Huguet: A Mallorcan Tradition that Tells a Story
In a small town in the centre of Mallorca, Huguet has been manufacturing cement tiles for nearly a century. A heritage company that has managed to grow and shift with the times, always emphasizing tradition alongside a contemporary vision.
TLmag: Huguet was founded in 1933 by your grandfather. Would you talk a bit about how the company has changed over the generations?
Biel Huguet (BH): The three of us have lived in completely different times. My grandfather established the company in the 1930s, when cement products such tiles and terrazzo were extremely popular in Mallorcan architecture. A lot of companies were producing similar pieces to these in those days. My father was in charge of the company from the 1970s to 1996, during which time many things changed in Mallorca. Tourism arrived and brought a lot of people to the island and this meant a very big boom in the construction industry and a lot of changes in society. Quicker, faster, cheaper, newer, became the main trends and our kind of handmade product disappeared completely, so my father focused the production of beams and blocks; although I am proud to say that the company’s view on quality and bespoke pieces was appreciated by Danish architect, Jorn Utzon, who asked him to produce pieces for both Can Lis and Can Feliç during this period. I took over the company in 1997, and at that time I thought that the appreciation for traditional architecture would start to come back in Mallorca, (as was happening in Italy and Barcelona), and so I went back to focusing on our original products. But my initial idea has changed so much. People are still interested in our products for their handmade quality, heritage and tradition, the natural materials which age really well and the fact that they are very customisable, but rather than for renovating traditional architecture, they are applying them into contemporary architectural projects. And so the focus has changed to adapt to that and now we are mainly focused on contemporary and bespoke pieces (although we keep doing refurbishments).
TLmag: How important is it to stay connected with the Mallorcan traditions—revitalising terrazzo and pushing the medium into new directions?
BH: We are pleased that we do not sell just tiles, as I like to think that we sell a story too. We have recovered traditional products, ancient techniques, and we have updated them and shared them with people around the world. So that is very special. It is about manufacturing and selling tiles, of course, but I think we go beyond and also sell Mallorcan culture and values.
TLmag: When did Huguet start working with designers, architects or artists for special editions and projects?
BH: From the very beginning. I think our main asset is that we are open-minded and willing to innovate. Recently, many people have requested us to manufacture something new, slightly different or very different, to go beyond the standard products we had at that time; and as we have the skills (and we are very proud of it) and as we like the the projects a lot, we always answer “yes”. That allows us to innovate and start so many new routes. And I also have to say that we are based in Mallorca and in Barcelona and we are very lucky because a lot of interesting architects and designers such as Herzog & de Meuron, Alfredo Häberli or Sybilla work or spend some time here so being in touch with them as been easier.
TLmag: What have been some recent projects that have surprised you and your team in terms of how the material was used or where?
BH: It is very difficult to say and we are very lucky because we do a lot of interesting projects. Creative architects and designers are looking for manufacturers like us, with skills and a willingness to go beyond the norm, so we’ve seen our share of challenging projects – both big and small scale. But there are two things I can point out. First of all, the renewed appreciation for terrazzo. This was a great material that was forgotten for a quite long time, but people are falling in love with it again because it ages so well and there is a lot of potential in terms of customisation and applying it to contemporary designs and use. The other thing is the use of recycled materials which we are doing more of nowadays. We create terrazzo reusing marble and leftover terrazzo, old roof clay tiles, and other materials. They are very nice by themselves, but there is something behind this: the production is more sustainable, they can last for ages, and they can be recycled in the future if necessary.
TLmag: You’ve recently launched a new project: Made in Mallorca, with other art-ists and designers on the island. What is mission of this project? Why did you help start it?
BH: In Mallorca, we have a deep heritage; more interesting things than just sun and beach. We have skills, tradition, an ancient Mediterranean culture, and we want to keep them and update them, and share them all around the world. This is very important in our global and digital world. Traditions such as blown glass, clay, Ikat fabric, pottery, tiles… are our contribution to make a richer and more unique world. Collaboration among us is the best way to go ahead. We are small, industries that have been forgotten for a long time, while standardisation and big international com-panies are extremely powerful, the only way to succeed is through collaboration.
This article was originally published in TLmag32: Contemporary Applied
Cover Photo: Biel Huguet © José Taltavull