On October 10th, 1880, Genís Trias Cuyàs, baker; Melcior Bruguera Manning, financier; Joan Parcet Fàbrega, surgeon; Pere Villà Teyà, manufacturer; Jaume Serra Monnà, manufacturer; Josep Piferrer Pintó, businessman; Salvador Boquet Vives, landowner; Salvador Banús Feliu, businessman; Pere Màrtir Vehil Banús, chemist, and, Josep Vehil Font, manufacturer, together formed an association and built, on a property purchased by Genís Trias from Antoni Roldós for the sum of 4,500 pesetas, “premises that could be utilised for theatre, dancing and also as a café.”
The impressive La Massa Theatre was constructed between November 1880 and March 1881 by master builder Rafael Guastavino Moreno. Gusatavino designed a circular structure with a rectangular stage area. The building's most distinguishing feature is the 17-metre diameter Catalan vault over the main hall. At only 3.5 metres in depth the dome is relatively shallow and its structure consists of a double layer of ceramic tiles. It features a 4-metre diameter oculus in its centre and small peripheral vaults supported by cast iron columns that create the perimeter boxes of the hall.
Rafael Guastavino, originally from Valencia but trained and educated in Catalonia, studied at the Escola Especial de Mestres d’Obres (School of Master Builders) and subsequently at the Barcelona School of Architecture where he was a disciple of the architect Elies Rogent. Guastavino left for the United States before seeing completion of the La Massa theatre, but he left his mark in Catalonia with such buildings as the Batlló factory, now the Barcelona Industrial School, and Vilassar's theatre.
In the United States, Guastavino impressed architects by offering them the Catalan vault with a range of domes and cupolas for enclosing large spaces, a solution that was economic, effective and patented as the Guastavino System, and where he established the Guastavino Fire-proof Construction Company. His work can be seen in more than 1,000 structures, especially in public buildings, and became a benchmark of modern American architecture. The New York Times, in 1908, in its obituary stated that “New York's architect has died,” a sign of the enormous importance of Guastavino on American soil.
In 1889, with the intent of providing its members a space for leisure activities, teaching and mutual assistance the Centre Vilassanes association, commonly called La Massa, was established in the context of an economically booming Vilassar. That boom led to the creation of collective labour associations, such as the Estrella, or in the case industrial workers the establishment of La Massa.
The Centre Vilassanes, with its café, which occupied the two floors of the building annexed to the theatre, became the principal motor for social and cultural activities in Vilassar. Countless meetings were held over the café’s marble tables, dances, theatre productions and, from 1905, it served as a cinema, endowing the association with an intense level of activities. Throughout the 20th century, new cultural activities, the preservation of archaeological heritage and excursions originated with La Massa …, without losing sight of its duty of mutual assistance fulfilling an essential task of care.
In 1997 a partnership was established between the Centre Vilassarenc and the municipality of Vilassar in order to promote the restoration of the building, which came under the direction of the architects Solà Morales, Lluís Dilmé and Xavier Fabré. This effort culminated in 2002 with the completion of a theatre as a modern cultural facility, which would resume a regular programme of activities.
Currently the association under the name of La Massa, Centre de Cultura Vilassarenc, which includes various sections such as music, poetry, mountain (excursions) …, continues with the original spirit of being one of the cultural motors of Vilassar. La Massa is one of the jewels of our architectural heritage, declared to be an asset of National Cultural Interest in 2014. For many generations of Vilassar's residents it has been a meeting place, a place of experiences and training, and a place where dreams have turned, beyond the mere building, into a collective heritage: La Massa is Vilassar's theatre, a symbol and landmark of our small community.