Art Nouveau is a movement of artistic renewal that took place in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in the West, adopting different nomenclature and characteristics according to the region. In Catalonia, where it was called Modernisme, took on a much broader meaning, affecting not only sectors such as art, but also literature, music, interior design, and graphic arts.
However, the transcendence of Catalan Modernism over the decades has fallen mainly on architecture, and the impact of the architectural works of some of the main architects of Modernisme in Catalonia has crossed borders, gaining fame and prestige worldwide.
We are speaking of artists of the stature of Antoni Gaudí and Lluís Domènech i Montaner, and works such as the Sagrada Familia, the Palau de la Música Catalana or the Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau.
Antoni Gaudí, the Art Nouveau’s architect who transcends borders
It can certainly be said that Antoni Gaudí is the most influential Art Nouveau’s artist in Barcelona. His works are buildings such as Casa Milà (also known as La Pedrera), Casa Batlló and Torre Bellesguard, located at the foot of Mount Tibidabo. All of them stand out for their detailed decorations, plant motifs and curved lines inspired by nature.
Without a doubt, his masterpiece is the Expiatory Temple of the Sagrada Familia, a Catholic Basilica initially planned by the architect Francisco de Paula del Villar, who found in the genius of Antonio Gaudí the opportunity to shine. When he took on the project in 1883, Gaudí completely changed the plans of the previous architect, imprinting on the basilica his own unique style. He worked on the project until his death in 1883, at first combining this work with his other works, and then exclusively from 1914.
The Sagrada Familia is, therefore, the reflection of Gaudí’s talent and the culmination of all his work, because in it he applied all the knowledge he had acquired after years of career.
Currently, the Sagrada Familia is the most visited monument in all of Spain.
Domenech i Montaner: The Palau de la Música and the Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau
In Barcelona, there are endless buildings that any visitor who appreciates Catalan Modernism should not miss out on, including constructions of curvilinear lines with details inspired by nature, such as flowers, leaves, butterflies, or birds, made from materials such as stone, colored ceramics, or iron.
The Palau de la Música Catalana (Palace of Catalan Music) and the Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau, which are buildings designed by Lluís Domenech i Montaner, are great examples of this. The Palau de la Música, located in the Sant Pere neighborhood, is a concert hall built between 1905 and 1908, and is the only auditorium in the world declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. This monument of exceptional beauty is, at the same time, an impressive musical site. The genius of Domenech i Montaner was to create an innovative iron structure with glass walls, managing to illuminate the interior of the building with natural light.
Years later, Domènech i Montaner was also in charge of designing the project for the Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau in Barcelona, on the old Hospital de la Santa Creu. After studying several European hospitals, Domenech i Montaner designed a hospital made up of 48 isolated buildings connected by underground galleries, of which only 27 were eventually built. The Art Nouveau’s complex of the Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau reflects the creation of the technique of Domenech i Montaner, who for its construction incorporated a great variety of ornamental elements in stone, iron, and ceramic. In 1978, it was declared a Historic Artistic Monument and in 1997, a World Heritage Monument by UNESCO.
Other outstanding buildings of Domenech i Montaner are the Three Dragons Castle, in the Citadel Park, the Lleó Morera House, on Passeig de Gràcia, or the Fuster House (Casa Fuster), which has now been converted into a luxury hotel.
Finally, we cannot finish an article dedicated to Catalan modernist architecture without mentioning Josep Puig i Cadafalch. In Barcelona, we can find several of his most outstanding works, such as the Casa Amatller, on Passeig de Gràcia, the Palau Macaya, in Passeig de Sant Joan, or Casa Terrades, better known as Casa de les Punxes, on Avinguda Diagonal.
Most Art Nouveau’s buildings in Barcelona are open to visitors, and in many cases, it is recommended to book a guided tour.