Work during week 50 was relatively uneventful, or at least nothing of note that makes this record. Another ordinary week, more or less: meetings, processing results, but it ended with a short visit to Barcelona to work on a book with my co-editor, Mary Louise. The book stems from the ICLHE Conference last April. Mary Louise has chosen a magnificent venue for our meeting, the Casa Fuster, a hotel, an architectural gem from the Catalan architect, Lluis Domènech I Montaner.
I had first come across his work in the 1990s when I attended conferences at Canet de Mar, one of those rare coastal towns that had not taken the tourist route. It had almost no hotels, no beach cafes, nothing to attract the hordes of northern sunlovers: the locals had kept it for themselves. And I gather it has more or less remained so.Canet de Mar is where Domènech i Montaner lived and worked for many years: his mother came from the town. His office Casa Domènech i Montaner is now a museum, and the town has more than a score of buildings he designed, some very functional, but some quite ornate in modernist style. Back in the 1990s I went up to the castle Castell de Santa Florentina, which Domènech i Montaner had redesigned for his uncle the owner. Unfortunately, it was closed – no visitors allowed, although I think that policy has changed now. The building is classed as ‘pre-modernista’ even though he was working on it during his Modernist heyday. When Eva and I stayed in Canet in the mid-1990s, we were most impressed with Domènech i Montaner’s architectural wonders that we devoted our second trip to Barcelona to visit his buildings there, to add to Gaudi’s that we’d ‘done’ on our previous visit. Unfortunately the pictures we took then seem to have temporarily vanished. The Casa Fuster was reported to have been the most expensive building in Barcelona when it was constructed in 1911. Noticeable in many of his buildings are the cylindrical corner towers, often only one it seems. The Palau de la Música Catalana, which was built in 1905-1908, is Domènech i Montaner’s masterpiece. It must be one of the most magnificent concert halls in the world. Everywhere you look, even the tiniest detail, you are in for an ocular journey of delightful discovery. When Eva and I visited nearly 20 years ago, it was closed: since then, innovative architectural additions have opened up the façade, enclosing it in a spectacular glass window screen.
It was a delight to hear extracts of Handel’s Messiah by the Orquestra Simfònica de Vallès and the Cor Lieder Càmera, with Ximena Agurto, soprano, and Xavier Mendoza, baritone, with children from eight local primary schools. The logistics of shepherding the children were superbly managed. It did not matter that every now and then a parent’s other tinier offspring in the audience burst into howls of tears. Quite a difference from an otherwise routine week at the university.