The Turnkey Factory: Technology Transfer from America to Spain in the Portland Cement Industry

The Clot del Moro Portland cement factory in the Pyrenees region of Catalonia, Spain, was designed, equipped, installed, and operated by American engineers. It provides an exceptional example of the transfer of new manufacturing technology from the United States to Europe at the turn of the 20th century via the purchase of a complete or turnkey factory. Clot del Moro is a well-documented example of a first-generation rotary-kiln Portland cement factory. It is also possibly a unique instance of a large cement mill built specifically for direct-drive hydropower. Study of the rich archive of original plans, the archaeological remains of the factory, and the production records shows that the project very nearly failed, in part due to the “model” factory building designed around the production plant, and that the sustainability of the transfer owed much to the persistence of the technology recipient.


The perfection of the horizontal rotary cement kiln in 1899 transformed the economics of manufacturing Portland cement and reversed the poles between cement manufacturers on the two sides of the Atlantic. Using powdered coal fuel companies from the United States could now more than compete in their home market where Portland cement from Europe had hitherto been dumped, shipped as ballast in empty grain boats.[1]

The new technology was quickly exported to Europe. Many cement manufacturers started building new cement works with horizontal kilns made by German and Danish machine makers. Another option was to import a complete factory, now called a turnkey works, which was the path chosen in Spain. The result was one of the most extraordinary industrial buildings ever designed, a combination of U.S. manufacturing and hydropower technology adapted to the architectural tradition from which Antoni Gaudí was then emerging in Barcelona.

Two Spanish industrialists provided the transatlantic link. José Francisco de Navarro (1823–1909) came to the U.S. from northwest Spain via Cuba in 1838, aged 15. He had numerous business projects in New York, including the Equitable Life Insurance Company, the Ingersoll Rock Drill Company, and the 6th Avenue Elevated Railway. In 1882 he founded the Edison Electric Illuminating Company with Thomas Edison.[2] In 1899, he perfected the rotary Portland cement kiln, and within a few years his Atlas Portland Cement Company won the enormous contract for supplying cement for the Panama Canal. By 1904, Atlas was the largest cement manufacturer in the world, producing 8 million barrels per year.[3] When he died, Navarro was reckoned one of the 20 richest men in the USA, but his life and industrial enterprise are largely forgotten today.[4]

One of the investors in his cement company was Eusebi Güell (1846–1918), a wealthy textile magnate in Barcelona whose name is today indelibly associated with that of Gaudí and some of his most inspired buildings. Following Navarro’s lead, Güell decided to start manufacturing Portland cement with the new technology. The cement factory that Güell bought from the USA is today a strange and evocative ruin in a remote mountain valley. The abundant archaeological remains along with a unique archive of original drawings by different U.S. machine manufacturers (recovered fortuitously from among the abandoned ruins) provide a rare opportunity to combine archaeological and documentary sources. These finds trace the construction of a major turn-of-the-century cement factory, the path by which the technology was transferred to Europe, the success of the operation, and the interesting solutions applied to some of the technological challenges of the time—cement production itself and the choice among hydraulic, steam, or electrical energy. Both the documentary and architectural evidence suggest that a financial catastrophe was only narrowly avoided.

The name Portland derives from an artificial hydraulic cement patent taken out in England in 1826. Patentee Joseph Aspdin hoped to associate his product with the famous building stone of the same name. Nevertheless, true Portland cement, made by firing a mixture of limestone and clay at over 1450° C until it partially vitrifies, was probably not being manufactured consistently until the 1850s.[5] But in the USA, locally manufactured natural cement predominated, and Portland cement produced in vertical kilns represented only a minor contribution; most was imported to the USA from Europe. In another venture, the enormous Navarro Apartments in Central Park, the Spanish entrepreneur saw the superiority of Portland and perceived the potential advantage of using horizontal rotating kilns to produce it.[6] Navarro acquired the two existing patents for such a process from Henry Mathey in the U.S. and Frederick Ransome in England. In 1888 he bought land at Coplay in the Lehigh Valley in Pennsylvania and incorporated the Keystone Cement Company two years later. But it took 10 years of experimentation to resolve the horizontal process, which was bedeviled by the tendency of the clinker, the product formed by calcining the limestone, to stick like toffee to the inside of the kiln. Navarro was bankrupted in 1893 and had to resort to family loans to continue, but he found further capital. By 1899 two of his Coplay engineers, Edward Hurry and H. J. Seaman, had overcome the technical difficulties by pasting the refractory bricks of the kilns with a lining of warm clinker.[7] The fuel problem, the solution of which was indispensable to the success of the rotary kiln, was resolved by using pulverized coal. Navarro improved thermal fuel efficiency by adding a second cooling cylinder that preheated the air for the fuel blast. The same year he consolidated his various cement interests in the Atlas Portland Cement Company.[8]

Part of the capital for Atlas came from Güell. The family textile business he inherited included one of the first big steam textile mills in Spain, built by his father in the fields outside the medieval walls of Barcelona in 1848. In 1891, to escape the endemic industrial violence of the Catalan capital (his father’s engineer was assassinated by strikers), Güell moved his company to a complete industrial colony 15 km south of the city. The master plan for the workers’ houses at the Colònia Güell and the design of the church was entrusted to the special imagination of Gaudí who had already built the family mansion in Barcelona, Palau Güell.

At the same time that he was putting capital into Navarro’s new Atlas Company, Güell decided to create his own enterprise in Catalonia to make Portland cement using the new American kilns.[9] The company papers establishing the Compañia General de Asfaltos y Portland, more succinctly Asland, were signed in July 1901, but Güell had already been working for a year on the radical plan for a six-kiln cement factory and had commissioned the design and machinery from the Allis-Chalmers Manufacturing Company of Milwaukee.

The peculiar character of the factory that Güell bought for Asland derived from three considerations that the Spanish promoters had to take into account. The first was the source of the raw material for Portland cement manufacture (limestone with clay content between 10%–20%), which was held to be a decisive locational factor in the early-20th century. One of the investors, Güell’s brother-in-law, owned a hill of just the right geology for making Portland cement that was 160 km north of Barcelona in the foothills of the Pyrenees mountains that separate Spain and France.

The second consideration was energy. Catalonia had a problem with coal. This northeastern corner of the Iberian Peninsula is distinctive as one of the few regions of the world to have industrialized in the 19th century without access to inexpensive coal reserves. The bulk of the coal used by Catalan factories was shipped all the way from South Wales in Great Britain. The Francis turbine, rather than the steam engine, was the principal power source for Catalan textile mills and was only supplemented by auxiliary steam engines when the summertime flow in the rivers fell too low to spin the turbines. Advised by their U.S. engineers, Asland was to take advantage of the steep-sided narrow valley where its stone quarry was located, known as Clot del Moro, and to structure the factory around a large and sophisticated direct-drive hydropower system using Pelton waterwheels to turn the kilns and the cement works’ various crushing and grinding mills. Although some poor-quality coal deposits were available in a valley nearby, property of another family investor, this fuel was initially reserved for calcining the stone rather than for power.

The third consideration was the climate. Portland cement works are usually laid out in a rational manner to achieve an efficient material flow. The long horizontal kilns stand in the open air, but inexperience and the bitter winter temperatures at Clot del Moro led Güell to commission a factory building that would enclose his entire new operation. Many of the later problems arose from this unusual decision.

After its stepped layout, the most striking feature of the factory was the Catalan vault construction system used to enclose the whole production cycle. The story of the Catalan vault has become well known in recent years through the rediscovery of the work of the Barcelona architect Rafael Guastavino II (1842–1908) in Boston, New York, and numerous other American cities.[10] Fire-resistant shell vault uses thin bricks or tiles laid in two or three courses without support from temporary formwork. Until competition from reinforced concrete closed down the business (its last project was in 1962), the R. Guastavino Company raised its patented vaults and domes over hundreds of public buildings in the USA, including many of the most prestigious architectural projects of the day.

Guastavino was in Navarro’s circle of Hispanic ex-patriots in New York in the 1880s, and his company had an office in Allis-Chalmers’s hometown of Milwaukee.[11] Before leaving Barcelona, Guastavino had designed one of the largest integrated cotton mills in the city, and it is inconceivable that he and Güell had not connected in the small architectural or industrial circles of the Catalan capital before the architect emigrated to New York in 1881.[12] The following year, Guastavino built Edison’s original Pearl Street generating station, but his career stuttered before taking off after he was brought in by Charles McKim to help with the construction of the Boston Public Library in 1888.[13] The R. Guastavino Company’s hand in the cement factory cannot be ruled out, even though it was a long way from the neoclassical churches, colleges, and public buildings that were its stock-in-trade.

The drawings for Güell’s new cement factory are, in fact, signed by Isidoro Pedraza de la Pasqua, another Catalan architect living in the USA. The complex is a prodigious work of shell vaulting, resembling an enormous turtle (figure 1). The design is for the most part functional. Its form is derived largely from the curvature of the vaults and the planned cement production program. As such, it anticipates the rationalist architecture of the coming century. Nevertheless, the formal, symmetrical façade, reminiscent of the model 18th-century industrial enterprises of the ancien regimes of continental Europe, suggests that aesthetic considerations, perhaps related to the novelty of the process and untried market for the product, also played a part in the design of Asland’s pioneer venture.

Figure 1. Asland’s Clot del Moro cement works c. 1920. The two phases of the factory are evident in this aerial image: (1) original conception (right) and (2) the revised program from 1908 with the tall chimney and large buttressed clinker silo (left). Behind and above is the hole quarried from the mountain (c. 1904 and 1975). On the hill to one side are the scattered elements of the small factory community, the director’s chalet, a chapel, the apartments of the engineers’ families, and a barracks for soldiers assigned to guard the dynamite for blasting out the limestone. Photo from Asland, Libro del Cincuentenario (Barcelona, Spain: privately published, 1954)

Figure 2. A section through the factory shows the fall through the 14 levels. Economy of material handling is at the hub of manufacturing Portland cement. Early accounts of the factory justified this complicated arrangement as facilitating the movement of material by gravity from the quarry (top) down to the railway line (bottom). It may be, however, that the aim of the inclined arrangement was to maintain sufficient head for the hydropower system around which the factory was structured. Sketch by author, adapted from Drawing 1031, Arxiu Clot del Moro, Museu de la Ciència i de la Tècnica de Catalunya, Terrassa, Spain.

Figure 3. Drawing No. 1, Façade. The formality of the composition was accentuated by the imposing Asland logo and central flagpole. Only the right-hand half of the design was actually built; the large round ground-floor arches opened onto the packing room. Drawing 842 by William Wallace Ewing, Arxiu Clot del Moro, Museu de la Ciència i de la Tècnica de Catalunya, Terrassa, Spain.

The operational plan of the factory envisaged the quarried limestone entering the works at the top, then passing down 14 levels through the processes of cement manufacture before being packed into barrels and loaded onto rail wagons at the bottom. The factory was to be built in two stages. The first half with three kilns produced 30,000 tons of cement per year; the second half, added later, doubled production.

Eight Pelton tangential impulse waterwheels supplied motive power. The biggest was a 475 hp wheel for turning the clinker mills, followed by a 275 hp wheel for the stone mills, one of 180 hp for coal mills, a 75 hp wheel for the crusher, and finally a 40 hp wheel for the three calcining kilns. All the motive power for the plant was supplied by direct-belt drive from the Pelton wheels, rather than electric motors, although a 350 hp wheel drove a 380 KVA alternator for lighting sections of the factory. The waterwheels were fed from a pressurized water tube or penstock with a potential of 2,400 hp that ran all down one side of the works. The Pelton wheel is best suited to situations such as this where there is a considerable head of water, but the flow volume is low. Lester Pelton patented his invention in 1880. By 1900, most hydraulic energy was already being used to generate electricity for electric motors rather than being linked by direct drive to machinery.[14] Clot del Moro was an unusual and possibly unique manufacturing solution—the swan song of the direct-drive industrial waterpower era.

The earliest surviving drawings, a set of six, are from Allis-Chalmers and dated 24 August 1901.[15] Drawing 706 shows the layout of the works as it was built and is titled, “End Elevation of Grading Levels for Machinery, Three Kiln Cement Plant, Designed by Jos. Armstrong, Approved C A Burns, Signed Allis-Chalmers Isidoro Pedraza de la Pasqua.”[16] All the drawings are counter-signed by William Wallace Ewing, Engineer of Tests, New York Department of Buildings. Of the same date and signed by Ewing is the elevation of the main façade.[17] A test engineer rather than an architect and not apparently employed by Allis-Chalmers, Ewing seems to have been involved throughout, later traveling to Spain with the machinery and his family.

Figure 4. The iron flume carrying water to the factory from the head of the Llobregat River nearly 5 km away. Imatge 048, Arxiu Clot del Moro, Museu de la Ciència i de la Tècnica de Catalunya, Terrassa, Spain.

The next set of drawings is from December, four months later, and shows progress in the detailed design of the plant: the tube mills, rotary dryer, and coal mill elevator. In January 1902 come drawings for the “raw department” with the large Gates stone crusher and ball mills; in March, the drawings include the finishing mill, with sections through the three kilns A, B, and C, with coal hopper and fuel injector at the lower end; and then in May, the drawings show the cooler room and finishing department. Finally, in June 1902 the plans of the coal mill and packing room were ready.[18] The earliest drawings from the Pelton Water Wheel Company are from spring 1902, with detailed illustrations of the eight single- and double-nozzle wheels with governors.[19]

The building contractor, Miró, Trepat y Companyia of Barcelona, began preparing the 14 levels of the site and raising the walls in late 1901, and the first machinery began arriving in 1902.[20] A steam tractor was imported from the Best Manufacturing Company of San Leandro, California, later the Caterpillar Tractor Company, to haul the 6 foot (1.8 m) diameter kiln sections from the railhead at the small town of Ripoll, 30 km away. Stone quarried from the site was used for the walls, and several vertical cement kilns were erected to produce cement for the mortar and to carry out tests.

The physical transfer of the technology was supervised by eight American engineers from Milwaukee, New York, and California who accompanied the cement plant and waterwheels on the long sea crossing from the USA to Spain and who directed the installation and start-up of the works, living in the remote valley in an apartment building beside the construction site. They included Ewing, the New York city engineer whose signature appears on many of the plans, two other engineers either from Allis-Chalmers or the Pelton Water Wheel company, Mr. Jennings and Mr. Peek, and five “auxiliary technicians,” McGuire, Andrews, Jones, Stakel, and Tucker.[21]

At the top of the works, quarrymen tipped stone into a silo from which it was transported by wheelbarrows into the mouth of a vertical ball crusher. The Clot del Moro works used the dry process for producing Portland cement, so the moisture first had to be removed from the crushed stone in a rotary dryer (the uppermost chimney in figure 5). It was then carefully dosed and blended to get the correct mix of calcareous and siliceous material. Meanwhile, fuel was prepared in a parallel section to the right of the main production area. An inclined plane carried coal up to a 2,000-ton silo from where it passed through rotary dryers and a pulverizer. The three horizontal cylinder kilns were each 60 feet (18 m) long and 6 feet (1.8 m) wide—the largest in use at that time, giving the factory a capacity of 100 tons per day or 30,000 tons per year. From the raw section, crushed, dried stone was fed into the upper end of the slightly tilted kilns. Rotating slowly, the stone rolled and slipped down towards the lower end where pulverized fuel was injected, the burning coal dust creating the temperature for calcining of around 1,350°–1,450° C.

Figure 5. Asland factory in 1908: (foreground) the great clinker silo, added to the original 1904 works just before construction began on the second phase; the four main sections were (1) the raw department (top) for crushing, drying, grinding, and dosing the stone; (2) the three kilns in the middle of the calcining department, which were fed with pulverized coal fuel from the (3) fuel preparation department (right-hand side); (4) the finishing department (bottom) where the clinker was ground and the fresh Portland stored and finally bagged-up. Drawing by Jordi Ballonga, based on the surviving original plans and detailed examination of the ruins; Quadern de didàctica i dufusió-17, Museu de la fàbrica de ciment Asland a Castellar de’n Hug (Teacher’s Handbook 17) (Terrassa, Spain: Museu de la Ciència i de la Tècnica de Catalunya, 2004), 16.

From calcining kilns, the glowing semivitrified stone, now termed clinker, dropped into a lower heat exchanger cylinder, where it cooled and preheated the air for the pulverized coal blast. Transported by screw conveyors along to the finishing section, the clinker was crushed and ground in a series of Kominor ball mills to the necessary fineness, dosed with gypsum to control the cement’s setting characteristics, and moved to a series of storage silos in the stock house, one for each day’s grinding. In the final stage of the process, cement fell to the bottom level where it was packed into sacks and loaded onto rail wagons. The original drawings included a coopers’ workshop, presumably for preparing staved wooden barrels in which cement had been transported during the 19th century. Hessian sacks replaced barrels during the project planning stage. Darning the empty cement bags that were returned to the factory eventually provided work for considerable numbers of women at Clot del Moro.

The factory was completed in two years, the builders leaving the stone at the left end of the façade toothed and ready for the anticipated construction of the second half. Production started on 1 August 1904. All the American engineers returned home, their work completed, except for Tucker who stayed on as head of the dry section. The new director, Rafael de Rafael Verhulst, was a Spanish engineer who had worked at Coplay in Pennsylvania.

But the problems of operating the complex and highly mechanized factory had only begun. Making cement is a chemical process that requires careful laboratory monitoring of the materials at each step if the final product is to work satisfactorily. There were technical difficulties, a workforce with no experience with cement production, and a construction market for which Portland was still a relatively novel substitute for the traditional lime-based or natural cement mortar. Only 11,350 tons was produced during 1905 and in 1906, with demand for its product still weak, Asland’s administration council suspended production during the second half of the year. Only 7,400 tons of cement left the half-built factory, and it was in crisis.

It was probably at this time that the model, symmetrical factory design prepared by de la Pasqua and the Allis-Chalmers engineers was abandoned. The second half of the strange, humped shell building that had been conceived and designed in New York and Milwaukee was never built.

Figure 6. Inside the new factory during construction work. The ends of the three original horizontal kilns were closed with refractory bricks, leaving a hole for the fuel injection pipe. Each had its own metal flue. Imatge 013, Arxiu Clot del Moro, Museu de la Ciència i de la Tècnica de Catalunya, Terrassa, Spain.

Demand improved in 1907; output rose to 23,600 tons and was up to almost full capacity, 29,520 tons the following year. Güell raised more capital, and in 1908 Asland started again, commissioning a new plan from Danish machine manufacturer F. L. Smidth and Company of Copenhagen. First was the construction of a huge 8,000-ton clinker silo with massive buttressed walls to stockpile the half-finished product as a buffer between the calcining kilns and mills of the finishing section. This seems not to have been anticipated by the factory designers but was evidently found to be necessary at Clot del Moro. Next followed the first of two new kilns and the associated stone, clinker, and coal-grinding mills and transport apparatus. But in the eight years since the factory was planned, the 60-foot (18 m) kilns around which the complex had been designed had became obsolete as engineers looked for economies of production by building longer and wider cylinders. The new Danish kiln had a capacity of 150 tons per day but was 141 feet (43 m) long, more than twice the length of the three original Allis-Chalmers kilns. It was put into operation in December 1909, raising production to 44,000 tons.[22] A second kiln was ordered from Allis-Chalmers, the two drawn by a single tall chimney.

The differences between the two production programs are apparent in the contrasting halves of the factory seen in the photograph in figure 1, the original project on the right and the revised design on the left. The amended Clot del Moro factory, completed by 1913, was built around the two much larger kilns. The original ones made by Allis-Chalmers were reused as cooling cylinders under their much longer replacements. The weakness of the energy scheme using waterwheels showed up in 1912 when drought crippled production. In 1913 Güell had an 800 hp Bollinckx steam engine with a new boiler shipped up from his textile mill to the cement works to provide auxiliary power. That year a fire destroyed the wooden cement bins and, in a further departure from the original concept, new silos were built using the reinforced-concrete system of François Hennebique instead of the stone walls and Catalan vault used in the first phase of construction.

During 1915, with Spanish companies profiting from World War I and a program of public works, canals, and railroads underway, production was close to 80,000 tons. Even though strikes and boycotts reduced output when the war ended, 67,000 tons of cement left Clot del Moro in 1920. Full capacity was reached in 1919 when almost 100,000 tons was manufactured.

Working at the new factory was both hard and hazardous. Labor in the quarry brought all the dangers of blasting and drilling rock. Baking hot in the summer months, the only warm place inside the factory during the winter months was near the kilns. The gloomy atmosphere was thick with stone, coal, and cement dust. Asland soon had to invest in medical facilities in Poble de Lillet, the nearby village from which most workers walked up to the factory. Climbing up and down the wooden ladders among the numerous levels, ducking the slapping leather straps of the belt drives, and stepping over the wooden troughs of the screw conveyors—it is no wonder that maimed workers were a sight of village life that retired workers remembered even only a few years ago.

The Asland factory at Clot del Moro was collectivized during the Spanish Civil War but returned to its former owners when the dictatorship took power in 1939. Asland finally closed in 1975. Many of the workers and their families relocated to other cement works; others retired or simply never worked again as there are few other industries in the locality. Most of the accessible plant was removed or scrapped, and the buildings were abandoned. Ten years later, students from the engineering faculty of the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya visited the ruins and fortuitously recovered many of the original drawings, which were stored in the Arxiu Històric de l’Enginyeria Civil. In 2004, coinciding with the centenary of the inauguration of the factory, it reopened as part of the network of industrial museums of the Museu de la Ciència de la Tècnica de Catalunya. This year the whole collection of plans and drawings covering the life of the factory have been archived in the museum’s library.

Figure 7. The 100 hp Best steam tractor pulling a section of the second-generation cement kilns, manufactured by Allis-Chalmers, up to Clot del Moro in 1909. Photo from Asland, Libro del Cincuentenario (Barcelona, Spain: privately published, 1954), 77.


Various conclusions can be drawn from Asland’s experience of technology transfer: the decision-making domain of the project, the capacity of the receiving culture, and the mechanism used for transferring the technology.

Personal relationships among the protagonists are evidently at the center of the whole process. Güell had numerous business interests in railways, banks, and shipping, but his main focus was cotton textiles

For the Catalan industrialist to risk a venture with a novel product and new technology far outside his usual industrial ambit, he must have been impressed with the potential of Navarro’s innovation and perhaps with the superiority of Portland cement. The design of the factory also came out of Güell’s personal connections, in this case with Catalan architects working in the USA, de la Pasqua and Guastavino. So the basis for the transfer of the technology to Catalonia occurred in a context of communications within a transnational group that had some shared linguistic and cultural attributes.

Having accepted the commercial possibilities of manufacturing Portland with the new kilns, Güell had various options open for importing the process. Economists identify three basic models for transferring technology. The material transfer model is the simplest and involves a straightforward movement of materials or equipment. In the design transfer model, knowledge, in the form of blueprints or tooling specifications, travels between the provider and the receptor. Finally, the capacity transfer model describes a process that enables the receiver to design and manufacture the new technologies for themselves.[23]

Using the material transfer model, it can be inferred from Güell’s decision to import the plant as well as the technology that he reckoned Catalonia had neither the technological base nor human capital to exploit the new process by itself. It is not known if the new rotary-kiln factories established elsewhere in Spain followed the same model of technology transfer, but in more advanced industrial countries new technology arrived via capacity or knowledge transfer.[24] In Britain, for instance, Hurry and Seaman took out a patent on their process, and local manufacturers built or adapted their own factories. The first kilns in England under Hurry and Seaman’s patent were ordered from a German engineering company, and erection began in winter 1900. The total expenditure of the 16 kilns and associated plant was £120,000; they were the same size as the Asland kilns and produced about 3,000 tons of cement per week.[25]

Figure 8. The completed works around 1912 in full production. The large workshops (right) were needed to maintain the machinery; the remote factory needed to be largely self-sufficient. A new inclined roof over the arches of the packing section (front) shelters the rail lines that head off down the valley towards Barcelona. The toothed masonry of the façade indicates where the second half was to have been built. Imatge 044, Arxiu Clot del Moro, Museu de la Ciència i de la Tècnica de Catalunya, Terrassa, Spain.

The mechanism that Güell chose to transfer the technology was the turnkey factory, or what engineers now call an EPC contract—equipment, procurement and construction. We can conjecture that this was a fairly normal procedure for large technology transfer projects 100 years ago, even for trans-oceanic ventures. There is a difference of barely two years between the date of Hurry and Seaman’s patent for the horizontal kiln and the first Allis-Chalmers drawings. Even allowing for Güell and Navarro’s success in successfully resolving the technical difficulties and laying plans for the Catalan factory, the arrangements were made swiftly, especially taking into account the speed of ship-borne communications.

Another issue is the sustainability of the transferred technology. One of the most remarkable aspects of the story is how the architect and engineers working on the project in the USA failed to anticipate the immediate development of their principal technology. The building they designed was a straitjacket from which, when cement kilns grew rapidly in both diameter and length, the only escape was to jettison the original plan and start afresh with a sharply different one. The photograph of the factory in figure 1 shows dramatically the extent to which the production program had to be changed, a revision for which the archaeological remains provide clear evidence.

Nor was the complicated choice of location justified by experience. Although the suitability of raw materials for manufacturing Portland cement took Asland up into the remote Clot del Moro valley, that locale was not such an important factor as Güell and his advisers had expected. Asland’s second factory, built in 1916, was erected down by the coast near the important market of Barcelona and its port as were the other big Portland cement works of the period, many of which are still actively producing cement. The direct-drive waterwheels were also abandoned in time, first supplemented by steam and then, at an unknown date, disconnected when the factory was converted to electrical energy with individual electric motors driving the plant. Only the penstock still performs its original function, connected now to a small, hydroelectric generating station alongside the museum.

Finally, what can be said about Güell’s strategic objectives? An attitude that U.S. industrialists of the 19th century might have appreciated was the nationalistic pride of the Catalan industrial bourgeoisie. Güell almost certainly saw the transfer of new technology as important for Catalonia and its continued leadership of the Spanish industrial economy. The imposing architectural façade proposed by de la Pasqua owes something to these more subtle subjective pressures. Perhaps Güell and his fellow entrepreneurs believed that an imposing edifice was appropriate for the factory that would bring new technology to Catalonia—the pioneering works of an emerging sector of the national economy, generating confidence in the product and credibility for the venture


The author thanks the referees and editor for stimulating criticisms and suggestions.


1. J. C. Witt, Portland Cement Technology (Brooklyn, N.Y.: Chemical Publishing Co., 1947), 129–31.

2. Conchita Burman and Eric Beerman, Un vasco en America: José Francisco Navarro Arzac (1823–1909), (Madrid, Spain: RSBAP Delegacion en Corte, 1998), 172, 222–23.

3. E. Hadley, The Magic Powder: History of the Universal Atlas Cement Company. (New York, N.Y.: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1945), 37.

4. J. de Navarro, Sixty-Six Years Business Record (printed privately, 1904); Gloria Pilar Totoricaguena, Emilia Sarriugarte Doyaga, and Anna M. Renteria, Eminent Basques in New York: A Cosmopolitan Story (Reno: Univ. of Nevada Press, 2004), 68–69.

5. A. W. Skempton, “Portland Cements, 1843–1887,” Transactions of the Newcomen Society (1962): 117–52.

6. The Navarro or Spanish Apartments were built alongside Central Park in 1882, using both natural and Portland cement.

7. A. J. Francis, The Cement Industry 1796–1911, A History (Newton Abbot, England: Charles & David, 1977), 253.

8. Hadley, Magic Powder, 27–37 (see n. 3).

9. P. Palomar Collado, “El conde de Güell, promotor de una gran industrial nacional” (Count Güell, Promoter of a Great National Industry), La Vanguardia (9 Sept. 1968): 41.

10. George Collins, “The Transfer of Thin Shell Vaulting from Spain to America,” The Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 27, no. 3 (October 1968): 176–201; Rafael Guastavino IV, An Architect and His Son: The Immigrant Journey of Rafael Guastavino II and Rafael Guastavino III (Westminster, Ma.: Heritage Books, 2006); Janet Parks and Alan Neumann, The Old World Builds the New: The Guastavino Company and the Technology of the Catalan Vault, 1885–1962 (New York, N.Y.: Avery Architectural Library and the Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Art Gallery, Colombia Univ., 1996).

11. Burman and Beerman, Un vasco en America, 173, 297 (see n. 2).

12. J. Rossell, “Raphael Guastavino: Inventiveness in Nineteenth-Century Architecture,” in Guastavino Co. (1885–1962): Catalogue of Works in Catalonia and America, ed. S. Tarragó (Barcelona, Spain: Collegi d’Arquitectes de Catalunya, 2002), 49.

13. Lisa J. Mroszczyk, “Rafael Guastavino and the Boston Public Library” (BSc thesis, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston, 2004).

14. Louis Hunter, Waterpower in the Century of the Steam Engine, v. 1 of A History of Industrial Power in the United States, 1780–1930 (Charlottesville: Univ. of Virginia Press, 1979), 404–07, 481.

15. The three kilns are listed in a historical file of Allis-Chalmers with the Milwaukee County Historical Society, Milwaukee, Wisc., dated 1901. Information courtesy of Norm Swinford, retired A-C product manager.

16. Drawing 701, Arxiu Clot del Moro, Museu de la Ciència i de la Tècnica de Catalunya, Arxiu Clot del Moro, Terrassa, Spain.

17. Drawing 706 (see n. 16).

18. Drawings 4331, 1330, 1338, 2657, 2660, 4206 (see n. 16).

19. Drawings 701, 704, 709, 710, 711 (see n. 16).

20. Drawing 743 (see n. 16).

21. Anonymous, Asland, Libro del Cincuentenario, (Barcelona: privately published, 1954), 69.

22. Drawing 918 (see n. 16).

23. This discussion is based on Ramon Fernandez-Caamand and Scott D. Johnson, “Consequences of Technology Transfer in the Pueblo Viejo Gold Mine,” Comparative Technology Transfer and Society 3, no. 1 (April 2005): 2–5.

24. The first rotary kilns installed in Spain were in Tudela Veguín, Oviedo, 1898; around 1900 there was a plant at Quinto, Zaragosa, and another started in Añorga-Chiqui, San Sebastian (Guipúzcoa), in September 1901—the same year the Sociedad de Cementos Pòrtland (Pamplona) plant was constructed at Olazasguitía, Navarra.

25. Francis, Cement Industry, 257 (see n. 7).