Visit the Modernist Barcelona

Modernism is a cultural movement which had its heyday in the West in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, embodying the most renovative tendencies in literature, theatre, architecture, fine arts, decoration and the design of furniture and other objects.

 The movement received different names in different countries. In the Catalan Countries it was known as Modernisme; in the rest of Spain as Modernismo; in France and Belgium, Art Nouveau; in the Anglo-Saxon countries, Modern Style; in Austria, Sezessionstil; in Germany, Jugendstil; and in Italy, Liberty or Floreale.

All of these styles are parallel, but not identical. Nor are they unitary styles; instead, each one includes various tendencies, particularly the Catalan variant, which is the most varied, the most popularised, the richest and longest-lasting of all: it flourished between 1888 and 1906, with a prologue in 1882 and an epilogue lasting until the First World War.

Modernism is one of the principal attractions of Barcelona, to the extent that many of the city’s modernist buildings are acknowledged by UNESCO as World Heritage sites.

Passeig de Gràcia

In this boulevard, between the streets Consell de Cent and Aragó on the south-western side, stands the famous street block popularly known as l'illa de la discòrdia ('block of discord'), due to the contrast in the architecture of its buildings, all from the first decade of the 20th century. The building at the seaward end of the block is the Lleó Morera house, by Lluís Domènech i Montaner, in modernist floral style. There follow two buildings of a modernised Louis XV type, by Enric Sagnier, and the neo-Gothic Amatller house , with ornamentation of polychrome tiles, by Josep Puig i Cadafalch, followed by the Batlló house , with a mosaic façade and a tiled roof, by Antoni Gaudí. A little further up the street, on the right-hand side on the corner with Carrer Provença, there is the Milà house 'La Pedrera', designed by Gaudí shortly after the termination of the Batlló house . The originality of La Pedrera is not limited to the sculptural forms of its façade, but also extends to the interior of the building.

The Modernism Route

The Modernism Route, promoted by the Barcelona City Council and by other institutions such as the Barcelona Provincial Council, has been created with the ambition of offering both residents and visitors the chance to discover this rich heritage in a walking itinerary which includes prestigious shops, emblematic restaurants, museums and the necessary information for understanding the genesis and urban development of the city.

Visitors can enter the principal buildings and places of interest of the Route: the Palau Güell, the Palau de la Música Catalana, the buildings included in what is popularly known as the ‘block of discord’, the Antoni Tàpies Foundation, the ‘Pedrera’, the Holy Family Temple, the Parc Güell, the Gaudí House-Museum and the Museum of Modern Art.

The Art Nouveau Route aims to extend the model of The Art Nouveau Route of Barcelona to all European cities with a heritage of modernism or related styles. This new cultural network embraces 69 cities in 29 countries on three continents, including Latin America and even Africa, represented by the city of Lüderitz (Namibia).

Lluís Domènech i Montaner

The architect, historian and politician Lluís Domènech i Montaner studied in Barcelona and at the Madrid School of Architecture, where he graduated in 1873. In 1875 ha was named head of the department of composition and projects of the Barcelona School of Architecture, of which he was the director from 1901 onwards and in which he carried out a highly productive teaching activity. Professionally, the Universal Exposition of 1888 gave him the opportunity to construct the first works which made him popular: the Hotel Internacional and the restaurant of the Parc de la Ciutadella (known popularly as the ‘Castle of the Three Dragons’). With this work he took a step ahead of the architectural currents of his time.

He constructed other monumental buildings, including the Palau de la Música Catalana (1905-1908), the Lleó Morera house (1905) and the Fuster house (1908), and, between 1902 and 1912, the great monumental complex of the Hospital de Sant Pau. He was the winner three times (in 1903, 1905 and 1912) of the Barcelona City Council’s prize for the best building of the year.

Year 2000: "Year Domènech i Montaner"

On 29 December 1999, the acting Mayor and President of the Municipal Institute for the Urban Landscape and Quality of Life , Jordi Portabella, presented at the Palau de la Música the Domènech i Montaner Year, which has been held during the year 2000 coinciding with the 150th anniversary of the birth of this great architect.

El Palau de la Música Catalana

On the corner of Carrer Amadeu Vives stands this work by the architect Domènech i Montaner, a follower of Gaudí. The Palau de la Música Catalana dates from 1908, and its interior is the most important testimony of the modernist style. Here we find polychrome materials (pottery mosaics, stained glass); the floral theme and the figures with the body of mosaic and the bust in relief are by Eusebi Arnau. To the left of the stage there is a stone sculpture by Pau Gargallo, evoking Catalan folk song in the person of Anselm Clavé and the girls of his song The Flowers of May. The sculpture to the right evokes international music, with the bust of Beethoven and the ride of Wagner’s Valkyries.

The Palau de la Música Catalana was created as the home and concert hall of the Orfeó Català, a large choral society founded some years earlier by Lluís Millet, which has been of great importance in the revaluation of Catalan popular music.

Josep Puig i Cadafalch

Architect, art historian and politician, Josep Puig i Cadafalch (Mataró, 1867) studied architecture (1883) and exact sciences in Barcelona and gained his doctorate in Madrid in 1888. As the municipal architect of Mataró, in 1889 he designed the covered market and the sewerage network. After settling in Barcelona, he directed the construction of the Martí House – Els Quatre Gats (1895) – which has the characteristics of his early style: the original adoption and adaptation of forms of Nordic Gothic, without forgetting the ancestral tradition, with a predominance of the applied arts.

Of his extensive work, we can highlight in Barcelona the Ametller House (1900), influenced by Flemish architecture; the Macaya House (1901), where he fully exploited the stuccoed finish of the façade, which he also did in the Trinxet House (1904, disappeared) and in the Sastre i Marquès de Sarrià House (1905), while still taking inspiration from medieval Catalan forms in the restoration of the residence of the Barons de Quadras. We can also highlight in Barcelona the block of three unitary buildings which he constructed for the Terrades family in 1905 (the “Casa de les Punxes”, “House of Spires”), where he adopted the flamboyant Gothic style.

Due to the political circumstances of the time, in 1924 he suffered a campaign of discredit, and the dictatorial municipal council of Barcelona of the time dismissed him from his position of architect of the 1929 Universal Exposition. The uprising of 1936 forced him to flee into exile and settle in Paris. After the Spanish Civil War he was prohibited from exercising his profession of architect.

Year 2001: "Year Puig i Cadafalch"

On 4 December 2000, the Municipal Councils of Barcelona, Mataró and Argentona signed a collaboration agreement to commemorate during the year 2001 the figure of the great Catalan modernist architect Josep Puig i Cadafalch. This agreement provides for the constitution of a Council of Honour and an Executive Council, the latter presided by Mr. Jordi Portabella, the third deputy mayor and president of the Institute of Urban Landscape and Quality of Life of the Barcelona City Council, and an Advisory Committee composed of experts on the work of Puig i Cadafalch.

On 12 December, in a solemn ceremony presided by the Mayor of Barcelona, Mr. Joan Clos i Matheu, a total of 30 Municipal Councils and institutions signed the agreement of adhesion to this initiative. During the Puig i Cadafalch Year various events have been organised in order to foster the greater knowledge and maximum dissemination of the architectural, artistic and cultural elements related with his life.

The principal activities agreed include the signing of collaboration agreements with institutional representatives and private individuals from other localities having works by Puig i Cadafalch and wishing to participate in the commemoration, and also the holding of exhibitions and symposia and the creation of a Route articulating visits to the most emblematic works of this architectural genius, an activity which will include the publication of a guide and the staging of a commemorative exhibition in the Casa Amatller.

Likewise within the frame of the activities commemorating the Puig i Cadafalch Year, the restoration has begun on the Mulei Afid house, an Art Nouveau mansion situated at number 55 of Passeig de la Bonanova. The celebrated architect built this house in 1914.