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The museum and his building

The Building: a historical approach

Miquel Seguí AznarElvira González Gozalo

he Museu Fundación Juan March is housed in a stately seventeenthcentury mansion on Calle Sant Miquel, an important thoroughfare in the historic quarter of Palma. The building is popularly known as Can Gallard del Canyar after the family who occupied it until 1916, when it was purchased by the Fundación Juan March’s founder, Juan March Ordinas. The "modest dwelling Of the Gallard del Canyar" was rebuilt In the second third of the eighteenth century, when an adjoining building was added to the original house. In the nineteenth century two alterations were carried out. The first took place in the middle of the century, when the house was remodeled. The second reform dates from around 1897, when a few meters of the façade were expropriated from the owner, Josep Dezcallar i de Togores,1 in order to widen the street. 2.

View of the front courtyard (photo: Miquel Seguí)
View of the front courtyard (photo: Miquel Seguí)

In the twentieth century, Juan March, the mansion’s new owner, proceeded to refurbish the old building. The project was commissioned to the Majorcan architect Guillem Reynés Font.3 The purpose of this rehabilitation was to accommodate the family on the upper floors and to turn the ground floor into office space for March’s financial activities, which led to the establishment of Banca March in 1926, from which point on the building became the bank’s headquarters.

Reynés Font (1877−1918), son of master builder Gaspar Reynés Coll (1845−1911), began his studies in Barcelona and, following a fouryear period at Madrid´s School of Architecture, obtained his degree in 1905. He settled in Palma that same year and lived there until 1918, when he died from the influenza epidemic that spread across Europe following World War I. On the island of Majorca he worked both for the Civil Construction Services of the Provincial Council of the Balearic Islands and as a diocesan architect in Majorca and Ibiza. In addition, he worked on private commissions. At first these consisted of small assignments —simple housing structures and minor renovations for Palma’s middle class promoters. However, this line of work grew in importance as he received commissions from dealers, industrialists and businessmen, among whom was the financier Juan March.

On account of his having studied both in Madrid and Barcelona, Reynés Font combined two styles of architecture in vogue at the time: modernism and traditionalism. His early projects show the influence of professors such as Lluís Domènech i Montaner, from the Barcelona School of Architecture, and in particular Antoni Gaudí i Cornet and Joan Rubió i Bellver.4 His association with these architects may explain why he was initially inclined towards modernism. However, his relationship with Vicente Lampérez y Romea, professor at the Madrid School of Architecture, and the emergence of traditionalist ideas—which spread rapidly by way of publications, congresses, exhibitions and public competitions—soon drew him towards regionalism. In fact, Reynés Font participated in the competition La Casa Antigua Española [The Old Spanish House], organized by the Architecture Department of Madrid’s Círculo de Bellas Artes in 1913, in which he won Third Prize with his study on Can Solleric. According to the conditions of entry of the competition, the participants were to submit "a graphic description—along the lines of an artistic monograph—of historic, stately, Or manor houses of some importance, always beautiful And interesting buildings, found in villages And regions across Spain."5

View of the inner courtyard
skylight (photo: Miquel Seguí)
View of the inner courtyard skylight
(photo: Miquel Seguí)

Reynés Font worked tirelessly. Over a period of just thirteen years, spanning from 1905 to 1918, he produced a great deal of architectural, as well as intellectual, work. He was committed to very different fields—language, politics, heritage and history—and eventually became a prominent and acclaimed architect whose fame reached outside the Balearic Islands.

Juan March Ordinas (1880−1962) left his hometown of Santa Margalida (Majorca) in 1916 to settle in Palma, the capital of the Balearic Islands. Upon his arrival, he became acquainted with Reynés Font. The architect was then commissioned to renovate Can Gallard del Canyar, the building March had purchased to use as his residence in the capital. March also put Reynés Font in charge of a second project: a summer villa in Sa Torre Cega, on the coast of Capdepera, the birthplace of his wife Leonor Servera Melis. Reynés Font concluded both projects in 1916.

Construction work on Can Gallard del Canyar finished in 1917, as reflected in the press. Following Reynés Font’s death, architect Guillem Forteza carried out a smaller-scale modification focusing on Banca March’s office facilities, located on the ground floor, and the iron gate grille on Calle Confraria.6

The renovation work carried out by Reynés Font did not affect the building’s structure, as it centered on the roof and the stairway leading to the upper stories. In order to disguise the slant of the walls, Reynés Font roofed the front courtyard with an oval skylight. As for the main staircase, built in white marble, he followed the distinctive structure used customarily in the stately mansions of Palma. Nevertheless, significant alterations were made to the building’s layout by means of partition walls. The woodwork and the floors were completely restored; modern hygiene equipment, heating and kitchen facilities were installed; and the decorative elements were altered following both local and foreign traditions, such as the Louis XVI style.

As noted in previous studies, "the architect managed To imbue the building with an imposing, dignified, And elegant appearance, paying special attention to decorative detail."7 To this end, Reynés Font not only worked with a large team of technicians, construction operators, craftsmen and artists, but also collaborated with important workshops and local companies. Joan Juan Mezquida worked as technical architect and Antoni Jiménez Vidal was the draughtsman of the project. The Pedro Ávila workshop, based in Barcelona, made the plaster moldings for the walls and ceilings; Juncosa and Sacristá, the carpentry and tapestry; and Rigalt, Granell y Cía., the windows and skylights. Antonio Quintana’s Majorcan company supplied the tiles and other building material, while Miquel Rigo provided the ironwork for the staircase and windows. The decorative dining room paintings were commissioned to Catalan artist Darius Vilàs, and Faust Morell executed the living room paintings. Sebastià Alcover was in charge of the sculptures of the façade on Calle Confraria, while Gabriel Moragues executed those in the inner courtyard. Finally, Lluís Bru Salelles designed the decorative mosaic tiles for the floors and flowerpots.

Detail Of the inner
courtyard mosaic by Lluís Bru (photo: Miquel Seguí)
Detail Of the inner courtyard mosaic by Lluís Bru (photo: Miquel Seguí

Bru Salelles was a decorator and mosaic manufacturer from Valencia who specialized in Roman, Venetian and ceramic style mosaics for pavements and murals. He had many years of experience in the craft, having carried out most of his work in Catalonia, where he worked for modernist architects Lluís Domènech i Montaner and Josep Puig i Cadafalch, and he collaborated with Reynés Font on the restoration of a chapel at La Sang de Palma church. He subsequently worked under Luis Gutiérrez Soto on the March Palace on Calle Conqueridor.

The following passage illustrates the close relationship Reynés Font established with his contributors. The subject of this letter, written by painter Darius Vilàs in Barcelona in 1916 and addressed to Reynés Font, was the execution of the dining room frieze for the March Palace. The letter illustrates how Vilàs conceived the iconographic program and informs Reynés Font of the delivery of a set of decorative drawings that would later come together in a single design. The building, whose remodeling under Reynés Font relied on the close collaboration of craftsmen, decorators and artists, has undergone further alterations over the years. The most significant of these took place in 1990, when it was reconditioned to house the Fundación Juan March’s collection of Spanish contemporary art. On this occasion, the entire structure was modified, with the exception of the inner courtyard and the staircase, the rooms on the ground floor—which continue to house the offices of the first branch of Banca March—the façades and the roofs. Between 1996 and 2003 further reform work was carried out to accommodate new exhibition halls as well as spaces destined for other uses.7

1 Josep Dezcallar i de Togores inherited the building from his grandmother, Manuela Gallard del Canyar i Ceruti.

2 See Donald G. Murray and Aina Pascual, La casa y el tiempo: interiores señoriales de Palma (Palma: José J. de Olañeta Editor, 1999), p. 211.

3 See Miquel Seguí Aznar, Elvira González Gozalo and Guillem Reynés Corbella, Guillem Reynés i Font: una trayectoria interrumpida, 2 vols. (Palma: Guillem Reynés Corbella, 2008).

4 Reynés Font would later work alongside both of them on the restoration of the Palma Cathedral, a project promoted by Bishop Pere Joan Campins in the early-twentieth century.

5 See Miquel Seguí Aznar, op. cit., p. 71, note 44.

6 See Bodas de plata profesionales del arquitecto Guillermo Corteza (Palma: Imprenta Viuda de Soler Prats, 1941), p. 12.

7 See Donald G. Murray, op. cit., p. 211.

8 We wish to express our gratitude to Guillem Reynés Corbella and Guillem Reynés Muntaner, who have loaned illustrations and documents from the Guillem Reynés Font Archive for this publication. We would also like to thank Miquel Frau Segura for his assistance in the selection of images and their computer processing.