Sergio Fuentes Milà: "Thanks to Jujol, Gaudí's work is more colourful, explosive and imaginative"

The Faculty of Humanities lecturer is the co-curator of the exhibition Jujol, la arquitectura del color, on view at Palau Güell

This is the principal exhibition of “140 years of Jujol” an initiative of Sant Joan Despí City Council, aimed at disseminating the artistic legacy of Josep Maria Jujol. What remains of Jujol, 70 years after his death?

His magic, his colour, his imagination, in exemplary works. The ability to dream is what I believe remains of him in Catalan architecture. 

The exhibition is divided into five areas that seek to bring us closer to the architect’s creative genius. What features of Jujol’s work make it so unique?

The first feature I would highlight - and which we have used to structure this exhibition - is colour. Colour illustrates Josep Maria Jujol’s ability to imagine and create new worlds very nicely. Then there is his ability to come up with inventions and mechanisms, entirely of his own creation, that have great functional sense. In particular, his furnishings and accessories for architecture.

Is it the use of colour that distinguishes him from his contemporaries?    

I think so, together with shape. In fact, colour ends up being a determining factor in Jujol’s contributions to the work of Gaudí. Scholars such as Joan Bassegoda i Nonell noted this: there is a change in Gaudí‘s path after Jujol joins him as an associate. From that time on, Gaudí’s work is also more colourful, more explosive and more imaginative. And that is thanks to Jujol. 

Of all the items in the exhibition, which do you think are of greatest interest? 

I always like to highlight the interior elevation of Casa Milà, La Pedrera, which seems to me a very interesting, because it illustrates Jujol’s contributions to Gaudí and, moreover, until now it had only been exhibited at the Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya. In the elevation, which was never implemented, you can see the furniture, entirely invented and original, and also the importance of colour. 

I would also highlight the selection of works we have made of those from Pere Mañach’s collection, one of Jujol’s most important patrons, in particular, the beauty and almost futuristic nature of the inkwell that Jujol designed ad hoc for the businessman.

The third element I would pick out are the lamps from the Mas Carreras Chapel, which, since they were originally installed, had never been moved, and which can now be seen in this exhibition.  

© Archivo Jujol - Interior elevation of Casa Milà, La Pedrera by Jujol

The analysis of the life and work of Jujol always appears connected, in some way, to his relationship with Antoni Gaudí. Is Jujol still regarded as a disciple of Gaudí? 

For some historians he is, whereas for us, curators of this exposition, we are convinced he was not. We believe that Jujol was not, at any time, a disciple of Gaudí. Rather, he was an associate, in fact one of the leading associates, of Gaudí. 

In this sense, what differences can be noted between the creative universe of Jujol and that of Gaudi? 

Jujol used colour much more freely than Gaudí. And where Gaudí used colour in his work, it was always based on Jujol’s (often eccentric) ideas. An example would be the facade of Casa Batlló or, the most strange and bizarre of all, that of the Cathedral of Mallorca. On the other hand, in my view, Jujol does not have the same mastery of structures as Gaudí. He is more imaginative and more theatrical, able to create atmospheres and imaginary worlds on the basis of colour and form, but less so great architectural structures. 

Do you think that there might be a kind of “Jujol effect”, similar to that surrounding the figure of Gaudí, if his work starts to be better known? 

Categorically, yes. And we must always remember: if you don't give visibility to a character and their work, they fall into anonymity and into oblivion. I think you have to run that risk. 

© Sergio Fuentes - One of the lamps from the Mas Carreras Chapel

Jujol, as well as Gaudí, conceived architectural projects as a whole, and took on the whole commission from the construction itself to the design of furniture, decorative elements, frescos, etc. Do you think that, nowadays, the “total architect” role has been lost?

It has always been said that these two architects have a concept of architecture as "total art." And it is true they did everything: furniture, painting, design of the ceilings, structures, spaces, etc. But they were not the only ones. In fact, in Catalonia, this was usual among the more eclectic architects in the late 19th century. In other words, it’s not a feature exclusive to Gaudí and then to Jujol. Having said that, I do think that nowadays architects have ceased to conceive the “everything” in their projects. I think it is something that has been lost.  

In your view, what aspects of Jujol's work show the enduring contemporary nature of the great geniuses of architecture?

What makes Jujol different, and therefore enduring over time, is his boundless originality. But that said, it’s also important to note that Jujol also adapted to the commissions he had. In other words, we do not have to conceive Jujol as a person who is only “boundless” and in pursuit of this extreme originality, but who is also an adaptable person, as all architects are and ought to be. 

Do you think that Jujol still has any surprises in store for us?

I think so. Despite the fact that a lot has been studied, from the 80s to date - and now even more with “140 years of Jujol” - I believe we will come across a lot of new work and ideas that are his. In particular, I anticipate unrealised projects of his may come to light, which will bring us to value Jujol's boundless creativity even more highly.