Much has been said about the formula for Coca-Cola, but the Spanish architect Enrique Nuere knows another recipe—less profitable, but almost as secret and with a longer history. Without it, we would have lost the Mudejar coffered ceiling, an architectural style that emerged in Spain 400 years ago. Nuere is a member of the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando, and his work— which received the National Crafts Award in Spain— is much sought-after by, among others, the family of the King of Qatar, several Saudi princes and the famous Spanish bullfighter Curro Romero.
This story began in the 1980s when Neure acquired a facsimile from 1619 found in a butcher shop. The document had been a source of much anxiety for two historians who, in the late 19th century, attempted to decipher its incomplete content. As if it were the Rosetta Stone, the facsimile contained the keys to building the impressive Mudejar ceilings–wood shapes that decorate palaces, churches and other historic buildings.
Nuere,dissatisfied with the way the historians had interpreted the manuscript, studied the document and had a professional epiphany, which he used to reestablish and restore 17 ceilings of the Alhambra in Granada and the staircase of the Buenavista Palace in Málaga, among other projects. The Spanish architect never thought his historical research could lead to a commercial enterprise until the engineer José Luis Aranzadi, who ran a construction company, opened his eyes and together they founded Taujel, a woodwork firm specializing in historical renovations.
Taujel reconstructs tracery ceilings, one of the distinctive elements of the Moorish art brought by the Muslims to Christian lands during the Middle Ages. This complex decorative technique of clusters of interlocking polygons was first used in the 13th century and became entrenched in the 15th century.
It is necessary to have extensive geometry and mathematical skills to carry out this type of work. The Taujel team transferred their findings to a computer model, and using special software; they were able to deduce the shape of the missing pieces. Today, skilled carpenters can work like the ancient Arabs, who worked on the floor—not on the scaffold as previously thought— and later joined them.
“From $150 per square foot, it is possible to work wonders in pergolas, shutters and doors, but the price can rise to around $700. And if we use polychrome wood, the project gets very expensive,” says Nuere. ■