And there are other cities you spend time in for the architecture. Many of us live in a world of formulaic McMansions, soul-crushing strip malls, big box stores with 30-year shelf lives, and cold glass-and-steel office towers. We travel to cities with excellent architecture because these cities have a sense of place and because they remind us of the beauty in the world.
|Palau de la Música Catalana|
Antoni Gaudí is the most well-known of these architects, having designed glamorous houses like the Palau Güell or Casa Batlló and his unfinished masterpiece, the Sagrada Família church. But Gaudí was far from the only architect active during this time period. In fact, there’s so many Modernista-style buildings in Barcelona that the city government has put together a Ruta del Modernisme or Art Nouveau Walking Route that will take you past hidden gems that people all too often completely overlook as they seek out Gaudí’s work (I myself am guilty of this!).
This itinerary forces you to walk down under-trafficked streets mere blocks from the tourist trail as you intentionally look for stops along the way. I spent a few hours on a refreshing Sunday morning in June doing just this and gained a deeper appreciation for the city’s architecture that goes so far beyond just Gaudí.
Palau de la Música Catalana
Now, the Palau is a thoroughly Modernista building, but to understand this style of architecture, you have to keep in mind the late-19th century context that it arose from. Although the Industrial Revolution almost completely bypassed Spain, it did make inroads in the northeast, in Catalunya, where textile mills flourished and a new middle class emerged.
|Floral tiled ceiling|
True to form, the Palau feels like it’s seething with life, from the flowers that bloom on columns, on the ceiling, and on windows to the balustrades that slither from one end to the other. Colored glass, plaster sculptures, and tile mosaics are the crescendo that direct your gaze upward, to the climax:
|Stained glass skylight|
Strolling through the Passeig de Gràcia
|Balconies and reading nooks|
|Vermouth & anchovies at Cala del Vermut|
The Block of Discord
|Casa Lleó i Morera|
Approaching the small-town Gràcia neighborhood
|Vermouth & olives at Entrepanes Díaz|
|(Source: Phillip Partridge)|
Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau
|The hospital complex|
So what is this final destination on the route? The “Hospital of the Holy Cross and St. Paul” is one of Europe’s oldest hospitals (still going strong after 600 years!) but its current location, which takes up nine city blocks, also contains the world’s largest Art Nouveau site: 18 brick pavilions dressed to the nines in colorful tile mosaics.
|One of the pavilions|
The actual day-to-day operations of the hospital now go on in state-of-the-art buildings to the north of the original site. Because of this, many of the original pavilions have been restored and are now used as offices for charities or non-profits, but other pavilions are falling apart and in dire need of repair. Nevertheless, the relaxing surroundings present a truly healing landscape full of lavender, sage, and citrus trees.
|Tapestries in tile|
Are you a fan of Art Nouveau architecture—be it by Guadí or others? Share your feelings about this unique and trailblazing movement below in the discussion thread!
For more pictures, check out my album on Flickr.