By the end of XIX and beginnings of XX century, a new artistic movement spread throughout Europe that broke with the past and gave priority to craftsmanship and nature motifs over the rigid hierarchical structure of academic art.
Right before 1900, Eusebi Güell, Catalan industrial and politician, who made his fortune in the textile sector, entrusted his friend Gaudi with the design of a housing project that would accommodate well known families in a estate up in the neighboring hills around Barcelona.
From each of the projected 60 plots, happy owners were going to enjoy a privileged view of the sea and the city in a complex full of religious symbols and in harmony with Catalan traditions.
The ambitious dream never really fructified. In 1914 Count Güell abandoned his project. In 1922, four years after his death, the city town hall buys the property to his heirs and by 1926 it is inaugurated as a beautiful park and garden.
24, 92 Parc Güell, 116 Olot / Marianao,
24, 32, H6 CAP Larrard
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|Palau de la Musica|
When you approach the Palau (palace), the first thing you notice is that this is too much of an architectural marvel for the streets that surround it and that it is difficult to frame a decent picture due to short distance you have to shoot.
But why did Lluis Domenech i Montaner designed and built this? What was the purpose of a concert hall here?
Well, we have to thank, the board of directors of the Orfeó Català choral society, presided by Joaquim Cabot, a renown jeweler. They bought a small plot of irregular shape at Sant Pere quarter and assigned Montaner with the project. Orfeó Català, founded by Lluís Millet and Amadeu Vives and inspired by the choral works of Catalan composer Josep Anselm Clavé, definitely needed a building after a series of concerts in the 1888 Barcelona Universal Exposition and the growing success of their choir and institution.
The construction lasted only three years!
From 1905 to 1908, and not without difficulties, Montaner, managed to give fantastic solutions to the space and illumination problems inherent to the place.
Did you know that Palau de la Musica's first stone was laid on Sant Jordi's day or that in 1920s, some architects thought of demolishing the building for being too extravagant?
Maybe it was, but if the quest of a new identity by the local bourgeoisie and its explosion of creativity, brought a concert hall like this, then we are very lucky to inherit it and we embrace it in awe.
Visualize a stained glass skylight that weighs a metric ton where you can see angels singing around the sun in the shape of an inverted bell hanging over your head, while you watch your favorite concert performed in a stage full of muses and Wagnerian valkyries.
Look, I would be here depicting for hours what your imagination cannot recreate without watching this beauty yourselves.
Maybe this incredible Palau de la Musica Catalana VR gives you an idea.
Or even better, come to Barcelona and plan your Palau de la Musica visit online or directly at the box office.
V15, V17, 45 Via Laeitana
39, 42, 55, H16 Plaça Urquinaona.
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The last civil work of Gaudi before completely getting absorbed by his famous cathedral was La Pedrera or Casa Mila, a modernist building that raised a lot of controversy in local newspapers by the time it was finished in 1910.
Pere Mila, who by the way owned La Monumental bull ring, was one of those prosperous businessmen craving for a splendorous house in Passeig de Gracia that represented his social status within the wealthy families of the buoyant Catalan bourgeoisie. He commissioned Antoni Gaudi with the project. By that time, the architect was busy with the restoring works in Casa Batllo. Mila's father and the promoter at the Batllo house, were partners.
Gaudi took too many liberties that displeased Mila and his promoters and although this was meant to be the culmination of his work besides Sagrada Familia, he had to deal with complaints about his expenditures and his way too daring architectural eccentricities.
La Pedrera, catalan word for quarry. was the final popular nickname given to the house inspired in the many blocks of cut stone visible on the façade. A façade whose undulated horizontal lines create the illusion of an animated living organism.
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4 - Casa Batlló
By the times Batlló acquired the house, Casa Amatller was way to sumptuous to compete and it happened to be next door, so he put his faith in a very popular artist at that moment, Antoni Gaudi.
Instead of demolishing the rather sober building as suggested by the owner, the architect carried out an extraordinary restoration that was audacious and functional at the same time. The result was brutally attractive and efficient, for generations to admire.
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5 - Casa Amatller
|Stain Glass Casa Amatller|
The capital amassed from then on, allowed Mr. Amatller to become an art collector, a prestigious photographer and painter. He was a visionary that invested in publicity for his products using art nouveau illustrations by the best artists of his times. So well he did that he entered the Passeig de Gracia elite of proud owners of ostentatious modernista houses.
The house that we see nowadays is in fact the exquisite refurbishing that Josep Puig i Cadafalch made over an 1875 original building which was rather austere. The famous architect, who inspired most of his followers with this masterpiece, added gothic details to a ridged façade, to this crow-stepped gable with clear Flemish or Nordic architecture influence.
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|Casa Lleo i Morera|
On the corner of Passeig de Gracia and Consell de Cent, you come across one of the most beautiful modernista houses that are part of the Illa de la Discordia or Block of the Discord.
This was also a restoration and a very good one, of course. Domenech i Montaner was one the most popular architects of the moment. Remember that he also built Hospital de Sant Pau, Palau de la Musica Catalana and Casa Fuster among other outstanding works.
In this case, the original building came to the hands of their owners by inheritance. Francesca Morera i Ortiz got it from an uncle that had become rich in America. The presence of nearby Casa Amatller pushed Mrs. Morera to decide that she was not second to none, so in the wake of many other rich members of Catalan bourgeoisie, she summoned Montaner and put him in charge of the renovation.
It happened that the illustrious lady did not survive the house inauguration by one year.
Do not miss this virtual tour of Casa Lleo i Morera!
Only the first floor is open to the public by guided tour only.
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|Palau Baro de Quadras|
The aftermath of the industrial revolution, the 1888 Universal Exhibition in Barcelona, the accruing of wealth coming from the textile industry or the fortunes made in Cuba by the indianos, (Spanish emigrants in America) created a breeding ground for this eagerness to excel by spending every dime in artistic expression and where better than your own house to start with. In 1906, Manuel Quadras i Prim, fulfilled such a dream.
The Baron, son of a rich textile businessman, commissioned Josep Puig i Cadafalch to restore a house in Diagonal avenue, one of the main streets conceived by the urban planner Ildefons Cerdà. The estate had been inherited from his father and needed to be refurbished in accordance with the new noble status of his owner.
Cadafalch, who had worked for Quadras in the past, knew well what he had to do to express the desires of his patron. As it happened that there were two façades, one facing Diagonal and the other carrer Roselló, and bearing in mind that the three upper levels were meant to be apartments for rent, the architect designed an opulent entrance of neo-plateresque style for the proprietor in the avenue and a back sober entrance on the other side for the tenants.
The balcony, featuring busts of medieval and Renaissance figures, floral adornments and heraldic symbols and the neo gothic staircase shown in the picture above are a must see.
More information here: Palau Baro de Quadras
Read more about Palacio del Baro de Quadras
8 - Casa Comalat
Featuring also two completely different façades, Casa Comalat is beautiful enough to satisfy your curiosity and admiration for architecture.
The projecting bay is made of several party walls created with a system of narrow roller-shuttered windows. This is one of the differentiating traits of Casa Comalat with the rest of casas modernistas, the shutters. Also the excess of ornaments makes it unique, as the building is part of late modernisme in Barcelona.
It is a pity that the interior of Casa Comalat is not open to the public.
Read more about Casa Comalat
|Hospital de Sant Pau|
Carrer Sant Antoni Maria Claret: H8, 19, 20, 45, 47, 50, 51, 117, N1, N4
Carrer Cartagena: 192, N0
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Read more about La Sagrada Familia