The other Domènech i Montaner
Domènech i Montaner was one of the leading practitioners of Catalan Art Nouveau architecture along with Antoni Gaudí and Josep Puig i Cadafalch. He also had many other lesser-known aspects which make him into an intriguing many-sided person.
He was additionally a great populariser of Romanesque art, a lecturer at the School of Architecture and a prominent politician of his time. He helped to found the Catalanist Union, which he chaired in 1892 with Enric Prat de la Riba as secretary, and was also a Member of the Spanish Parliament.
His engagement in the cultural Catalanism of the period led him to chair the Council of the Floral Games poetry competition in 1895 and he was a member of the Ateneu Barcelonès, which he also led for seven years
Architecture informed by insight
His biographer says that Domènech i Montaner thought that buildings such as the Alhambra in Granada and the Sainte-Chapelle in Paris were the finest in the world. His persistence and perfectionism led him to embark on a long journey around Europe to learn about the latest innovations in hospitals before starting the Hospital de Sant Pau design project. The idea of dividing the facility into several independent wings to prevent the spread of infectious diseases came out of this journey.
A great lover of history and an expert in heraldry, the architect drew on his knowledge to decorate his buildings. He designed the mosaic adorning the sides of the Administration Pavilion and the coats of arms of the Sant Pau Art Nouveau Site.
Fully engaged in his work
The period between 1897 and 1910 was extremely stressful for Domènech i Montaner as during this time he combined the construction of the Hospital de Sant Pau, the Palau de la Música Catalana and the Fonda Espanya while also designing the Lleó Morera, Thomas, Fuster and Navàs houses along with other schemes. As a result his doctors advised him to steer clear of any tense situations to avoid another heart attack. The architect admitted this in a letter to the president of the Orfeó Català.
Domènech i Montaner’s inescapable commitment to his work is also evident in this story: whenever he took the train from Barcelona to Canet de Mar in summer, he always travelled second class so as not to meet anyone he knew which meant he could use the journey time to work. He often made the trip between the two places as both his mother’s family and his wife were from Canet and they spent long periods in this town in el Maresme.