Barcelona is famous for many things, among them art. Everybody knows Antoni Gaudí and his Sagrada Família, but there are other beautiful architectonic buildings by Lluís Domènech i Montaner, contemporary to Gaudí, that belong to Catalan Modernism and are just as important. Here are a few.
Catalan modernism is an art current that formed in the late 19th century, around about 1885, and that lasted some 30 years. This was the response to a call by the architect Lluís Domènech i Montaner, who wanted a “national architecture” type and he described the outlines of what it should be like. He immediately got the support of other Catalan architects of the time. These outlines wanted to completely distance themselves from neoclassicism, the style that predominated their time, at create something completely new and original. One could say that this was the Catalan version of art nouveau, an art current that emerged at the same time, but who didn’t enter the field of architecture.
It became famous around the world thanks to the work of one man especially: Antoni Gaudí. This Catalan genius, born in the city of Reus, some 75 miles south of Barcelona. He, of course, designed the world-famous Sagrada Família cathedral, which we can all picture in our heads, and also Casa Milà, also known as La Pedrera. He also designed all the buildings and sculptures at Parc Güell and the Casa Batlló, which some would say is more beautiful than La Pedrera. He based his ideas on nature, giving them shapes of natural things such as flowers and plants. But we’re not here to talk about Gaudí, we know everything about him from the last time we rented Barcelona apartments. This article is about the architect Lluís Domènech i Montaner, perhaps not as famous but definitely still just as important.
Lluís Domenech i Montaner had an architectural style characterized by its eclecticism and its curves, as well as his inspiration in Arabic style buildings, such as the Castell dels tres dragons (Three dragons castle) at the Parc de la Ciutadella, which was built for the 1888 Universal Exhibition. Another of his masterpieces is the Hospital de Sant Pau, a hospital that still functions in Barcelona that has an impressive façade and interior decorations, along with its majestic staircase, hall, and stained glass. A true work of art that was named World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1997.
Just as important as the hospital is the Palau de la Música Catalana. Its outside part is impressive with its sculptures and lines, but it’s nothing compared to the inside. The lobby has beautiful columns with mosaics and beautiful lines and structures, but the main part of this building is the inside, the stage, the concert hall. Words don’t do it justice so the best thing is for you to go and see it. It was also declared World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1997.
Montaner was just one of the architects who starred in Catalan modernism, along with Gaudí and Josep Puig i Cadafalch, who are considered the three main architects of this artistic movement. Catalonia is a small region, some would say a country, of only 7 million people, and yet it’s one of the most famous parts of the world along with its capital, Barcelona. A lot of this fame is down in no small part thanks to these three men.
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