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Barcelona Modernisme Route
Ruta 1, Arc de Triomf and Casa Estapé (1) – Casa Doctor Genové (14)
Pag >> 1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , 5 , 6

In the late 19th century, at the time of the Universal Exhibition of 1888, Barcelona was a bustling city in which architecture played a major role as an indicator of the social status of the then flourishing bourgeoisie. Having a Modernista house meant that one was keeping up with the trends of the social elite. To meet the expectations and vanities of their clients, the architects used their whole repertoire of resources in their work: floral decorations, rich sculptural and wrought iron work, undulating forms, stained glass, sgraffito work, and ceramic details. Large cities can often be associated with buildings and monuments that become their universal emblems. This, however, is not the specific case of Barcelona. The architectural personality of Barcelona is characterised more by its urban landscape than by outstanding individual buildings. One of the areas in which this urban landscape is most exceptional is the Eixample, a district in which there occurred an extraordinary architectural phenomenon at the turn of the century: Modernisme, the particular local version of Art Nouveau, a European trend that led to an outburst of creative activity and also left remarkable architecture in other cities such as Vienna, Munich, Nancy, Brussels, Glasgow or Berlin. This guide will take you on a tour of this phenomenon in Barcelona.


A good place to start the Barcelona Modernisme Route is the ARC DE TRIOMF (TRIUMPHAL ARCH. Passeig de Lluís Companys, s/n), built in 1888 at the top of Passeig de Lluís Companys to a design by Josep Vilaseca, which presided over the entrance to the 1888 Exhibition.

The one-day Route starts here. Although this walking tour does not visit all of the most recommended Modenista monuments, it gives a wide, in-depth view of this architecture and is a good option to discover the city in general. This guide will lead you around if you follow the icons . on the text margin and the green line on the map .

Before continuing the route down to the Parc de la Ciutadella, you can make a slight detour up Passeig de Sant Joan to CASA ESTAPÉ (1) (ESTAPÉ HOUSE. Passeig de Sant Joan, 6) by Bernardí Martorell i Rius (1907), which is easily recognised by its curious dome by Jaume Bernades. Nearby the Arch, on the short Avinguda de Vilanova, you can see the building of HIDROELÈCTRICA (2) (Avinguda de Vilanova, 12), a Modernista building of the former Central Catalana d’Electricitat built by Pere Falqués i Urpí between 1896 and 1899, which can sometimes be visited during office hours.
Continue down Passeig de Lluís Companys to the PARC DE LA CIUTADELLA (CITADEL PARK. Passeig de Pujades, s/n, Passeig de Picasso, s/n). This park can be considered to be the first great architectural expression of the Modernista movement. As its name indicates, the site had formerly been occupied by a military citadel, built in the early 18th century after the defeat of Barcelona in the War of Succession. The city was severely punished when it fell after a long siege, and the Citadel (together with the new walls and Montjuïc castle) was used by the Bourbon dynasty to keep the city under military control for over 150 years. In the mid-19th century, after years of petitioning by the citizens, the government in Madrid agreed to allow the walls and the Citadel to be demolished to make room for the urban development of the city. This made it possible to create the Eixample (“Enlargement”) and the new Citadel Park.
Before the park was built, however, the land was used as the site for the 1888 Universal Exhibition. Though it was definitely less important than other similar exhibitions, such as those of Paris and London, like them it aimed to reveal the marvels of the new technologies of the incipient capitalist industry, and to make Barcelona known worldwide.

The pavilions and the infrastructures were built rapidly and with a great deal of improvisation. Experienced architects such as Josep Fontserè worked alongside young graduates such as Lluís Domènech i Montaner, who demonstrated his impressive talent for management and coordination, especially in the Gran Hotel Internacional (no longer standing), a building with a capacity for 500 guests which Domènech’s team built in less than 60 days. Legend also created many myths and rumours about the role played by Antoni Gaudí in the construction of the Parc de la Ciutadella. Some claim that he collaborated with Josep Fontserè in the building of the waterfall and perhaps also the cistern on Carrer Wellington. Others see Gaudí’s mark on the railings of the main gate of the park, and the disappeared pavilion of the Companyia Transatlàntica.

Though the park itself is not considered to be a Modernista garden, it contains some outstanding works in this style. Just beside one of the side doors of the park, in Passeig de Pujades, is the building that was destined to be the Café-Restaurant of the Universal Exhibition. It was built between 1887 and 1888 by Lluís Domènech i Montaner in exposed brickwork, an unusual technique at the time, and is one of the first examples of Barcelona Modernisme. Its crenellated wall, its frieze of coats of arms and its sobriety give it a certain medieval appearance, which is highlighted by the eclectic combination of Catalan arches, large Roman windows and Arabic arches.

The building, popularly known as the Castell dels Tres Dragons (Castle of the Three Dragons), is the Natural History Museum but not open to visits, and was recently restored respecting the architectural values of the construction and furniture. Nearby are two delightful buildings, the HIVERNACLE (4) (GREENHOUSE. Passeig de Picasso, s/n. Parc de la Ciutadella), a work by Josep Amargós i Samaranch (1883-1887) that is currently used for all types of social event, and the UMBRACLE (5) (SHADE HOUSE. Passeig de Picasso, s/n. Parc de la Ciutadella), built by Josep Fontserè i Mestres in 1883-1884. It is certainly worth sparing a few minutes to have a look inside both of them and walk around the splendid collection of plants they protect.

Castell dels Tres Dragons

Address
Passeig de Picasso, s/n. Parc de la Ciutadella.
Open

Information
Tel.: 933 196 912. www.bcn.es/museuciencies
Further details

Prices and discounts

Description
Just beside one of the side doors of the park, in Passeig de Pujades, is the building that was destined to be the Café-Restaurant of the Universal Exhibition. It was built between 1887 and 1888 by Lluís Domènech i Montaner in exposed brickwork, an unusual technique at the time, and is one of the first examples of Barcelona Modernisme. Its crenellated wall, its frieze of coats of arms and its sobriety give it a certain medieval appearance, which is highlighted by the eclectic combination of Catalan arches, large Roman windows and Arabic arches. The building, popularly known as the Castell dels Tres Dragons (Castle of the Three Dragons), is the Natural History Museum but not open to visits, and was recently restored respecting the architectural values of the construction and furniture.

From the Parc de la Ciutadella, walk into the old city centre along Carrer Fusina or Carrer de la Ribera, which will take you to the MERCAT DEL BORN (BORN MARKET. Plaça Comercial, 12), until the 1970s the main wholesale market of the city. This structure of iron, wood and glass designed by Josep Fontserè and built in 1876 is an excellent example of the architectural forerunners of Modernisme, which excelled in the design of new structures made possible by using new industrial materials, and in the importance given to natural light. Inside are the ruins discovered in 2001, which are part of the buildings of the old Barcelona that were demolished to make way for the military Citadel in 1715. These ruins are sometimes open to the public and are part of the History Museum of the City of Barcelona (for more information, call 933 190 222).

Right opposite the market, Passeig del Born, perhaps the only street in Barcelona that is still fully paved in cobblestones characteristic of the first half of the twentieth century. All along this part of the walk we will come across some of the oldest streets of Barcelona, some of them opening under vaults in a medieval style, with names that in many cases refer to the old crafts guilds that grouped together in each one. Passeig del Born will lead you to the BASÍLICA DE SANTA MARIA DEL MAR (THE HOLY MARY OF THE SEA’S BASILICA. Plaça de Santa Maria, s/n), dating from the 14th century and one of the most important Catalan Gothic churches. If you go round the building on Carrer Santa Maria you will come to the FOSSAR DE LES MORERES (MULBERRY TREE GRAVEYARD. Plaça del Fossar de les Moreres, s/n), one of the main symbols of Catalan nationalism. According to tradition here lie those who died defending Barcelona in the siege of 1714, which was the final episode in the War of Succession in which the European dynasties of Austria and Bourbon fought over the kingdoms of Spain. The memorial placed here in 2001 commemorates this heroic defence of Barcelona by the Catalan militia, who for over a year resisted the alliance of the Spanish and French armies, far superior in number and technology.
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On the other side of the Basilica, continue along Carrer Argenteria, cross Via Laietana and go up Carrer Jaume I, which takes you to the heart of the city, the Plaça de Sant Jaume. This square has been the political and administrative centre of the city since mediaeval times: on the right is the Renaissance façade of the Generalitat de Catalunya, the Catalan autonomous government, while on the left is the Barcelona City Council or Ajuntament, its neoclassical façade hiding a Gothic interior. Just after the square you can turn left into Carrer del Pas de l’Ensenyança to visit the cocktail bar El Paraigua, decorated with original Modernista elements salvaged from another establishment. Carrer Ferran will take you to an Irish pub, MOLLY’S FAIR CITY (6) (Ferran, 7-9), which was previously a shop and still has much of the original Modernista decoration on both the outside and the inside (for further information see Let’s Go Out, the guide to Modernista bars and restaurants). Just opposite this pub is the entrance to Plaça Reial, one of the busiest places in the city, with a considerable range of bars and night clubs. This square was the first important urban renewal project in 19th-century Barcelona, and occupies the site of the former Santa Madrona Capuchin monastery, which was demolished in the mid-19th century. The design of this urban space, with its characteristic porticos, is the work of the architect and urbanist Francesc Daniel Molina, who was inspired by the French urbanism of the Napoleonic period and conceived it as a residential square formed by buildings of two storeys plus an attic, built over archways. Right in the centre of the square is the Three Graces fountain, and on both sides of it the complex FANALS (7) (plaça Reial, s/n) de sis llums que el jove Antoni Gaudí va dissenyar el 1878.

The two lamp-posts are decorated with the attributes of the god Hermes, the patron of shopkeepers: a caduceus (a messenger’s wand with two snakes wound round it) and a winged helmet. Like Plaça Reial, many other places in the historic centre of Barcelona were built on sites formerly occupied by monasteries and churches that were confiscated by the Spanish government and sold to private owners. These measures, which were carried out in 1837 and known as Mendizábal’s disentailment, led to the auction of eighty percent of the land owned by the church within the city walls of Barcelona. The disentailment rapidly led to a thorough and long-lasting transformation of the urban landscape of Barcelona. There are many examples. The Boqueria Market, beside the Rambla, stands on the site occupied successively by the monastery of Santa Maria de Jerusalem (14th century) and the monastery of Sant Josep (16th century). The Gothic convent of Santa Caterina, which was destroyed by fire in 1835 and demolished two years later, lent its site and name to a market that has now been thoroughly remodelled and reconstructed. Even the Liceu Opera House was built on the site of a former Discalced Trinitarian monastery. The other great centre of music of Barcelona, the Palau de la Música Catalana, was built on the ruins of the monastery of Sant Francesc de Paula.

Here we may take a small detour to number 8 of Carrer Escudillers, in order to see the Grill Room, an old Modernista restaurant and cafe (for more information, see Let's go out, the guide to Modernista bars and restaurants.")

On leaving the square you will come to La Rambla, the famous main artery of Barcelona life. At the time of maximum splendour of the Modernista movement, little development land was available in the old part of Barcelona. Therefore, with the exception of a few shops in the Modernista style, there are few examples in this area of the city. However, these include masterpieces such as the PALAU GÜELL (8), (GÜELL PALACE. Nou de la Rambla, 3-5), the first work (1885-1889) that Antoni Gaudí, the most peculiar and striking architect of the Modernista movement, would offer the city of Barcelona, and now listed World Heritage by UNESCO. Gaudí was only 34 years old when he received the commission to build the private residence of the Güell family. And curiously it was not in the Eixample, which was already in full expansion, but in the Raval, a degraded zone that in the late 19th century had been taken over by prostitution and was full of brothels. Perhaps it was not very logical that Eusebi Güell, with seven children, should choose to live there, but he had a reason for doing so. His father, Joan Güell, lived in the Rambla and Eusebi bought the site of the Palau Güell to be near him. Gaudí’s aristocratic patron gave the architect a free budget to build a sumptuous, original palace in which to hold political meetings and chamber music concerts and to accommodate the most illustrious guests of the family. No sooner said than done. Gaudí used the best materials of the time and the construction costs soared. The final result was a masterpiece in Gaudí’s darkest style. Far from satisfying the bourgeois idea of comfort (it is a very tall building which was then without heating, so it must have been rather uncomfortable in winter), Gaudí’s Palau Güell is an unusual space featuring a magnificent, skilfully crafted interplay of volumes and light.

Palau Güell

Address
GÜELL PALACE. Nou de la Rambla, 3-5.
Open

Summer, from 1 April to 31 October: from 10 a.m. to 8p.m. (last entrance at 7p.m.).

Winter, from 1 November to 31 March: from 10a.m. to 5.30p.m. (last entrance at 4.30 p.m.).

Open from Tuesday to Sunday and on public holiday Mondays.

Closed: working day Mondays, 1 January, from 6 to 13 January and 25 and 26 December.

Free entry: winter, first Sunday of every month, summer, Sundays from 5pm to 8pm, 23 April, 18 May and 24 de September.


Information
Tel.: (+34) 934 725 775

Fax: (+34) 934 725 772

palauguell@diba.cat

www.palauguell.cat
Prices and discounts

Adults: €12,00.

Discount: €8,00.

Modernisme Route discount: 30% off adult price.


Free entry on the first Sunday of every month, April 23, May 18 and September 24.


 






Description
The first work (1885-1889) that Antoni Gaudí, the most peculiar and striking architect of the Modernista movement, would offer the city of Barcelona, and now listed World Heritage by UNESCO. Gaudí was only 34 years old when he was commissioned to build the private residence of the Güell family. Interestingly, it was not located in the Eixample, a booming area to which the bourgeoisie were moving, but in El Raval, which by the late 19th century had already become quite rundown. It may not seem very logical that Güell, who had ten children, went to live there in 1888. But one of the main reasons that he decided to build Palau Güell in El Raval was the fact that he had inherited a house on La Rambla dels Caputxins, which he lived in from 1884 and which was joined to Palau Güell by an interconnecting corridor. It could therefore be said that Palau Güell was designed as an extension to the family home on La Rambla.

Eusebi Güell was a prominent businessman and politician, but also a promoter of Catalan culture, arts and letters. He placed his trust in Gaudí at a time when the architect was still unknown, yet he was able to see his talent and commissioned him to build this unique urban mansion.

Gaudí’s aristocratic patron gave the architect free reign in terms of budget to build a unique and sumptuous mansion that could accommodate political meetings, cultural and literary evenings, concerts and receptions attended by illustrious guests. No sooner said than done. Gaudí used the most precious materials and construction costs soon soared. The end result was a true masterpiece, Gaudí’s first major work and one of the first, if not the first, Art Nouveau buildings worldwide. Gaudí’s Palau Güell is an unusual space dominated by the clever, precise and magnificent play of light on forms and it points the way to many of the essential features of Gaudí’s later work.



The Palau Güell’s façade, with its suggestive Venetian lines, is built in stern-looking stone and one particular highlight is the wrought iron design above the tympana of the two parabolic arcs making up the main entrance and exit to the building, which together form the majestic coat of arms with the four stripes of the Catalan flag presiding over the façade.

A grand staircase leads from the vestibule past the mezzanine floor to the planta noble, or main floor, with its central hall, the true jewel in the crown of the Palau Güell: an amazing, mysterious and telluric space crowned by a parabolic cupola that is located at a great height. The copula is pierced by a round central window and a series of small circular openings that filter in soft indirect light and provide the space with the peculiar appearance of a planetarium under the light of day to some people or the main room of an Arabic hammam to others. The central hall includes the Palau Güell’s organ console and a chapel enclosed by two doors and it was used to stage concerts and religious services.

The central hall is the backbone from which all the building’s spaces are distributed and at the same time it is a space that vertically and visually links together the mansion’s upper floors.

The rooftop boasts twenty chimneys designed by Gaudí and restored between 1988 and 1992. The original forms of the rooftop were restored, but in the case of the chimneys they had lost all their cladding over time and so it was decided to provide them with a contemporary reinterpretation directed by the architects in charge of the building’s restoration and several Catalan artists. The chimneys are all unique and different as if they were the various sketches of an ideal model. With a little imagination, they recall a group of trees and most likely represent one of the first designs of a project that Gaudí would culminate years later with the Pedrera rooftop. In this particular work Gaudí used trencadís for the first time, a cladding made up of irregularly shaped broken tile pieces that this Reus architect, and the Modernisme movement in general, later adopted as one of his main forms of expression.

At the opposite end of the mansion, in the basement, the stables can be found, with their brick vaulting supported by mushroom-shaped capitals, which are also constructed of brick. It is spectacular architecture designed to house the mansion’s stables and grooms quarters and is one of the most enigmatic, evocative and famous spaces in Gaudí’s architecture.

Eusebi Güell, his wife and their children lived in the mansion until the 1910s, when they moved to Park Güell. Later, some of their children lived in the mansion until the Spanish Civil War. With the outbreak of the war, the Catalan Government used the building to house a police station. Subsequently, the eldest daughter, Mercè Güell, who had inherited the house, was not able to take care of its maintenance and so donated it to the Barcelona Provincial Council in exchange for a life pension in 1945. On 26 May 2011, the Palau Güell opened its doors to the public once again after years of comprehensive restoration.

The façade of the Palau Güell, with evocative Venetian lines, is built with a stone of severe appearance, which highlights the wrought iron design covering the tympana of the two parabolic entrance and exit arches and forming the majestic coat of arms with the Catalan emblem, conceived as a small colonnade. The first area of the palace is the 20 metre-high foyer that gives the building a transparent appearance and articulates the different spaces into which this magnificent early work by Gaudí is divided. The whole building is organised around the central foyer. A majestic staircase leads to the authentic jewel in the crown of the Palau Güell: its surprising, mysterious, telluric central hall rising seven stories and crowned by a parabolic, cone-shaped dome. The dome is perforated by a series of small openings arranged in a circle that filter gentle indirect light, giving the hall a curious appearance that some experts liken to a planetarium in daylight and others to the central hall of an Arab hammam.

The roof terrace has twenty chimneys designed by Gaudí and restored between 1988 and 1992 by a group of artists who rebuilt the eight that had been most damaged, observing respect for Gaudí’s original work (on one of these new chimneys, however, with a little patience one can find Cobi, the Olympic mascot dog of Barcelona ‘92, depicted among the trencadís). This was the first work in which Gaudí used trencadís, a facing technique of Arabic origin using irregular tile fragments, which Gaudí and the Modernista movement adopted as one their characteristic features. The Gaudinian chimneys, all unique and different as if they were different sketches of an idealised model, probably represent one of the first drafts of the design that Gaudí would culminate years later on the roof terrace of La Pedrera. With a little imagination they recall a group of trees. On one of them, which is totally white and was probably the last one built by Gaudí, the small green stamp of a pottery manufacturer of Limoges can be seen. The legend goes that Eusebi Güell had a marvellous dinner service from Limoges that he was tired of, and he gave them to the architect for use in the cladding of the last chimney of the Palau.

The basement is a peculiar crypt of very low vaults supported by simple fungiform columns, a spectacular work of architecture which formerly housed the stables and the grooms’ quarters.

Antoni Gaudí i Cornet (1852-1926)
Antoni Gaudí i Cornet was born in 1852 in Reus to a family of coppersmiths from Riudoms. The smallest of five brothers, he moved to Barcelona in 1873 to study architecture, which he finished four years later. It is said that on awarding him his degree, the Director of the School of Architecture, Elies Rogent, muttered “Who knows whether we have given the degree to a madman or a genius: only time will tell”.

His first professional assignment was to design the new buildings of the textile cooperative of Mataró (1878), for which Gaudí conceived unusual catenary arches of wood and a giant bronze bee (symbol of the cooperative). In the same year, he designed a glass and crystal ware cabinet decorated with wrought-iron, mahogany and marquetry for a Catalan glove manufacturer, Esteban Cornellá, to display his products at the Universal Exhibition of Paris. The display cabinet seduced Eusebi Güell, an industrialist, aristocrat and rising politician, who was to become the patron of the young architect. Gaudí’s first commission for Güell was to design the furniture of the pantheon that the Marquis of Comillas, Güell’s all-powerful father-in-law, possessed on the outskirts of Santander. This assignment was followed by another, a pergola decorated with globes and hundreds of glass pieces. From then on his career and his work, which in the course of time became one of the most famous symbols of Barcelona, were intimately linked to the Güell family.

In 1883 the Church commissioned him to build the Sagrada Família, which was to become the great work of his life, and in which he invested all the efforts of his last years. This gradual concentration on the great expiatory temple ran parallel to the consolidation of a fervent Catholicism, an aspect which had not been apparent in the young Gaudí. In his maturity, the great Catalan architect was known to be a frugal and solitary man who devoted all his energy to the profession through which he expressed his two great passions: Christianity and Catalan nationalism. His obstinate defence of Catalan identity even led to his arrest by the police in 1924 on Catalan National day (11th September), for refusing to submit to an officer who ordered him to speak in Spanish.

On 7th June 1926, Gaudí was hit by a tram when he was crossing the Gran Via. Initially on his admission the staff of the hospital, who struggled to save his life for three days, took him for a beggar because of his humble attire.

The brick columns and their capitals form one of the most enigmatic, evocative and best-known landscapes of Gaudí’s architecture. Though it was conceived as a family residence, the Palau Güell was used for this purpose for only a few years. The Güell family lived in it until the Spanish Civil War (1936-39), when the palace was confiscated by the anarchist trade unions CNT-FAI, which turned it into a barracks and prison. The Güells never returned. The general abandon and deterioration of this area of the Raval led the heirs of Count Güell to decide, in 1945, to transfer the palace to the Barcelona Provincial Council, its current owner.

Not far from Palau Güell up Carrer Nou de la Rambla is the LONDON BAR (9) (Nou de la Rambla, 34), a Modernista bar that has been open for almost a century, since 1910 (for further information see Let’s Go Out, the guide to Modernista bars and restaurants).

The Barcelona Modernisme Route continues up the Rambla towards Plaça de Catalunya. Almost opposite Plaça Reial’s porticos is the HOTEL ORIENTE (Rambla, 45-47), built in 1842 when the old religious school of Sant Bonaventura was converted into a thriving inn. The hotel, which remodelled its façade in 1881, preserves in its ballroom the magnificent structure of a 17th-century cloister with square pillars and an old rectangular refectory covered with a vault. It has accommodated such distinguished guests as the writer Hans Christian Andersen, the American actor Errol Flynn, the bullfighter Manolete and the soprano Maria Callas. Its discreet façade features the sculptures of two angels standing above the arch of the main entrance.

Continuing up the Rambla one comes to one of the most emblematic buildings of the city, though it is not in the Modernista style: the GRAN TEATRE DEL LICEU (LICEU OPERA HOUSE. Rambla, 51-65). The history of this emblem of Barcelona has been marked by fire. The original opera house, built by Miquel Garriga in 1847 on the site of a Trinitarian monastery, was burnt down in 1861 and rebuilt by Josep Oriol Mestres. On the exterior, its simplicity is only broken by its characteristic façade with a central body of three large windows, but on the interior it is one of the most lavishly decorated opera houses in the world. After the theatre burnt down again in 1994, it was rebuilt once more, this time by the architect Ignasi de Solà-Morales, who restored it to its original lavish style and recovered the rooms with trompe l’oeil and Pompeiian paintings. In its first period as an opera house, the Liceu had to compete with the TEATRE PRINCIPAL (Rambla, 27), which had a capacity for 2,000 persons and a long tradition in the city. The Liceu, which raised the first curtain with Anna Bolena by Donizetti, came out the winner, becoming a cathedral of good taste and the favourite showcase for the more opulent classes of Barcelona to display their wealth. Despite the sobriety of its architecture, it features a canopy of wrought iron over the main entrance and sgraffito work that pays homage to Calderón de la Barca, Mozart, Rossini and Moratín. Almost at the corner of the Rambla and Carrer Sant Pau, the building of the Liceu houses a truly elitist sanctuary: the Cercle del Liceu, a traditional and aristocratic private institution, an old club in the purest English style, which conceals in its inner rooms memorable works by the Modernista painters Ramon Casas and Alexandre de Riquer, in addition to stained glass decorated with Wagnerian themes by Oleguer Junyent.

On the other side of the street, the route comes to an establishment with a long tradition that has Modernista decoration on the façade, CAMISERIA BONET (10) (BONET OUTFITTER’S. Rambla, 72), a former outfitter’s shop founded in 1890, which changed ownership in 2002, and now sells mainly Barcelona souvenirs, but has kept its outer decoration virtually untouched. In the adjoining building is the CAFÈ DE L’ÒPERA CAFÈ DE L’ÒPERA (11) (Rambla, 74), a café with a cosy atmosphere opened in 1929 on the premises of the former La Mallorquina chocolate shop. Featuring inside, the well-preserved original furniture: the Thonet chairs and the nineteenth-century mirrors with female figures suggesting characters from different operas (for further information see Let’s Go Out, the guide to Modernista bars and restaurants).

After the Liceu, on the left, the route leaves La Rambla momentarily to make a detour down Carrer Sant Pau. The history of hotels in Barcelona would be incomplete without the HOTEL ESPAÑA (12) (Sant Pau, 9-11), one of its oldest establishments. The main architectural interest of this hotel, which formerly accommodated the Philippine national hero José Rizal, lies in its public rooms, decorated in 1902-1903 by one of the fathers of Modernisme, Lluís Domènech i Montaner. In the Hotel España, Domènech i Montaner worked with two great masters of the plastic arts of the time: the sculptor Eusebi Arnau and the painter Ramon Casas. Eusebi Arnau made the splendid alabaster chimney in one of the dining rooms, which is visible from the street, and Ramon Casas did the marine sgraffito work in the interior dining room, which also features a coffered skylight that casts gentle lighting on Casas’s work. Domènech i Montaner completed the work with two ingenious wooden wainscots. One of them, of meticulous design, is decorated with blue tiles representing the Spanish provinces, whereas the other, of Roman type, depicts floral themes (for further information see Let’s Go Out, the guide to Modernista bars and restaurants). A few steps from the Hotel España there is another hotel with touches of Modernisme: the HOTEL PENINSULAR (13) (Sant Pau, 36). The main interest of this building, a former religious school, lies in its court with galleries and a skylight that enhances the green and cream colours of the walls.

Back on La Rambla, the Route comes to Pla de la Boqueria, presided over by the MOSAIC CERÀMIC DE JOAN MIRÓ (CERAMIC MOSAIC BY JOAN MIRÓ) placed here by the City Council in 1976, which in the course of time has become an emblematic image of the most popular street in Barcelona. Close by on the right you will find the CASA BRUNO CUADROS (BRUNO CUADROS HOUSE. Rambla, 82), a very interesting pre-Modernista building by Josep Vilaseca, the designer the Triumphal Arch of 1888. This ancient house, known popularly as “the Umbrella House”, was restored in 1883, incorporating oriental features such as the decoration of the façade with sgraffito work and stained glass, the Egyptian-style gallery on the first floor and the Chinese dragon that protrudes from the corner of the building. The old shop of the building, today occupied by a bank, has ornamental elements of Japanese inspiration in wood, glass and wrought iron.

Many other shops in Barcelona had a similar fate to this one. In 1962, architect David John Mackay estimated that there were 800 Modernista shops in the city. With the passing of time and the relentless work of bulldozers, this number has now been reduced to about fifty. Day by day there are fewer survivors of this Modernisme that some have unjustly called “minor” only because it was smaller in size than the large works of architecture. Some of these shops have been conserved in their full splendour, whereas others survive as best they can in isolated locations of the city. Some are in good condition, others are in a pitiful state, but all have an artistic unity that allows one to reconstruct -surrounded by stucco, mosaic, stained glass and carved mahogany- those years between the Universal Exhibition of 1888 and the second decade of the 20th century. This was a time in which the bourgeoisie of Barcelona travelled to Paris and firmly believed that Catalonia was Europe, a time in which Modernisme became a daily presence and made works of art out of the most vulgar articles. The euphoria of the turn of the century, the desire for renewal, was translated into a social use of art, an anonymous and popular art that dignified any design. It thus came about that baker’s shops, cake shops, chemist’s, clothiers or perfumeries were treated with the same respect in their decoration as the mansions of the bourgeoisie. In addition to Casa Batlló, La Pedrera, Park Güell and the Sagrada Família, many small establishments wore the new Modernista style with pride. In 1909, the magazine L’Esquella de la Torratxa summarised in a single phrase the Modernista fever that was running through the city: “Barcelona is destined to be the Athens of Art Nouveau”. A selection of the best examples of Modernista shops still open nowadays can be found in this guide in the chapter “Forever Beautiful”.

The best example of this Modernista fever that ran through Barcelona is provided by two almost adjoining buildings on the Rambla. CASA DOCTOR GENOVÉ (14) (DOCTOR GENOVÉ HOUSE. Rambla, 77) by Enric Sagnier i Villavecchia (1911) housed a chemist’s shop and its laboratory until 1974 (now replaced by a Basque tapes bar).

La Rambla
The original Rambla was a wide, rambling path that ran down the southern limits of the city parallel to the medieval wall built by king James 1st in the 13th century. One hundred years later a new wall would surround the Raval and leave the Rambla wall enclosed, without its theoretical defensive function. However, the wall gates (Santa Anna, Portaferrissa, Boqueria, Trentaclaus and Framenors) did not disappear and continued to be meeting points for open air markets, or were “recycled” into new buildings, such as a cannon factory. “Rambla”, in Arabic, means “watercourse” and this is precisely what it was: a torrent, known as the Cagalell, which had become both the sewer and the moat of the city. In the 16th century, the first religious centres (Convent de Sant Josep, 1586), schools (Estudis Generals, 1536) and theatres (Teatro de la Santa Creu, 1597) began to appear on the southern bank. Thus the 17th-century Rambla had the city wall on one side and churches and convents on the other side, in what is now the Raval district. In the late 18th century, military engineers under Juan M. Cermeño transformed this wide ditch into an elegant avenue, channelling the stream under ground and clearing plots for new, aligned buildings.

There is only one Rambla, but each section has been given a different name: going up from the port you will walk along Rambla de Santa Mònica, Rambla dels Caputxins, Rambla de Sant Josep, Rambla dels Estudis and Rambla de Canaletes. These names are not gratuitous but correspond to the monasteries, churches or buildings that stood beside the avenue that began to take shape as the ditch was filled in. In 1768 old king James’s wall was demolished and work began on the construction of some of the most emblematic buildings, such as Palau de la Virreina and Palau Moja, which are on the Modernisme Route path, and Casa March de Reus (built by Joan Soler i Faneca in 1780) which is left behind down the Rambla, at number 8. The last great transformation of the Rambla was in the 19th century, when the disentailment of the church’s property as a result of liberal policies led to the disappearance of most monasteries that stood on it. They were replaced by new streets (Carrer Ferran), public spaces (Plaça Reial), markets (La Boqueria) and buildings that have become emblematic (Liceu). The Rambla is currently the best showcase of the city, of its history and of the life of its citizens, as was described by the Catalan writer Josep Pla in one of his works: “The Rambla is a marvel. It is one of the few streets of Barcelona in which I feel fully at ease. There are always enough people to meet someone you know, but there are always enough people to go unnoticed if you wish”.

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