Labyrinth and Cabins of Argelaguer was a finalist for the 2nd International Award for Public Art.
Josep Pujiula i Vila is a self-taught artist who, driven by personal passion, created a monumental artwork that has become central to the shared public identity of his village Girona in Spain.
Vila received no underwriting, sponsorships, or funding besides coins dropped into an improvised donation box. Yet, working for over 45 years on three separate, massive constructions, he has ignited the passion of the villagers, who are now working actively to preserve his artwork and reclaim it as emblematic of their locale.
Pujiula, a retired factory worker without his own land, built his structures on someone else’s private property. His first, straightforward architectural installation evolved into a second, more artful and expansive multilevel construction project. Created from branches found on-site, this second work of art included seven 100-foot towers, innumerable bridges, shelters, walkways, and stairwells, and a labyrinth over a mile long.
Working alone, with impressive technical prowess, he constructed soaring spires as well as graceful passageways and shelters with superficially fragile materials. He confidently adjusted to changes, opportunities, imperfections, and a lack or abundance of materials, improvising and integrating contingent elements. No formalized written plans ever existed for his elaborate constructions.
Tens of thousands of visitors passed through the site annually. Their ability to physically interact with Pujiula’s constructions energized and emotionally impacted them: “Thanks for making us feel like children,” read an anonymous note.
In 2002, Pujiula was forced to destroy the first iteration of his spectacular public project by the village government and state authorities, despite petitions from protesting supporters worldwide. Undaunted, Pujiula moved to a nearby site and began again. The third, monumental version (2007–2011) was elegant and extremely complex, evidence of his maturing aesthetic sense and his sharpened technical skills. To enhance durability, he also began working in stone, concrete, and steel, and soon his constructions again had become one of the world’s largest art environments, comprising eight towers, a new labyrinth, and numerous kinetic sculptures and cascading fountains.
Nevertheless, in 2012 Pujiula was forced yet again to dismantle and burn all of the wooden components. Today Pujiula—along with the energized villagers and thousands of international supporters—is fighting to save and conserve what remains. His work has become the very symbol of Argelaguer, while at the same time it has gained increasing global importance, thanks to his innovative design, the monumentality of the construction, and his formidable tenacity.