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Barcelona Modernisme Route
Ruta 2, Antiga Casa Figueras (15) – Casa Fajol (33) and Font Exposició 1929
Pag >> 1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , 5 , 6

Sagnier designed a building with a slightly Gothic appearance featuring a large central window, blue mosaics and a pointed entrance arch, with a magnificent relief of Aesculapius that recalls the original use of the building. Almost next to the former chemist’s shop is the ANTIGA CASA FIGUERAS (15) (FORMER FIGUERAS HOUSE. Rambla, 83), currently Pastisseria Escribà, a cake shop with an elaborate Modernista decoration by Antoni Ros i Güell (1902), with an abundance of mosaics, stucco, wrought iron, stained glass and wooden furniture in chocolate colour.

One does not have to walk too far to find the MERCAT DE LA BOQUERIA (16) (BOQUERIA MARKET. Rambla, 91), the oldest and most famous market in the city. From ancient times there had been, more or less in the same place, an open-air market in which the farmers from what is now the Raval district sold their products to the inhabitants of the walled city. Famous for the quality of its merchandise, the market occupies the former site of the Discalced Carmelite monastery of Sant Josep, which was burnt down in July 1835. The market was built five years later, in 1840, as a large porticoed square with Ionic columns under which the travelling tradesmen of the city could offer their varied products. A few years later, in 1914, an attractive metal roof designed by the engineer Miquel de Bergue was added. The market and its surroundings have been restored in recent years to the way they were in the early 20th century. The Boqueria is set in the central section of the Rambla-perhaps the most colourful and exuberant one: the Rambla de les Flors owes its name to the score of flower stalls that have been open all year round since Corpus Christi Day in 1853.

A few steps from the Boqueria one finds the PALAU DE LA VIRREINA (VICEREINE’S PALACE. Rambla, 99), built by Josep Ausich in 1778 for the former Viceroy of Peru, Manuel Amat i Junyent. The Viceroy never occupied the building because he died before it was finished. It was, however, occupied by his widow, the Vicereine María Francisca Fivaller, after whom the palace was named in the course of time. It was bought by the City Council in 1944 and in the late 1980s it became the offices of the Municipal Culture Area. The building is a good example of the French influence on architects of the 18th century. The imposing classical façade, sumptuous and Baroque in style, combines perfectly with a French-style Rococo decoration that finds its best example in the vaulted dining room illustrated with allegorical paintings. The remaining rooms in the building still have their original decoration, in Imperial style. The ground floor, which was formerly occupied by the amanuenses who wrote letters for the illiterate, currently houses a bookshop and a citizen’s information office. Next to it, on the ground floor of number 97, is the venerated music shop, CASA BEETHOVEN, founded in 1880 by the musical publisher Rafael Guàrdia.

Continuing up the Rambla we find one of the most attractive Romantic buildings in the city, CASA FRANCESC PIÑA (FRANCESC PIÑA HOUSE. Rambla, 105), also known as “El Regulador” after the jeweller’s shop that occupies the ground floor, today Joieria Bagués. This building by Josep Fontserè (1850) has a terra cotta and white-painted façade with pink stucco work, featuring false columns with capitals and bas-reliefs decorating the upper floors.

At the corner of Carrer del Carme, you will find the ESGLÉSIA DE BETLEM (CHURCH OF BETHLEHEM. Rambla, 107), built between 1680 and 1732 by Josep Juli. It is one of the few examples of Baroque art in Barcelona, but in its structure it remains faithful to the precepts of previous Catalan Gothic architecture, with a wide single nave flanked by chapels. Of the doors giving onto the Rambla, one was designed by Francesc Santacruz in 1690 and portrays Christ the Child; the other, portraying Saint John the Baptist, was designed in 1906 by Enric Sagnier taking Santacruz’s work as a reference. The church that can be seen today is not as sumptuous as it was before the Civil War of 1936-39, when its polychrome work, carvings, Italian stuccos and marbles were irreparably damaged. Since 1952, the church has kept an image of Our Lady of the Foresaken, by Mariano Benlliure. On the opposite side of the street is the PALAU MOJA (MOJA PALACE. Rambla, 118), an old property of the Marquis of Comillas built between 1774 and 1789 by the Mas i Dordal brothers, when the Rambla was transformed into an avenue. The long façade, decorated with ochre and reddish bays, rises above a portico and has a simple central pediment. The building, decorated with paintings by the Neo-Classical painter Francesc Pla, “El Vigatà”, still has the original furniture and the room occupied by the catalan “national poet” Jacint Verdaguer, a protégé of the Marquise. The Comillases were related to the Güells, and they also occasionally commissioned works from Gaudí, who thus became acquainted with Verdaguer and even -as in the Pavellons Güell, number (90) of the Modernisme Route- used his poetry as an inspiration. The palace currently houses premises of the Culture Department of the Generalitat, the autonomous Catalan government.

A small detour from the main route leads you up Carrer del Carme, which conceals two Modernista treasures only a few metres from the Rambla: the popular store EL INDIO (17) (Carme, 24), decorated in 1922 by Vilaró i Valls in the purest Modernista style, and further along, the MUY BUENAS (18) (Carme, 63), an establishment with a Modernista façade of wood that still has part of its original furniture, such as the old marble bar, which is over a century old (for further information see Let’s Go Out, the guide to Modernista bars and restaurants).

The route continues up La Rambla, known here as “Rambla dels Ocells” (Rambla of the Birds), because of the stalls selling pets that alternate with the popular newsstands of La Rambla. On the way to Plaça de Catalunya, the route has two important sites. The first is the REIAL ACADÈMIA DE CIÈNCIES I ARTS (19) (ROYAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES AND ARTS. Rambla, 115), built in 1883 by Josep Domènech i Estapà on the ruins of a former Jesuit school. In this building the architect was a pioneer in the use of ornamental and stylistic resources that would be such a success years later in the Modernista movement. As well as the Reial Acadèmia, the building currently houses the Poliorama Theatre and the Viena restaurant, the former Casa Mumbrú. Its most distinguishing feature is the clock on the façade that is popularly acknowledged to set the official time of Barcelona. Another element of interest on the façade is its elegant bay window. The dome and domed tower that crown the building originally housed a meteorological and astronomical observatory. The second site is the FARMÀCIA NADAL (NADAL PHARMACY. Rambla, 121), a chemist’s shop dating from 1850 when it was opened as Farmàcia Masó, which was later transformed into a charming shop featuring multi-coloured mosaics and four red advertising lamps, a good example of Noucentisme (a post-Modernista neoclassical movement).

Crossing the Rambla, we find Carrer Canuda and Carrer Santa Anna. A short way into Santa Anna is CASA ELENA CASTELLANO (20) (Santa Anna, 21), a 1907 building by Jaume Torres i Grau, a typical Modernista house with its bay windows and floral ornaments. Back to Carrer Canuda, after a few metres you will find the former PALAU SABASSONA of medieval origin. Since 1836 this building is the ATENEU BARCELONÈS (21) (Canuda, 6), one of the emblematic cultural entities of the city. Three small jewels remain from Josep Maria Jujol i Gibert and Josep Font i Gumà’s 1906 Modernista remodelling : the lift cabin, one of the first to be installed in the city; the reading rooms of the library; and the Romantic-style hanging garden. Continuing down Carrer Canuda you will come to Plaça de la Vila de Madrid, where you can see the remains of a Roman necropolis discovered in 1954 during the redevelopment of the site of the former Discalced Carmelite monastery that had been demolished after the Civil War. The square, redeveloped in 2003, stands on an old Roman access road to the city, and a small section of the original paving can still be seen. The road was flanked by the remains of monolithic funerary monuments and modest tegulae. Carrer Canuda leads into Portal de l’Àngel. A few metres to the left is the building of a gas company, CATALANA DE GAS, GAS NATURAL (22) (Portal de l’Àngel, 20-22), a monumental and eclectic building designed by Josep Domènech i Estapà (1895). It was originally built for the Societat Catalana per a l’Enllumenat del Gas, and now contains an interesting Gas Museum exhibiting equipment that shows the evolution of technology for this energy source (tel.: 900 150 366, visits must be booked in advance).

Going back down Portal de l’Àngel and turning into the small Carrer Montsió, after a few metres you will come to the popular Modernista tavern ELS QUATRE GATS (23) (Montsió, 3 bis. For further information see Let’s Go Out, the guide to Modernista bars and restaurants). This old bar was one of the artistic and cultural centres of the late 19th and early 20th century Barcelona. Ramon Casas, Santiago Rusiñol and Pablo Picasso are some of the illustrious characters who dined, drank and held their artistic gatherings in this unusual bar, which opened in 1897 on the ground floor of the Neo-Gothic CASA MARTÍ by Josep Puig i Cadafalch (1896). The building, which looks more European than Catalan in style, features large Gothic-style stained glass windows, a curious decoration on the windows and a Flamboyant-style balcony. The exterior also features sculptures by Eusebi Arnau, wrought iron work by Manuel Ballarín and -in the niche on the corner-Llimona’s sculpture of Saint Joseph. What you see now is a replica installed by the City Council in 2000: the original was destroyed during the Spanish Civil War. The inside is no less impressive. Ramon Casas paid for the circular chandeliers and the medieval furniture designed by Puig i Cadafalch. Another of his “gifts” was the painting depicting two men, Pere Romeu, the owner of the bar, and the artist himself riding a tandem; the one currently on display in the establishment is a copy, the original is in the MNAC museum (number (34) of the Route). The establishment, which even published its own magazine named Pèl i Ploma (Hair and Quill), became the haven of artists and intellectuals such as the composers Enric Granados and Isaac Albéniz, and the young painters Joaquim Mir and Pablo Picasso. Unfortunately, the building has not been fully preserved. The original lintel of the door, by Puig i Cadafalch, disappeared in one of the many changes that the premises have undergone in its more than a hundred years of history.

Continuing along Montsió, turn into Carrer de n’Amargós until Carrer Comtal, which takes you to Via Laietana, a wide avenue designed in the second half of the nineteenth century to open a direct access to the old port in an imitation of the North American business centres of the time. The development of this road took several decades, and masters of Modernisme like Domènech i Montaner and especially Puig i Cadafalch contributed to the project.

A short walk up Via Laietana takes us to the GREMI DELS VELERS (SAILMAKER’S GUILD, Via Laietana, 50), which is the local association of silk producers since 1764. This magnificent baroque building is decorated by sgraffito representing Atlantes and Cariatids. Slightly hidden behind it one of the essential jewels of Modernisme in Barcelona: the PALAU DE LA MÚSICA CATALANA (24). (PALACE OF CATALAN MUSIC). The Palau de la Música was commissioned by the Orfeó Català choral music organisation to the architect Lluís Domènech i Montaner in 1904. The first stone of the new building was laid on Saint George’s day 1905 and the construction went on for three years. The result was a lavish concert hall for performances of Catalan choral music.

Palau de la Música Catalana

Address
Palau de la Música, 4 - 6.
Open
Guided visits:

Daily 10am to 3.30pm.

August from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.

July and Easter from 10am to 6pm.

It is possible to purchase the entrance tickets online: www.palaumusica.cat or by telephone 902 475 485.
Information
Tel.: 902 475 485

www.palaumusica.cat

visites@palaumusica.cat

Further details
Visits last approxiamtely 50 minutes. Tiquets sold at the shop Les Muses del Palau and at the concert hall ticket booth.
Largest group 55 members.
Visits in English at every hour o’clock.
Timetables may change or be altered by concert hall needs.

Prices and discounts
Prices.

Adults: €18.00

Students: €11.00

Groups (over 25 persons): €14.40

Discount of the Modernisme Route: 20% off the adult price.
Description
Slightly hidden behind it one of the essential jewels of Modernisme in Barcelona: the PALAU DE LA MÚSICA CATALANA (24). (PALACE OF CATALAN MUSIC). The Palau de la Música was commissioned by the Orfeó Català choral music organisation to the architect Lluís Domènech i Montaner in 1904. The first stone of the new building was laid on Saint George’s day 1905 and the construction went on for three years. The result was a lavish concert hall for performances of Catalan choral music. The building was located on the site of the former monastery of Sant Francesc de Paula: the small site and the high price of the adjoining land at the time forced Domènech i Montaner to fit the auditorium into a tight grid of streets that limited the views from the exterior, and to find ingenious solutions to provide sufficient space for the stage and to include the offices and archives of the Orfeó in the building.

The church of the former monastery, converted into a parish church, survived until very recently, when it was demolished to provide more space for an extension of the Palau. This project, signed by Oscar Tusquets (2003), used the space to open a square which discovers the huge stained glass windows by Domènech, previously hidden behind the old church. This has been flanked by two cylindrical brick towers, in imitation of Domènech i Montaner, the one on the corner sculpted with the image of a luxuriant tree. Under the large square is the Petit Palau, a new multi-purpose hall with a capacity for 600 people.

Like La Pedrera, it is a supreme example of Catalan Modernisme, with its bold, brilliant and lavishly decorated architecture. The Palau is one of the most outstanding buildings in the city, and proudly bears the category of UNESCO World Heritage listing. But this was not always the case. The Palau was one of the last extravagances of Modernisme, and even in the 1920s it began to be questioned to such an extent that in the neighbourhood it was known as the “ironmonger’s palace”, and the architects of the time were in favour of demolishing it. Fortunately, they never achieved their aim and the Palau has become an institution with a special place in the collective memory of Barcelonans.

The Palau de la Música Catalana was opened in 1908 with a brief concert of works by Clavé and Händel. The façade of the Palau de la Música struck Barcelonans: of exposed brickwork combined with colourful ceramic mosaics, the corner features sculptures by Miquel Blay in the form of an enormous stone prow, representing an allegory of popular music with two boys and two old men embracing a nymph while Saint George protects them with the Catalan flag flapping in the wind, as it were. This is one of the most characteristic elements of the Palau, a work of great conceptual symbolism. The façade also has a mosaic representing “La balanguera”, a poem by Joan Alcover -today the anthem of Majorca island- surrounded by the singers of the Orfeó Català. Other points of interest on the exterior of the Palau are the peculiar ticket offices located inside the columns flanking the main door, now out of use. The rich details continue in the interior: a lavishly decorated foyer, with vaults lined with Valencian tiles and a double stair with golden glass balusters, are the hors d’oeuvres for the true jewel of the building.

The visually overwhelming concert hall is an inebriating succession of sculptures, stained glass, mosaics and decorative elements that constantly play with the perception of light and colour. The most characteristic image of the hall is its enormous and spectacular skylight of stained glass, which weighs a metric ton. This marvel of lavish art, in the form of an inverted bell, represents a circle of female angels forming a choir around the sun. Domènech i Montaner’s obsession with light is not limited to the skylight. He designed the concert hall, with its light steel structure, as a kind of glass box that filters the exterior light through windows that recall those of Gothic cathedrals and help to give the auditorium a sacred atmosphere. The stage of the concert hall is without doubt the most spectacular sculpture in the Palau. The proscenium features an unusual composition in pumice stone designed by Domènech i Montaner and sculpted by Dídac Massana and Pau Gargallo. On the left, the composition includes a bust of Josep Anselm Clavé and an allegory of the flowers of May, representing popular music. On the right, the bust of Beethoven personifies universal music. Above him, Wagnerian valkyries ride silently toward Clavé, symbolising the link between new music and the old Catalan musical folk culture. The stage is completed with a spectacular organ built in Germany and recently restored thanks to popular subscription. The hemicycle designed by Eusebi Arnau and faced with the ceramic fragment trencadís, features 18 sculptures that represent the spirits of music, together with a somewhat surprising Austrian coat of arms. A row of balconies and a colonnade of Egyptian influence make a modest contribution to the embellishment of a concert hall that is considered a sanctuary of music, in which musicians of the category of Rubinstein, Menuhin and Pau Casals have performed. Other elements of interest in the hall are the floral motifs that decorate all the ornamental elements, both on the ceiling and on the stained glass, and the mediaeval-like lamps, rather more suited to a castle than to a concert hall. Other spaces of interest in the Palau are the chamber music hall, in which one can still see the founding stone of the building, and the Lluís Millet Hall, which is perhaps the space that remains most faithful to the original design by Domènech i Montaner.

The building was located on the site of the former monastery of Sant Francesc de Paula: the small site and the high price of the adjoining land at the time forced Domènech i Montaner to fit the auditorium into a tight grid of streets that limited the views from the exterior, and to find ingenious solutions to provide sufficient space for the stage and to include the offices and archives of the Orfeó in the building.

The church of the former monastery, converted into a parish church, survived until very recently, when it was demolished to provide more space for an extension of the Palau. This project, signed by Oscar Tusquets (2003), used the space to open a square which discovers the huge stained glass windows by Domènech, previously hidden behind the old church. This has been flanked by two cylindrical brick towers, in imitation of Domènech i Montaner, the one on the corner sculpted with the image of a luxuriant tree. Under the large square is the Petit Palau, a new multi-purpose hall with a capacity for 600 people.

Like La Pedrera, it is a supreme example of Catalan Modernisme, with its bold, brilliant and lavishly decorated architecture. The Palau is one of the most outstanding buildings in the city, and proudly bears the category of UNESCO World Heritage listing. But this was not always the case. The Palau was one of the last extravagances of Modernisme, and even in the 1920s it began to be questioned to such an extent that in the neighbourhood it was known as the “ironmonger’s palace”, and the architects of the time were in favour of demolishing it. Fortunately, they never achieved their aim and the Palau has become an institution with a special place in the collective memory of Barcelonans.

The Palau de la Música Catalana was opened in 1908 with a brief concert of works by Clavé and Händel. The façade of the Palau de la Música struck Barcelonans: of exposed brickwork combined with colourful ceramic mosaics, the corner features sculptures by Miquel Blay in the form of an enormous stone prow, representing an allegory of popular music with two boys and two old men embracing a nymph while Saint George protects them with the Catalan flag flapping in the wind, as it were. This is one of the most characteristic elements of the Palau, a work of great conceptual symbolism. The façade also has a mosaic representing “La balanguera”, a poem by Joan Alcover -today the anthem of Majorca island- surrounded by the singers of the Orfeó Català. Other points of interest on the exterior of the Palau are the peculiar ticket offices located inside the columns flanking the main door, now out of use. The rich details continue in the interior: a lavishly decorated foyer, with vaults lined with Valencian tiles and a double stair with golden glass balusters, are the hors d’oeuvres for the true jewel of the building.

The visually overwhelming concert hall is an inebriating succession of sculptures, stained glass, mosaics and decorative elements that constantly play with the perception of light and colour. The most characteristic image of the hall is its enormous and spectacular skylight of stained glass, which weighs a metric ton. This marvel of lavish art, in the form of an inverted bell, represents a circle of female angels forming a choir around the sun. Domènech i Montaner’s obsession with light is not limited to the skylight. He designed the concert hall, with its light steel structure, as a kind of glass box that filters the exterior light through windows that recall those of Gothic cathedrals and help to give the auditorium a sacred atmosphere. The stage of the concert hall is without doubt the most spectacular sculpture in the Palau. The proscenium features an unusual composition in pumice stone designed by Domènech i Montaner and sculpted by Dídac Massana and Pau Gargallo. On the left, the composition includes a bust of Josep Anselm Clavé and an allegory of the flowers of May, representing popular music. On the right, the bust of Beethoven personifies universal music. Above him, Wagnerian valkyries ride silently toward Clavé, symbolising the link between new music and the old Catalan musical folk culture. The stage is completed with a spectacular organ built in Germany and recently restored thanks to popular subscription. The hemicycle designed by Eusebi Arnau and faced with the ceramic fragment trencadís, features 18 sculptures that represent the spirits of music, together with a somewhat surprising Austrian coat of arms. A row of balconies and a colonnade of Egyptian influence make a modest contribution to the embellishment of a concert hall that is considered a sanctuary of music, in which musicians of the category of Rubinstein, Menuhin and Pau Casals have performed. Other elements of interest in the hall are the floral motifs that decorate all the ornamental elements, both on the ceiling and on the stained glass, and the mediaeval-like lamps, rather more suited to a castle than to a concert hall. Other spaces of interest in the Palau are the chamber music hall, in which one can still see the founding stone of the building, and the Lluís Millet Hall, which is perhaps the space that remains most faithful to the original design by Domènech i Montaner.

If you go round the Palau along Carrer Amadeu Vives and Carrer Ortigosa you will return to Via Laietana. In front of you stands the triangular building CAIXA DE PENSIONS I D’ESTALVIS DE BARCELONA (Via Laietana, 56-58), which for several years housed the Foundation of “la Caixa” savings bank and currently houses the Administrative Law Section of the High Court of Justice of Catalonia. This Neo-Medieval work (by Enric Sagnier, 1917) bears on its façade a sculpture by Manuel Fuxà conceived as an allegory of thrift, and a spectacular Gothic arch with stained glass windows. On the right is another building, also designed by Sagnier, known as EDIFICI ANNEX DE LA CAIXA DE PENSIONS (ANNEXE TO THE CAIXA DE PENSIONS, Jonqueres, 2). Here the architect used predominantly white stone decorated with a few Valencian tiles, but it has more modern lines and is one of the first examples of contemporary office buildings in the city.

At Via Laietana, turn right towards Plaça d’Urquinaona. From this square, the route continues to the left towards Plaça de Catalunya, the nerve centre of the city. Work started on the definitive design of this monumental circular square in 1925, after half a century of litigation between the City Council, the State and the private owners of these lands that for years marked the boundary between the old walled city and the new city that was spreading over the plain. The project was signed by Francesc de Paula Nebot, though he merely adapted an earlier design by Puig i Cadafalch, whom the military regime of general Primo de Rivera had condemned to ostracism. In fact, a work by Josep Puig i Cadafalch in the Modern Classicist style can be seen in the square on the corner of Rambla de Catalunya, CASA PICH I PON (PICH I PON HOUSE. Plaça de Catalunya, 9). Plaça de Catalunya marks the start of Passeig de Gràcia and the Eixample district, the true “motherland” of Barcelona’s Modernisme. In the middle of the square is the underground Tourist Information Office of Barcelona, the starting point for the Modernisme Walking Tours and one of the three Modernisme Centres of Barcelona. You can obtain the free discount vouchers for the Modernisme Route on presenting this guide at the Centre, which specialises in information on Modernisme. The adjacent shop sells products related to this artistic movement.

Centre d’Informació de Turisme de Barcelona - Centre del Modernisme



Barcelona Walking Tours

Address
Tourist Information Centre. Plaça de Catalunya, 17, basement.
Open
Barcelona Walking Tours Modernisme: 

English:

from April to October, Wednesdays and Fridays at 6 p.m.

From November to March, Wednesday and Fridays at 3.30 p.m.

French:

from April to October, Sundays al 10.30 a.m.

Catalan/Spanish:

from April to October Sundays at 12 p.m.

On January 1st and 6, 14th April, 1st November, 6 and 8 December there are no Walking Tours. Tourist Information Office of Barcelona: Monday to Sunday from 8.30am to 8.30pm. Closed on January 1st and December 25.
Information
Tel.: 932 853 832. www.barcelonaturisme.com
Prices and discounts
Prices.

Adults: €16,00.

Children (0 to 12 years of age): free.

Discount of the Modernisme Route: 20% off the price for adults.

Passeig de Gràcia is the backbone of the Eixample. It is a boulevard with a mixture of private residences, banks, cinemas, prestige establishments, coffee bars and many treasures of Modernisme. Initially, the boulevard was a simple dirt track that ran from the city walls of Barcelona to the neighbouring town of Gràcia. This began to change in 1827, when it was converted into a tree-lined boulevard. In 1852, the first gaslights were installed, and one year later a large leisure zone called Camps Elisis with gardens, bars, restaurants, dance halls, amusements and an open-air auditorium, was opened in the section between Carrer Aragó and Carrer Mallorca. In 1872 the first horse-drawn tramway began to operate, and from the 1890’s onward it became the new residential centre of the upper middle classes.

L’Eixample
The expansion area called “l’Eixample” was first conceived in the mid-19th century. In 1854, the city obtained the necessary authorisation from the government to knock down the walls that surrounded Barcelona. The walls, which were not popular since 1714, as they had been used to control the city rather than to defend it, rose on the line now followed by Av. del Paral·lel and the “Rondes” Sant Pau, Sant Antoni, Universitat, Sant Pere, and Passeig de Lluís Companys. However, despite enthusiastic volunteers who started knocking down parts on their own, the city walls were not removed completely until some years later. The demolition took almost a decade and was thorough. In 1859, with the city walls half demolished, development work began on the zone between the original town centre of Barcelona and the plain on which the old towns of Gràcia, Sants, Les Corts, Sant Gervasi de Cassoles and Sant Martí de Provençals were located. This initial zone of the Eixample occupied the former military security zone of two kilometres -the range of cannonballs- surrounding the city walls.

The Eixample is characterised by its grid plan, designed in 1859 by the engineer and town planner Ildefons Cerdà. Cerdà’s design is somewhat reminiscent of the Paris that Haussman designed for Napoleon 3rd, with its wide boulevards running right through the centre of the city. The main difference was that Cerdà did not have an urban centre to work on. He was faced with a large expanse of open country -a delight for any planner. A man of socialist leanings, Cerdà devised an urban grid plan in which each block represented society and allowed for the cohabitation of the bourgeoisie, craftsmen, tradesmen and workers in a city without hierarchies. But Cerdà’s ideal was never realised. The dynamics of real estate soon led some areas of the Eixample to become more expensive and exclusive than others. The border between two zones was marked by the railway line built in 1863 to link Plaça de Catalunya to the town of Sarrià along the present-day Carrer Balmes (the railway was placed underground in 1929 and is now the FGC 6 and 7 subway lines). On the left of the lines the land was cheaper; on the right it was far more expensive. This is why the Modernista architecture built to satisfy the vanity of the flourishing bourgeoisie of the time is mostly concentrated to the right of Carrer Balmes.

This is not the only divergence between Cerdà’s utopian design and reality in the Eixample. Cerdà designed 550 open gardened blocks separated by 20-metre wide streets. The purpose of the 45 degree-chamfered corners was to provide sufficient turning space for public transport vehicles and to create a place for loading and unloading of goods. Except for this last one, none of the original plans of Cerdà have been fulfilled. The current blocks are closed and the interior garden courts have been replaced almost completely by warehouses or garages. The 17-metre height planned by Cerdà was not respected, nor were his prescriptions of a 4,000 m2 maximum housing density per block, which developers promptly raised to 16,000 m2.

The construction of the new district designed by Cerdà, which started in 1860, was slow and discontinuous. The first buildings of the Eixample were those that occupied the corners on the crossing of Carrer Roger de Llúria with Carrer Consell de Cent (they are now identified by a plate on the façade). In 1872, there were only one thousand houses concentrated almost exclusively in the area between Passeig de Gràcia and the streets Consell de Cent, Casp and Bailèn -one thousand buildings for the first 40,000 inhabitants of a district that did not start to grow steadily until 1880, when a new generation of architects who were more ambitious and talented than their predecessors led the construction of the new Barcelona. These architects (with Gaudí, Puig i Cadafalch and Domènech i Montaner at the head) transformed the Eixample into an open-air museum of dwellings with a good layout, ventilation and lighting -functional dwellings, as we would call them today. These houses were thus the most modern at the beginning of the 20th century. Despite all the distortions of Cerdà’s original design, the Eixample is one of the most interesting urban areas in Europe. During the last few years, the City Council has promoted the recovery of some block interiors to open them to the public.


The fact that it is a wealthy area is shown in one of the most striking elements of the Passeig: its 31 benches-cum-streetlamps, designed in 1906 by Pere Falqués (55), which may pass unnoticed among the diversity of modern urban elements and the swarming traffic that invades Passeig de Gràcia every day. Other characteristic elements are the panots (pavement tiles), copied from the floor tiles designed by Gaudí for Casa Batlló, which were finally installed in the kitchens and service areas of La Pedrera. In 2002 the City Council repaved the avenue with them: hexagonal tiles that are all alike yet when set together reveal the marine motifs: an octopus, a conch and a starfish. The tiles were produced by the company Escofet and were among the first mass-produced paving tiles in Catalonia.

The architectural marvels of Passeig de Gràcia begin almost at the bottom of the boulevard with CASA PASCUAL I PONS (25) (PASCUAL I PONS HOUSE. Passeig de Gràcia, 2-4), at the closing of this edition, restoration work had begun the most Gothic work by Enric Sagnier i Villavecchia, one of the most prolific Modernista architects of Barcelona. The main interest of the building lies in the interior: it has stained glass windows representing medieval figures that can be seen from the exterior, a staircase with sculptural decorative elements and iron and glass lamps, and a majestic wooden fireplace. Built in 1890-1891, the Casa Pons i Pascual was originally two separate houses designed individually to make full use of their exceptional location, at the corner of Plaça de Catalunya and Passeig de Gràcia. A major remodelling of the houses was undertaken in 1984. The Route now continues up Passeig de Gràcia to Carrer Casp, where it is worth making a brief detour.

The first noteworthy building that you come to is the Modernista CASA LLORENÇ CAMPRUBÍ (26) (LLORENÇ CAMPRUBÍ HOUSE. Casp, 22) by Adolf Ruiz i Casamitjana (1901). With an exceptional bay window that occupies the piano nobile and the first floor of the building, Casa Camprubí is a good example of Ruiz’s work in the late nineteenth century, a period in which this architect made a very personal interpretation of a wide repertory of Neo-Gothic forms and elements. The following building on the detour along Carrer Casp is CASA SALVADÓ (SALVADÓ HOUSE. Casp, 46), an Eclectic-style alternative by Juli Batllevell in a zone dominated by Modernisme. The adjoining building is CASA CALVET (27) (CALVET HOUSE. Casp, 48) by Antoni Gaudí. Casa Calvet (1898-1899) was the first residential building by the brilliant architect in the Eixample, and with it he started a line that was followed by many houses that also used Baroque or Rococo elements such as the undulating forms, the peculiar treatment of the irregular surface of Montjuïc sandstone, the balconies and the bay windows. In Casa Calvet, Gaudí gave a different treatment to each element of the building. The façade features a Baroque bay window with wrought iron railings and reliefs representing different types of fungi in reference to the fact that Eduard Calvet, the first owner of the building, was an amateur mycologist. The decoration of the bay window includes the coat of arms of Catalonia and a representation of a cypress tree, symbol of hospitality. This is shown in the foyer and the ground floor premises, which have now been transformed into the Casa Calvet Restaurant (tables must be booked in advance: phone 934 124 012. For further information see Let’s Go Out, the guide to Modernista bars and restaurants). The restaurant has conserved the original furniture of Calvet’s office, from which he ran his textile emporium. Interesting features are the lamps, the benches in the reception room and the courtesy benches against the wall, the wood partitions that separated the offices from the textile store, the door handles and the beams of the ceiling.

If you now retrace your steps along Carrer Casp to Passeig de Gràcia, you will come to the CASES ROCAMORA (28) buildings (ROCAMORA HOUSES. Passeig de Gràcia, 6-14).

Like the Casa de les Punxes by Puig i Cadafalch (78), this is one of the largest architectural complexes in the Eixample. Though the blocks of this district were normally divided into individual buildings, this site was built as a single architectural volume to emphasise its magnificence. It is a 1914 building in a clearly Neo-Gothic style by the brothers Joaquim and Bonaventura Bassegoda, who paid special attention to the treatment of the stone on the façade and to the striking set of bay windows on the corner of Carrer Casp.

The route continues up Passeig de Gràcia to Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes, one of the three road arteries that Cerdà designed to communicate the whole grid plan of the Eixample (the other two are Avinguda Diagonal and Avinguda Meridiana). The crossing of these two large avenues is dominated by two striking buildings, though not Modernista in style. On the left is PALAU MARCET(MARCET PALACE. Passeig de Gràcia, 13), an urban mansion built in 1887 by Tiberi Sabater, which was transformed in 1934 into a theatre and has now been converted into a multi-screen cinema. On the right is the undulating Rationalist façade decorated with glass bricks of JOIERIA ROCA (Passeig de Gràcia, 18), a jeweller’s shop designed by Josep Lluís Sert in 1934.

A detour to the left along Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes leads to several interesting Modernista buildings, but the first building is the Eclectic style CASA PIA BATLLÓ (PIA BATLLÓ HOUSE. Rambla de Catalunya, 17), a Neo-Gothic building by Josep Vilaseca (1896) that stands on the corner and is topped by two glazed ceramic towers crowned by wrought iron belvederes. After passing the monumental Cine Coliseum and the Neo-Classical building of the University of Barcelona (by Elies Rogent, 1896), on the opposite side of the avenue -on what Barcelonans call “the seaward side” of any street- you can see the CASA GERÓNIMO GRANELL (29) (GERÓNIMO GRANELL HOUSE. Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes, 582) by the architect Gerónimo F. Granell i Barrera (1902). Though this building has undergone many transformations on the ground floor, it still has Modernista elements such as the bay window next to the party wall, whose location breaks the symmetry of the façade. A full restoration in 2004 has recovered some of the original flavour of this architect’s peculiar use of Neo-Gothic forms.

Further along, at the corner of Carrer Villarroel, you will come to a set of three Modernista buildings by unknown architects,CONJUNT DE TRES EDIFICIS (30) (ENSEMBLE OF THREE BUILDINGS. Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes, 536-542 / Villarroel, 49-51), where the FARMÀCIA MESTRE (MESTRE PHARMACY) (1903), a chemist’s shop located on the ground floor at the corner of Gran Via and Carrer Villarroel, still has much of its original decoration, especially the doors and shop windows. Continuing along Gran Via, at the corner of Carrer Comte Borrell, it is worth spending a few moments at another chemist’s shop which shows Modernista influences, the FARMÀCIA MADROÑAL (MADROÑAL PHARMACY. Comte Borrell, 133).

Very close by, on the opposite side -Barcelonans would call this “the mountain side” of the road- you will come to the CASA GOLFERICHS (31) (GOLFERICHS HOUSE. Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes, 491), a Modernista house built in 1901 by Joan Rubió i Bellvé for Macari Golferichs, a tropical wood trader. After the Civil War it became a religious school and in the late 1960s it was bought by a private developer with the idea of demolishing it and building flats. But the insistent protests of the neighbours prevented “el Xalet”, as it is popularly known, from falling victim to speculation. In 1980 the Barcelona City Council recovered the ownership of the building to convert it into a civic centre. In 2004 it was opened after a restoration that included the façades, the roofs, the stone walls, the woodwork and the ceramics.

Next you will come to CASA DE LA LACTÀNCIA (32) (NURSING MOTHER’S HOUSE. Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes, 475-477), a beautiful blue building with a sculptural relief that indicates the original use of the building. One of the main points of interest of the house, completed in 1913 by Antoni de Falguera i Sivilla and Pere Falqués i Urpí, is the entrance court decorated with ceramics and crowned by a skylight that fills it with light. Just before reaching Plaça d’Espanya, you will pass in front of CASA FAJOL (33) (FAJOL HOUSE. Llançà, 20), by Josep Graner i Prat (1912), popularly known as the “Butterfly House” because of the trencadís crown representing a butterfly with unusual curved lines that is the identifying feature of the building.

Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes will take you to Plaça d’Espanya, a traffic hub of the city, where you enter the Sants district, an area with a traditional atmosphere that still shows its industrial and working class history. This may be why there are few traces of Modernisme here, except for a few emblematic buildings. In the middle of the square is the FONT COMMEMORATIVA DE L’EXPOSICIÓ DE 1929 (COMMEMORATIVE FOUNTAIN OF THE 1929 EXHIBITION. Plaça d’Espanya, s/n), built by Josep M. Jujol for the entrance square to the International Exhibition of Barcelona of 1929, though it was not finished until after the exhibition. It has groups of sculptures by Miquel Blay and by the brothers Miquel and Llucià Oslé, and is considered to be Eclectic in style.

Go up Avinguda de la Reina Maria Cristina to the Palau Nacional; if this avenue is closed to the public because of a trade fair of Fira de Barcelona (see www.rutadelmodernisme.com or phone 902 076 621), go up Carrer Mèxic. Continue walking up the ESCALES I EL MIRADOR DEL PALAU NACIONAL (STEPS AND VIEWPOINT OF THE NATIONAL PALACE), the backbone of the 1929 Exhibition, designed by the architect Josep Puig i Cadafalch, which contains three squares on different levels with waterfalls in the centre, all arranged with precise symmetry. In the first square is the FONT MÀGICA, (MAGIC FOUNTAIN. Plaça de Carles Buïgas, s/n), built by the engineer Carles Buïgas in 1927-29, which takes its name from the impression it caused among the public of the time. One can regularly see the spectacle of water, music, light and colour (information calling 010). Continuing up the steps, you will come to Plaça del Marquès de Foronda. It is flanked on either side by the PALAU D’ALFONS XIII (ALFONS XIII PALACE) and the PALAU DE LA REINA VICTÒRIA EUGÈNIA (QUEEN VICTÒRIA EUGÈNIA PALACE), which were designed in 1918-1923 by Josep Puig i Cadafalch as pavilions for the 1929 Exhibition and are now used for the trade fairs of Fira de Barcelona.

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