Modernist route buildings in the Eixample
Along the Passeig de Gracia
If you want to walk in the Eixample, the stretch you’ll get most out of is the wide Passeig de Gracia which runs northwest from the corner of Placa de Catalunya. Laid out in its present form in 1827, it’s a splendid avenue, bisected by the other two main city boulevards, the Gran Via and Avda. Diagonal, and continuing as far as Gracia. Stick with it, though, as far as Metro Diagonal for a view of some of the best of the cíty’s modernista architecture, flaunted in a series of remarkable buildings on and just off the avenue. The Passeig de Gracia itself reveals the care taken at the tum of this century to provide a complete environment for these buildings. At intervals there are elaborate benches and lamps designed in 1900 by the cíty’s municipal architect.
Casa Amatller balcony detail in passeig de Gràcia – Josep Puig i Cadafalch
Manzana de la Discoria
The most famous buildings of this modernist route, called “Manzana de la Discordia”, is just four blocks up from Placa de Catalunya. It gets its name because the adjacent buildings – built by three different architects – are completely different in style and feeling. On the corner with C/Consell de Cent, at Passeig de Gracia 35, the six-storey Casa Lleó Morera is by Doménech i Montaner, completed in 1906. It’s the least appealing of the buildings in the block (in that it has the least extravagant exterior), and has suffered more than the others from “improvements” wrought by subsequent owners, which included removing the ground-fioor arches and sculptures. But it’s still got a rich Art Nouveau interior (of which you can see the first floor only) – flush with ceramics and wood – and its semicircular jutting balconies are quite distinctive. A few doors up at no 41, Puig i Cadafalch’s Casa Amatller is more striking, an apartment building from 1900 created largely from the bones of an existing building and paid for by Antoni Amatller, a Catalan chocolate manufacturer. The facade rises in steps to a point, studded with coloured ceramic decoratíon and with heraldic sculptures over the doors and windows. Step inside the hallway for a peek: the ceramic tiles continue along the walls, there are twisted stone columns, and fine stained-glass doors and an interior glass roof. The block contains an Hispanic art institute, the Institut Amatller d’Art Híspánic located inside the old Amatller family apartments.
Casa Amatller detail of the facade – Josep Puig i Cadafalch
Modernist route – Mallorca street to Diagonal Avenue
One block north, the area around the junction of C/Mallorca and C/Roger de Llúria boasts two Doménech i Montaner buildings that for a change allow access inside. The ground floor of the neo-Gothic Casa Thomas at C/Mallorca 291, with its understated pale ceramic tiles, is given over to BD Ediciones de Diseño, a furniture design showroom at the cutting edge of Barcelona style. A little way along, set back from the crossroads in a little garden, the Palau Montaner (e/de Mallorca 278) was finished a few years later, in 1893. In comparison, it’s rather a plain, low structure, though enlivened by rich mosaic pictures on the facade and a fine interior staircase. Built as a prívate residence, it’ s now a government building. For a rounder, softer style than much of what’s gone before, look at Josep Maria Jujol’s Casa Planells at Avda. Diagonal 332. Jujol was one of Gaudí’s early collaborators, responsible for La Pedrera’s undulating balconies and much of the mosaic work in the Pare Güell, This apartment block – a sinuous solution to an acute-corner building – built in 1923-24, simplifies many of the themes that Gaudí made more explicit in his own work. From here you can head west up Avda. Diagonal to finish at the metro stop. On the right, at nos 416-420, is Puig i Cadafalch’s largest work, the soaring Casa Terrades, more usually known as the Casa de les Punxes (House of Spikes) because of its red-tiled turrets and steep gables. Built in 1903 for three sisters, and converted from three separate houses spreadíng around an entire comer of a block, it’s a satisfying, almost northern European, castellated structure. Further up, on the other side ofthe road at no 373, Puíg’s almost Gothic Palau Quadras from 1904 now houses the Museu de la Música. The collection of instruments from all over the world, dating from the sixteenth to the twentieth centuries, provides a worthwhile excuse to see inside. Outside, the facade of the building is typically intricate, with sculpted figures and emblems by Eusebi Arnau, and there’s a top row of windows which resemble miniature Swiss chalets.
Casa de les Punxes roof detail – Josep Puig i Cadafalch