The Barcelona Polytechnic, which offered architectural studies as well as other artistic and technical disciplines, was founded in September 1869 and closed its doors in August 1870. Despite being short-lived, it became a precedent for the Higher School of Architecture that opened in 1871, and the teachers came from the School of Master Builders, under the direction of Elies Rogent i Amat. The school was under the tutelage of the Barcelona Fine Arts Academy (now the Royal Catalan Academy of Fine Arts of Sant Jordi), and was housed in the Llotja (stock-exchange) building.
The New Special School of Architecture moved to the rooms in the new university building in 1874 and, one year later, its qualifications were finally recognised as equivalent to those awarded by the Madrid School of Architecture.
In 1875 Domènech i Montaner joined the staff as an acting professor, along with his friend and associate Josep Vilaseca. He also accepted the position of secretary. His first subjects would be Topography and Mineralogy, and Applied Chemistry. In 1877, following directives of the Madrid curriculum, these subjects were renamed Physical Natural Sciences Applied to the Architecture and Ventilation of Buildings. Documents have been preserved of the programme drawn up by Domènech describing the most advanced technical characteristics of the moment to be considered in architecture, which he himself applied throughout his professional career: acoustics, natural and artificial light, telegraphy, heating, ventilation, water supply, sewage, etc.
In1884 Domènech applied for the position of professor of Materials and Applications of Physical Natural Sciences to Architecture at the Madrid School of Architecture, but was unsuccessful.
In 1897 he began to teach second and third year courses in Barcelona, replacing Elies Rogent who was on sick leave. From 1875 to1899, when he was appointed tenured Professor of Theory and Composition of Buildings, Domènech continued to occupy the position of acting professor due to bureaucratic problems between the Provincial Government of Barcelona and the central government.
In 1900 he was appointed director of the school, replacing Joan Torras, although having won the election with the right-wing Lliga de Catalunya (League of Catalonia) he had become a member of parliament in Madrid and was unable to occupy both positions. He gave the post up and between 1901 and 1904 was replaced by Joan Torras. Once his political career concluded, Domènech returned to his position as director of the school, where he remained until he retired. During those years he stamped his own personality on the school, that was renamed School of Barcelona, defining an educational project from the fields of architectural studies and professional architectural practice, as Otto Wagner had done in Vienna and Berlage had done in Amsterdam.
TRAVELS IN SEARCH OF THE ROMANESQUE
Following the principles he had been taught at the School of Madrid and in keeping with the trends of the time, Domènech organised field trips to enhance students’ experiences. The history of architecture provided the theoretical knowledge that was subsequently applied to professional projects. Knowledge wasn’t only generated by visits, but was complemented by surveys, drawings, photographs, descriptive cards, etc., and Domènech in particular devoted himself to the study of mediaeval Catalan architecture. Between 1901 and 1905 he organised the trips with his students (and his colleague Gallissà), with whom he travelled through Catalonia and the south of France. His intention was to publish a study on the Catalan Romanesque, which finally didn’t see the light as Puig i Cadafalch was preparing his own study, Arquitectura romànica a Catalunya, published between 1909 and 1918, under the guidelines of the Institute of Catalan Studies (IEC, for its initials in Catalan). Publication of the research that Domènech had undertaken until then was postponed.
The Central Society (now known as the Higher Council of Architectural Colleges of Spain) decided to organise an architecture exhibition, disassociating itself from the previous shows in which the discipline was merely a section within the Fine Arts exhibitions. The idea was to display the work that had won the architectural design competition organised by the Spanish Society of Friends of the Arts alongside works by architects and architecture schools. The Spanish Ministry of Education commissioned Domènech to select the designs that would represent the School of Barcelona at the 1911 exhibition. His choice reflected his open-mindedness as the projects displayed – some of them by future famous architects such as Eusebi Bona or F. de P. Nebot – represented a range of styles foreign to his personality.
In 1916 the Salon held another exhibition in Madrid. A number of participants were from the Barcelona School, who did not only display their final-year projects but also exercices of replicas of architectural details, clay models, constructions, rational mechanics, flora and fauna, alongside the works resulting from the field trips to Poblet, Valencia and Tarragona.
Domènech i Montaner retired in September 1920. In a touching note, the Board of Professors, represented by his successor in the position, Joaquim Bassegoda i Amigó, named him Honorary Director of the school (which granted him voice and vote in the faculty), distinguished professor and designate teacher.
Domènech i Montaner es va jubilar el setembre de1920. En una emotiva nota, la Junta de Professors, representada pel seu successor en el càrrec Joaquim Bassegoda i Amigó, el nomenen “Director Honorari” de l’Escola, amb veu i vot en el Claustre, insigne catedràtic i professor electe.