On October 17, 2012, anniversary of the birth of Josep Puig i Cadafalch, a new association was also born, devoted to disseminating knowledge about the life and work of this illustrious Catalan and native of Mataró. This is the Association of Friends of Josep Puig i Cadafalch, designed with the clear intention of spreading its task throughout Catalonia and beyond.
We believe that the figure of Puig i Cadafalch has not yet received the appreciation he deserves in the different spheres in which he worked and that, to simplify, we could summarize in three: politician, architect, and scientist and historian.
Puig never considered himself a vocational politician, although he did work in this field with unquestionable effectiveness and transcendence.
The figure of Prat de la Riba, so important and close, has likely hampered the valuation of Puig—his right-hand in all matters related to public works, culture and urban planning.
When Prat de la Riba died in 1917, Puig i Cadafalch was chosen to replace him as head of the Commonwealth. He will be re-elected three times, the last two with an overwhelming majority, and will have the opportunity to carry out the project designed by Prat. In fact, the majority of the Commonwealth’s actions took place during the six-year period of his mandate, until the coup of Primo de Ribera in 1923. It seems clear that Prat created the instrument and that Puig consolidated it, made it grow and made it work comprehensively.
The work of the government of Prat should be known as the work of Prat and Puig because, in reality, they are inseparable. Both were in love with Catalonia and possessed an extraordinary capacity for work.
Together they combined the best advantages of good judgement and impulsiveness [what is known in Catalan as seny i rauxa]. The results were of such magnitude that today, in many respects, we still live on the foundations and the infrastructures that the Commonwealth initiated.
Puig i Cadafalch—the architect—is better known and appreciated, something quite difficult being so close to his teacher Domènech i Muntaner and to the figure of Gaudí. Yet, his works are out there for all to see, many of them well restored and in the hands of cultural entities that strive to make them known.
It is of great interest to delve into the mixture and reuse of diverse architectural styles that are present, simultaneously or in stages, in his work. His passion for the medieval world—inseparable, historically, as much for him as for Domènech i Muntaner, from the rebirth of the Catalan homeland—and at the same time his great sense of European culture, would lead him to use the Gothic and Mudejar repertoires, Modernism itself, Noucentisme and even influences from the Netherlands or from the Vienna Secession.
Less well known, on the other hand, is his great task as urban planner, mainly in Barcelona.
His written work is extensive but, above all, fundamental and of reference in the corresponding fields and at the international level. The best known, undoubtedly, is Romanesque architecture in Catalonia. Puig i Cadafalch participated in numerous international congresses, contributing his research, as well as teaching in several foreign universities. All this was rewarded by being named Doctor Honoris Causa by Sorbonne, Harvard and Freiburg universities, among others.
His activity at the Institute of Catalan Studies—which he helped create—either as President, after 1942, and as head of the History and Archaeology Section, from 1950 until his death, could summarize and symbolize his great contribution to Catalan culture.
A wealth of articles, drawings, unpublished professional writings and written material from the time of the Commonwealth are preserved in the National Archive of Catalonia. Puig had the lucidity to save them, hiding them in his home in Barcelona, when the history of Catalonia took a dangerous turn in 1923.
Puig’s legacy is, thus, as large as it is multifaceted.
The Association of Friends of Puig i Cadafalch seeks to contribute to the study and dissemination of all these aspects, addressing both the world of culture, strictly speaking, as well as the general public and young people in schools in particular.
Esteve Mach Bosch