Duran y Albareda. Josep M. Jujol, la Arquitectura escondida. Ed. Meteora. 2003.
– Asociación catalana de arquitectas. Josep Maria Jujol, arquitecto. 1879-1979. Colegio de arquitectos de Cataluña. 1989.
– Ignasi de Solà Morales. Jujol. Ed. Polígrafa. 1990.

Arnau Tiñena Ramos

Arquitecto por la ETSAB-UPC, Escola Tècnica Superior d’arquitectura de Barcelona, licenciado con Matrícula de Honor el 2010. Master de Investigación y doctorado en urbanismo, ETSAB-UPC, 2010-actualidad. Profesor ayudante urbanismo ETSAB, 2013. Estudios de arquitectura y urbanismo en Fakulteta za arhitekturo, Ljubljana, 2009. Premio en categoría de vivienda VIII Mostra d’Arquitectura del Camp de Tarragona.

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