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Modernist Architecture

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Modernist ArchitectsDomènech BerenguerJujolPuigGaudiPhotos

Brief History
Barcelona, capital of Catalonia, is a very old city and even made its first appearance on a map in 133 B.C.. In the Gothic quarter, it becomes obvious that the city has got a long history. There are still some pieces left of a Roman wall, and there are lots of Gothic buildings . The city's population kept growing trough the centuries, and soon the city was expanding outside the Roman walls.
From the beginning of the 18th century, Catalonia was under Spanish government. In the middle of the 19th century, Barcelona became a rich and fast-growing city, and experienced a cultural and economic revival. It was during this period that the city was expanded with the area El Eixample. The Renaixença- movement was started and its purpose was to let Catalan culture revive again. Catalonia wanted to escape from the Spanish regime, which resulted in riots. The Spanish civil war started in 1934 under the fascist regime of Franco, who destroyed Catalonian politics, economy, and culture. After 1945, Barcelona revived again, the rich aristocracy cooperated with the fascists, but Catalan nationalism was still alive among workers, students and intellectuals, resulting in strikes during the fifties. Serious protest arose in 1971, and after the death of Franco in '75,   Catalonia became autonomous . No matter how hard the successors of Franco tried to keep a fascist regime, democracy took over, under Juan Carlos I. During the eighties, Catalonia became the strongest economic province in Spain, with 2 million inhabitants in its capital. The city is flourishing again and got new impulses in all kinds of ways.

Modernist ideas
What linked all the works of the Catalan Modernism, was a common background in the movement called ‘ La Renaixensa’. Since Catalonia finally lost all its independent rights to Spain at the end of the eighteenth century, a slow growth of cultural and political nationalism had begun to develop. By the 1880’s, this Catalan revival had spread to all fields of linguistic, literary and artistic expression. Rich merchants and the leading architects of Modernism shared this nationalistic background. Architect Luís Domenech i Montaner, became the 1st President of the Unio Catalana and took the chair at the Assembly in 1892 which approved the statement of Catalan demands for independence. And Josep Puig i Cadafalch became the president of the first regional government of Catalonia. Gaudi, Domenech and Puig all belonged to the right wing High Church aristocrats, who formed the influential Lliga de Catalunya in 1887. Modernism, to this newly formed aristocracy, meant freedom from the Spanish domination,traditions and architecture. They struggled to revive the Catalan language, history and traditional arts and crafts.Catalonia had always looked North for its commercial and cultural nourishment. Spain had prohibited Catalonia from sharing in the exploitation of the American colonies, and this now worked in favor of the Catalans who developed local agriculture, textile industries and trading contacts. As Spain declined, Barcelona prospered.

Modernist Architecture
Barcelonan society wanted to see great changes and make great advances, in every field. The great Catalan international exhibitions, like the huge industrial exhibition of 1888 in Barcelona, demonstrated this national pride. But even if Catalonia had its very special character, it was not isolated from other European movements. Events in Britain, France, Belgium and Austria were closely followed in Barcelona, through illustrated, artistic magazines. But although the influences flowed freely, Barcelona imposed a change on all imported ideas. Modernism doesn't correspond to the ’Art Nouveau’ which was popular in other countries at that time, although the interiors of Gaudi’s Palau Güell, for example, are typically Art Nouveau. By 1893 decorative forms in ironwork, ceramics and stained glass could be seen in a number of buildings in Barcelona.
Three buildings of the early 1880’s seem to mark the beginnings of Modernism : The publishing house of Montaner i Simon(1880), Josep Vilaseca’s factory for F. Vidal (1884) and Gaudi’s Casa Vicens (1883- 5). All three flow from a revival of a Spanish style : the neo-Mudejar, with the use of Moorish decorative forms and techniques as characteristics. Modernism seems to have begun earlier and ended later than in most countries in Europe.

Very important in a Modernist point of view is the neighborhood El Eixample, created during this period.
During the half of last century, due to an increase of population,   architect I. Cerda  was commissioned to design new areas to house workers, but especially to accommodate the aristocrats. His plans, were changed completely, all the foreseen parks were deleted and the only thing that was kept, was the chessboard pattern of the streets. However, El Eixample is still an area with great importance in architectural way, where most of the Modernist masterpieces are situated.

The generation of architects who studied at the new School of Architecture in the 1870’s were taught from a Neo-Gothic standpoint. This was because Barcelona was very religious, and because of the importance of the great Catalan Gothic buildings which expressed the Catalan power, towards the end of the Middle Ages. But nevertheless Modernism grew from the radical teaching of Viollet-le-Duc and his followers. Many architects worked in both styles, mixing a Catalan Gothic style with totally original Modernism detailing.

The Modernist architects expressed themselves in different ways, some wanted to revive Romanesque architecture, others imported the French neo-Gothicism of Violet le Duc, others still searching for a modern style in Germany, Austria or France. What seems to be characteristic are the use of nature-forms : flowers, plants and animals, decorative forms in ironwork, ceramics and stained glass. The aim was to create a modern art based on Catalan traditions, mixed with the use of new materials, like cast and wrought iron. It was only because of the invention of machines like special saws, and the possibility to work with iron, that made these designs possible.

After the modernistic period
Modernism survived as a popular style well into the1920’s, and Gaudi’s influence was also kept alive by the work of his young assistants and admirers
. Later on, Modernism was followed by ' Noucentisme', a classicist style, using large pieces of stone. During Worldwar II, many of the 'Art Nouveau' buildings in Germany and France were destroyed, but Barcelona wasn't so devastated. Modernist buildings however were forgotten, and deteriorated, until after the death of Franco. Then they were renovated, and it became obvious that those magnificent buildings were a real touristattraction. Most of the buildings are owned by investors, who are not allowed to change anything at their property.


Biography and works of:
Domènech BerenguerJujolPuigGaudi

Lluis Domènech i Montaner
Lluis Domènech qualified in 1873. He won almost immediately, a successful competition  in collaboration with Josep Vilaseca, for the headquarters of the Instituciones Provinciales de Instruccion Publica, built in a free interpretation of the neo-Gothic style. Domènech was one of the founders of modernism in 1878. He was against using styles from outside Catalonia and the only styles he called acceptable were : Romanesque, Catalan- Gothic,and the neo-Mudejar. However, he realized it was stupid to use these styles for buildings of a modern type requiring materials such as steel or cast iron. Being an architect was one of the many things he did : he was president of the literary organization : Jocs Floral, of the art organization Ateneo, president of the Lliga de Catalunya and member of the parliament. Between 1888 and 1914 he was very active, building several buildings in Reus and Barcelona. In 1914 he gave up architecture and devoted himself to politics. He died in 1923.

Most important works of Domènech:
The publishing house of Muntaner i Simon
(1880)Address : Arago 255, Barcelona.
It is considered to be the first Modernist building but it has still  some néo-Mudéjar details. For the first time an iron skeleton was used in an ordinary building. Bricks were used as material. The building housed the offices of the publishing house of Muntaner i Simon. Now the museum Fundaçio Tapies is located here. The building was renovated beautifully from 1986 - 1990.

Castell dels tres dragons parc Ciutadella, Barcelona.
This café-restaurant and the international hotel located were built for the worldexhibition in Barcelona of 1888. The building was never completely finished, and the café restaurant houses now the zoological museum, the hotel was demolished. The austerity of the main spaces contrasted with the original details of stained glass, ceramics and wrought iron.

Palau Montaner (1889 )Addres : Carrer Mallorca at the corner of Carrer Roger de LLuria, Barcelona.
This was the house of one of the owners of the publishinghouse Montaner i Simon. The building was started by another architect, but Domènech finished it.

Casa Thomas(1895 - 1898) Address : Carrer Mallorca 291-293, Barcelona.
House and workshop for the engraverfamily Thomas. Later three extra floors  were built on top of the building by  the son in law of Domènech.
The building has three small towers and a huge window with an elliptic arch.

Institut Pere Mata ( 1897 ) City: Reus.
Domènech worked together  with Reus' municipal architect Pere Casellas on the building of this psychiatric institution. Functionality as well as the appearance of the building got much attention. Every pavilion was built according to its function and target group ( according sex, disorder or social status). Because  a beautiful environment was thought to have a good influence on people's psyche, much efforts were made to make the building look good, every pavilion even got a small garden.

Casa de l'Arcadia
Carrer Santa Llucia, Barcelona.
This building was built in 1520 as a house for the Archdeacon. In 1902, the Lawyers Association commissioned  Domènech to  redecorate the building. The Modernist letterbox on the façade is his design. Since 1921 houses the building the Municipal History Archives.

Casa Lamadrid, Address: Carrer Girona 113, Barcelona.
Decorated with flowerdesigns on pillars and balconies, the building has a stepped-gable.

Casa Lleó Morera
Address : Passeig de Gracia 35, Barcelona.
This house was originally built in 1864, and renovated by Domènech from 1902-1906, for the Morera family. This house won the first prize of the 'city's artistic building contest', yearly held in the beginning of this century. In the 1980's it was renovated once again, and it houses the headquarters of tourist information.

Hospital de Sant Creu i Sant Pau (1902-12)Adress : Avinguda Gaudi, Barcelona.
The hospital needed to be expanded and Domènech was given a large budget to do this. He surrounded himself with the best tradesmen and artists of that time, which resulted in a building of extraordinary richness and harmony. The plan looks more like a city centre than as a hospital, with all the different and separated parts. The building is eclectic, but there are typical Modernist details used.

Palau de la Musica Catalana (1905-08)
Address : Carrer Amadeus Vives 1, Barcelona.

This concerthall was built for a local leading choir. In 1906 the constructionworks had to be stopped for some time until new financiers were found to pay the building. This is one of the most brilliant buildings Domènech has made. It is a really extraordinary building, on the inside as well as on the outside. The façade is a masterpiece of ornaments, full of mosaicdecorations and sculptures. It seems to lack order, but in fact it is build from strict rationalist ideas. The auditorium has an inverted cupola in stained glass and mosaics. Natural light is used as much as possible. In the1980's the concerthall has been renovated and expanded.

Casa Fuster : (1908 - 1910). Address: Carrer Gran de Gracia 132, Barcelona.
This building is a mixture of Neo gothic and Art nouveau forms. The overall composition follows rationalist Neo gothic principles, an example of this is the tower at the corner, but the detailing is exaggerated in a Modernistic way.

Casa Joaquim de Sola Morales(1913 -1916)City: Olot.

Casa Navas (1901 -1907), City : Reus.


Francesc Berenguer i Mestres (1866-1914)
Berenguer was, like Gaudí, brought up in Reus. He followed Gaudí to Barcelona in1881 where he attended the Schools of Art and Architecture. He married in 1887 and was forced to give up his studies to earn a living. From 1887 to 1892 he worked as assistant for Augusto Font in the morning and helped Gaudí in the afternoon. From 1892 to his death he worked in Gracia under architect Migel Pascal. Assisting Gaudí, he seems to have been responsible for most practical matters, he was dealing with the workmen and handling the accounts. He was also the best architectural draughtsman in the office, preparing most of Gaudi’s important presentation drawings. He helped to keep Gaudí's taste for the fantastic and the curvilinear within bounds, with is logical and disciplined point of view.

Most important works of Berenguer:
Mercat de la llibertad ,1893, in Valencia.
Torre Matau ,1906, in Llinas del Valles.
Colonia Güell in Sta Coloma de Cervello.
Building for 'centra moral de Gracia',1909, a youth club.

In collaboration with Gaudi:

Berenguer assisted Gaudi at most of his buildings, e.g. :

Bodegas Guell, winecellar.
Finca Güell, 1900-1902, Bellesguard.
Crypt of Colonia Güell , in Sta Coloma de Cervello.
Casa Gaudi in Parc Güell

Josep Maria Jujol i Gibert (1879-1949)
Jujol was a genius of invention, a man whose spontaneous sense of sculptural forms was at least as developed as Gaudi’s. His own works were very inventive but sometimes undisciplined. In all of his works he uses a curvilinear approach. Jujol’s major contributions to Gaudi’s work were in the fields of ceramic decoration and wrought iron work. Unfortunately much of his work was thought to be Gaudi's. The serpentine bench and the fountain at Parc Guell are mostly his work.

Most important works of Jujol:
Torre de la Creu in Sant Joan Despi.
Casa Negre in Sant Joan Despi.
Casa Planells in Sant Joan Despi.
Iglesia de la Sagrat Cor, church in Vistabella (1918- 1923).
Shrine of the Montserrat chapel, Montferri, uncompleted (1926).
Casa Sole, Els Pallaresos (1927).
Dragon fountain in Parc Güell.
Jujol designed a big part of the decorative mosaicwork Gaudi used : Especially at Parc Guell, most of the mosaicworks are Jujol's work.

Josep Puig i Cadafalch (1867-1957)
Josep Puig i Cadafalch was a busy man, being active in politics, architecture, arthistory and writing books on new European architecture. He became president of the first united regional government of Catalonia.
Puig was a student of Domenech and shared the same interest in working with bricks and colored ceramics. The Middle Ages were his inspiration.

Most important works of Puig:
Casa Amattler : (1898- 1900),
Address : Passeig de Gracia 41, Barcelona.
This was an existing building, but renovated by Puig for chocolatemanufacturer Antoni Amattler. It has a stepped gable, and a facade with floral Neogothic details. Symbols used are a dragon and  Saint George.

Casa Puig i Cadafalch, (1897 - 1900) Argentona.

Casa Coll, Régas Mataró (1897 - 1898).

Casa el Cross,(1899 -1900) El Cros d'Argentona.

Casa Marti  =   Café els 4 gats,(1895-1896 )Address : Carrer Montsio 3, Barcelona
The Medieval influences are very obvious in this building which is inspired on a Catalan gothic style, with lots of decorative elements.
This bar became a famous place, because it was the meeting place of Modernist artists. Picasso held his first exhibition here, and he visited the bar frequently.

Casa Avelli Trixet,(1903 -1904) Carrer Corsega, Barcelona.

Casa Terrades (1903-1905), Address : Diagonal 416 - 420, Barcelona. This house is called 'Casa de les punxes' : 'house with the towers'. It looks a bit like a castle, has six towers and gables. It is a hexagonal block built with bricks and decorated with wrought iron and azulejos( coloured tiles.)

Casa Serra,(1903-1908) Rambla de Catalunya 126, Barcelona. In this building many sculptures, murals and medaillons were used.

Casa Macaya (1898 -1901), Address : Passeig de Sant Joan 108. This building houses the 'centre de cultura de la caixa de pensiones', a cultural centre, where concerts an exhibitions are organized. It looks like a Gothic palace, with richly decorated stairs. The patiowalls are in white stucco, beautifuly contrasting with the decorations and ornaments around the windows.

Palau del baro de Quadras, Avenida Diagonal 373, Barcelona. This building in neo-Gothic style has a sumptuous decorated facade.

Casimir Casarramora textile factory in Barcelona.(1909-1911)

Palau Alfonso XIII, was built for the worldexhibition in Barcelona in 1929.



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