Kips travelpage

Navigate  Barcelona site

Contemporary Architecture

Projects:pixel.gif (826 bytes)IntroductionOlympic village | Waterfront | Montjuic | Other | Photos
pixel.gif (826 bytes)S. Calatrava | A. Isozaki | R. Meier | J.L.Sert | N. Foster | L.M.V.D.Rohe


During the fascist regime of Franco, from 1936 until the late seventies, hardly any attention was given to original or inventive architecture. The city lacked public facilities like parks and plazas, and the streets were stuffed with boring but functional buildings. The existing Modernist buildings weren't badly damaged during WW II, but they were completely neglected and in bad shape. After Franco's death in 1975, and during the following democratic regime, Barcelona regained its status of flourishing city. During the eighties the first large scale renovation and new projects were started. The people of Barcelona then realized that the Modernist buildings had great value, really were extraordinary and needed to be restored. Several buildings of the Modernist architects like GaudÝ, DomŔnech, and Puig were beautifully renovated.

The fact that the Olympic games of 1992 would take place in the city gave an enormous impulse to continue the renovation works and to expand the city. City architect Oriol Bohigas was director of the 'Department of Architecture and Design' and dedicated himself to the job. Barcelona was converted into a gigantic construction zone and an architectural laboratory. Throughout the city urban projects were undertaken: at the harbor, at Montju´c, in the old city and in the suburbs. It was not the first time that such an event resulted in large projects ; before the Universal exhibition of 1888 and the International exhibition of 1929 the same thing happened.

Olympic village

Housing thousands of athletes and spectators required specific buildings, sports infrastructure, public transportation, parks, new roads, shops and restaurants.  A large number of renowned architects from Spain and all over the world were commissioned to take part in this huge project. To build the Olympic Village (Nova Icaria) a complete but neglected area has been demolished. The railway was put underground, 19th century factories and barracks where immigrants and fishermen lived in had to disappear to release 124 acres of building land, and 4 km of beach. The street plan with the square blocks of the area Eixample was used as the basis for the new urban planning. Existing buildings, plazas and streets constituted as he basis for new projects.  The idea was to create a residential area at the harbor, provided with all kinds of facilities like offices, shops, hotels, restaurants and bars, a marina, a promenade, parks and a couple of thousand new homes. Much attention was given to details like streetlights, benches, fences, sculptures and pavements. Some of the buildings are real eye-catchers, e.g. the two 142 meters high tower blocks, the circular meteorological institute, and Frank Gehry's gigantic gold colored sculpture 'Pez i Esfera' on top of the shopping mall Marina Village. One of the tower buildings houses offices, the other houses a hotel and is surrounded by a kind of scaffoldings.
Nova Icaria or the Olympic Village had turned out to be a pleasant new area with very beautiful contemporary architecture.
Architects in charge: Josep Martorell, Oriol Bohigas, David Mackay en Albert PuigdomŔnech.

Waterfront projects

Moll de la Fusta was one of the first projects that was accomplished during the eighties. This avenue at the harbor is divided in a part for cars and a wide pleasant promenade. As important as the layout of the street are the interiors of the restaurants and bars that are situated along Moll de la Fusta. Artworks like the giant lobster 'Gambrinus' by Javier Mariscall and Roy Liechtenstein's 'Cap de Barcelona' complete the picture.
Architect : Manuel de Sola Morales.

Moll d'Espanya links the rest of the city with the harbor and exists of wooden platforms and bridges with waved iron structures on top.


The area Montju´c houses some important contemporary buildings like the Barcelona pavilion by Mies van der Rohe, the Fundaciˇ Mirˇ by Lluis Sert and the Olympic buildings. Montju´c was also an important setting during the construction works before the '92 games.  The Olympic Ring was already the location of the dilapidated Olympic stadium built in 1929, an Olympic swimming pool, a wheeler track, and there was still empty land available. The stadium was important for the inhabitants of Barcelona because for decades it had been   a place where big events took place and where top atlethes performed before their audience. Unfortunately, at the end of the sixties, the building was no longer used and became deteriorated. However, because of its former importance for the city, it was decided to remodel the building and to make it a building to be proud of again. The size and the setting of the building allowed it to become the center of the Olympic games events. It was necessary to renovate the stadium completely to comply with the current security-regulations. The form reminds of a Greek amphitheater because of its open structure and its location on top of the mountain. The brown facade was almost completely preserved and completed with a white grinder. The interior was completely rebuilt to accommodate 70.000 spectators.
Architects: Correa, Mila, Margarit and Gregotti.
The Sant Jordi sports stadium was designed especially for the Olympic Games by the Japanese architect Arata Isozaki. This futuristic complex can accommodate 15.000 persons and its gigantic black roof looks like the back of a giant turtle. This enormous roof was assembled on the ground and then hydraulically lifted. The building is divided in different parts : one large volume under the dome, a polyvalent area that can be divided by some kind of curtains into four different sports fields, and a service room for electricity and ventilation.
The plaza between Sant Jordi and the Olympic stadium looks very modern and beautiful. The large space is decorated with water terraces and posts with metal sculptures on top ('Utsuroski' designed by Aiko Miyawaki. At one side of the square you've got a nice view on the communication tower designed by Santiago Calatrava. He designed the tower for the Spanish telecommunication company Telefonica. This white construction is 188 meters tall and looks like a needle with a wire going trough.

The Barcelona pavilion also called 'Mies van der Rohe pavilion' is an important architectural place of interest at Montju´c. The architect designed the German pavilion for the worldfair in '29. The German government decided one year later that the building had to be dismantled and would later be sold in Germany. It was an innovative and remarkable building and was since its construction considered to be a milestone in modern architecture. Mies Van der Rohe was free to design the building as he wanted but it had to accommodate the King and Queen of Spain during the official opening of the exposition.  Protest raised and architecure minded people tried to  convince the Barcelona community to rebuild the building.  It was only in 1983 that the local municipality took the decision to rebuild the pavilion on the same spot and in the exact way it was built   55 years ago. Architects in charge of the reconstruction Cristian Cirici, Fernando Ramos and Ignasi de Sola-Morales had an enormous responsibility. The building has a very open and spatial structure, and a tight design. It is one story high and has a rectangular pond. The roof rested on walls, placed asymmetrically but in parallel to each other. Material and space disposition are very important. The materials used on large surfaces are : glass, travertine marble, natural stone and onyx. Mies Van der Rohe designed furniture as well for the pavilion including the famous Barcelonachair.

Another remarkable building is Fundašio Joan Mirˇ at Parc de Montjuic. Mirˇ's works and other contemporary art are displayed in this fantastic building with a sculpturegarden on the roof. Catalan architect and friend of Mirˇ, Josep Lluis Sert finished this building in 1975. There are several exhibitionhalls, a restaurant and two museumshops, a library, an auditorium and a roof garden. In interior and exterior white walls and glass dominate. The roof shows some Mediterranean influences because of its wavy structure as the spaces itself have very straight forms. The building was extended in 1986 by architect Jaume Freixa, who was involved in the building of the original museum.


Other locations

The striking bridge Bac de Roda Felip II was built by Santiago Calatrava.

Artgallery  Santa Monica Centre d’Arts at the Ramblas, was built in the center of an old nunnery. An outstanding feature at the facade is the large green circle on the gray wall and the wooden platform leading to the entrance. The old conventtower was preserved and the combination of old an new makes it a very interesting exhibitionhall.  Architects : Albert Viaplana and Helio Pinon.

The Museum of Contemporary Art MACBA, was designed by Richard Meier and Partners and was finished in 1992. Situated in a poor area between narrow streets and old, neglected houses, the enormous white museum is in contrast with its environment.  An interior ramp, starting inside the high vestibule, links the ground-floor with the top-floor. The building has a simple structure and the exterior is made of glass and white aluminum sheets. There are different types of  spaces: large loft-type spaces for large temporary exhibitions,  more intimate spaces for small exhibitions, an education service, a  library, and a shop.

The remarkable construction which can be spotted from several places in the city, is the communication tower Torre de Collserola, built by Sir Norman Foster. The middle exists of a slender concrete shaft of 4,5 metres high, supported by three pairs of  wires made of  high strength steel fixed into the hillside. The tower looks very elegant, contemporary and but fragile, but is escpecially designed to resist severe weather and strong winds. Tis construction shows that technology and aesthetics can go hand in hand.

There are lots of other projects like: Parc del Clot, Parc de la Creueta del Coll, Parc de L’Espanya Industrial, Plaša de la Palmera...

Biographies architects

S. Calatravapixel.gif (826 bytes)A. Isozakipixel.gif (826 bytes)R. Meierpixel.gif (826 bytes)J.L.Sertpixel.gif (826 bytes)N. Fosterpixel.gif (826 bytes)L. M.V.D.Rohe

Santiago Calatrava

Santiago Calatrava was born on the 28th of july 1951 in Valencia, Spain. His record of studies is quite impressive: he studied at the Institute of Architecture in Valencia,  at  the Federal Institute ofTechnology in Zurich, at the  Politechnic University of Valencia, at the University of Seville, at the Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland, and at the Milwaukee School of Engineering, USA. He has architectural offices in Zurich, Paris and Valencia. Most of his work is situated in Switzerland, France and Spain. Because of his knowledge as an engineer, he is capable of carrying out difficult and unusual constructions. Calatrava won several awards, e.g. the August Perret Award in 1979. His buildings and constructions are characterized by light open spaces and straight forms, often made of steel and glass. He uses elemnts of existing constructions and influences of the past. Many of his works are more open constructions rather than closed buildings. He is well known for the striking bridges he designed.

Some of Calatrava's works

  • Airport terminal in Bilbao (Spain).
  • Railway station at the airport of Lyon (France).
  • Congress hall and concert hall in Tenerife.
  • Bridges in Sevilla, Cordoba, Paris.
  • Bac de Roda Felip II - bridge in Barcelona (Spain).
  • Telecommunication tower in Barcelona.
  • Railway station Stadelhofen in Zurich ( Switzerland).
  • Pavilion for Kuwait on Expo '92 in Sevilla (Spain).
  • Science museum and planetarium in Valencia (Spain)...

Arata Isozaki

Arata Isozaki  was born in Oita, Japan on July 23th 1931. At first he worked for the Japanese architect Kenzo Tange. His current work is postmodern and he uses elements from historic European styles. Structure and form are important, as well as the choice of materials.

Some of Arata Isozaki's projects

  • House Nakayama in Oita, Japan. (1964).
  • Gunma-museum artsmuseuma in Takasaki, Japan (1974).
  • Fujimi country club in Oita (1974).
  • Central building of  Tsukuba ‘sciencetown', Japan (1978–1983).
  • Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles (1986.)
  • Palau d'Esports Sant Jordi Barcelona(1983-1991).


Richard Meier

Richard Meier was born on the 12th of October 1934 in Newark, New Jersey, USA. he studied architecture at Cornell University in Ithaca. From1960 -63 he worked with Marcel Breuer and in 1963 he established his own architectural office. During the eighties he won several architecture awards. His work is inspired by Le Corbusier. The spaces are very well structured and ordened, white is dominant, he makes optimal use of the incoming light, and often uses aluminium pannels.

Some of Richard Meiers projects:

  • Houses and appartment blocks in the USA.
  • High Museum of Art in Atlanta (1983) (USA)
  • Getty Center in Los Angeles (1992 )(USA)
  • Swiss Air-building on Long Island (1992). (USA)
  • Main building of Renault in Boulogne-Billancourt (1981) (France )
  • Museum fŘr Kunsthandwerk in Frankfurt a.M. (1984)(Germany)
  • Reconstructoin of the MŘnsterplatz in Ulm (1986)(Germany)
  • Office building in Hilversum (1987–1992)(Holland)
  • Cityhall and library in 's-Gravenhage (1986)(Holland)
  • MACBA in Barcelona (Spain)...

Josep LluÝs Sert

Josep LluÝs Sert was born in Barcelona on the 1st of July 1902. Sert studied architecture in Barcelona. From 1929 - 1931 he worked with Le Corbusier. He was one of the founders of GATCPAC ( group of Catalan architects and technicians for the improvement of contemporary architecture.  In 1939 he emigrated to the United States where he became in 1945 professor at Harvard University. He worked a lot in New York and Latin-America. In 1953 he succeeded Walter Gropius as head of the Graduate School of Design of Harvard University until 1969. his designs were strongly influenced by Le Corbusier. At first he made functional designs, but trough the years his buildings became less severe. He used South-American elements. Sert died in Barcelona on March 15 1983.

Some of Josep LluÝs Serts projects

  • Foundation Maeght, museum  in Saint-Paul-de-Vence (1959–1964) (France).
  • The Spanish pavilion for the worldexhibition in Paris, 1937.
  • Casa Bloc in Barcelona (1934–1936) (Spain)
  • Married Student Housing of Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass. (1963–1965)
  • The Charles River Campus of Boston University (1960–1967)
  • Fundaciˇ Mirˇ,  in Barcelona (1972–1975)(Spain)

Sir Norman Robert Foster

Norman Robert Foster was born in Manchester, England on the 1st of June 1935. He studied at the universities of Manchester and Yale. In 1964 he founded with his wife Wendy and Richard Rogers, Team 4 which changed in 1967 into 'Foster associates'. Norman Foster was knighted in 1990 and can be called 'Sir' since then. Foster mixes creativity with functionality and uses the newest techniques and design.

Some of Sir Norman Fosters projects:

  • The Sainsbury Center of the University of East Anglia, Norwich (1987)(UK)
  • Renault-buildings in Swindon (1983)(UK)
  • The Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank Tower in Hongkong (1986)
  • Airportterminal of Stanstead Airport (1981-1991).(UK)
  • Commerzbank in Frankfurt ( Germany)
  • Airport of Hongkong
  • Kings Cross Station in London. (UK)
  • Offices for Willis, Faber and Dumas in Ipswich (1972 )(UK)
  • Sky-skraper Century Tower in Tokio (1991)(Japan).
  • Torre de Collserola, communication tower in Barcelona (1992)(Spain).
  • Museum of Modern Art in Nţmes (1993)(France)
  • Extension of the Reikstagbuilding in Berlin (1999)(Germany).
  • He also designed furniture e.g. the desk and chair ‘Nomos’...

Ludwig Mies Van der Rohe

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe was born in Aachen, Germany, on March 27,1886. He worked for and was taught by furniture designer Bruno Paul and by Peter Behrens who had great influence on him. He worked in Berlin as self-employed architect from 1912 to 1937. From 1930 until it was closed in 1933, he was director of the famous Bauhaus in Dessau, Germany. In 1937 he emigrated to the United States where he started an architecture-office in Chicago. In 1944 he was naturalized and became an American citizen. Until 1958 he was head of the architecture-department at the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT). In his work he wished to achieve a synthesis between modern industrialism and the forms of neo-classicism. This influence is at its most visible in his design for the country house of Miss. Kr÷ller-MŘller (1912). In Holland he got to know the architecture of H.P. Berlage, whose influence was visible in his works of the period before WW I. Between 1919 and 1924 he made some designs which where alternating striking and authentic. His houses designed between 1923 and 1926 are clearly influenced by the Dutch architectural movement 'De Stijl'. His design for the German pavilion for the Universal Exhibition of 1929 ( Barcelona Pavilion) is obviously influenced by the tendencies of that style and from his own principle to 'achieve more with less'. The most characteristic of his American works, where he worked starting in 1937, is the use of an external visible metal skeleton and large surfaces of glass. He often used more or less the same model as a base out of which he made a harmonious whole with different units. Mies Van Der Rohe died in Chicago on August 17, 1969.

Some  of Mies Van Der Rohes projects

  • Barcelona pavilion (1929)
  • Tugendhat Haus in Brno, Czechoslovakia (1930) which was considered as the peak of his European period.
  • Campus and a series of buildings for the IIT in Chicago. (from 1938)
  • Lake Shore Apartments in Chicago (1957)
  • Neue Nationalgalerie (1965–1968) in Berlin. This was his last major project.



Home | Index | Practical info | Areas | Museums |Architecture | Modern art | Photos | Search

navalengl05.gif (2285 bytes) | last updated: