The 11 most impressive glass buildings in Spain, beauty with a fragile look

There are many examples among Spanish architecture in which brick, stone or concrete have been ignored as protagonists. Thus, one of the raw materials that has been used the most is glass. Buildings with an interior open to the world have become a sign of identity of the cities where they were erected. Curious constructions that are spread around cities as different as Madrid, Salamanca or León.

Casa Lis in Salamanca

La Casa Lis de Salamanca

Casa Lis in Salamanca has one of the most recognisable windows. | museocasalis.org

The current site of the Art Nouveau and Art Deco Museum combined moments of splendour and decadence throughout the 20th century. Owned by Miguel de Lis, the owner of a factory, it was renovated at the beginning of the last century. The architect responsible for the transformation was Joaquín de Vargas y Aguirre, who designed the reform taking into account the limitations of the enclave. Situated on a wall and leaning to the south, Vargas y Aguirre organised the house around the interior patio to distribute the rooms. He also designed the industrial-style façade, using iron and glass as materials.

The premises changed hands over the years until they were closed and no longer used in the 1960s. In 1981 the city council decided to rescue it from the ruin and began a process of recovery that ended in 1995. The leaded glass window, one of the best known images of Salamanca, was restored following the original model.

Gran Cúpula de Feria in Valencia

Gran Cúpula de Feria valencia

Gran Cúpula de Feria alberga 230.000 metros cuadrados en su interior. | Shutterstock

With the intention of having an emblematic building, the Feria de Valencia opted for this glass dome. Inaugurated in 2007, it has over 230,000 square metres of surface area, distributed over four levels. It also houses a wide variety of rooms for meetings and conferences. The mesh of the roof has steel discs that act as knots and secure the structure. Meanwhile, the outer vault is a glass that protects the enclosure from excessive light entering the building.

The entrance on foot is under a pointed arch, which indicates the start of the glass vault of this Valencian building. Underneath is the central space, which has the function of visually relating the four floors of the dome and distributing the natural light that enters through the ceiling. At night, it is the Gran Cúpula de Feria that projects its light outwards.

Osakidetza Headquarters in Bilbao

La Sede de Osakidetza Bilbao

The Osakidetza headquarters reflects the Bilbao Ensanche in its crystals. | Shutterstock

The headquarters of the Basque Government’s Health Department is one of the most representative buildings in Bilbao. Completed in 2008, its polyhedral façade was designed by the architect Juan Coll-Barreu. The glass on its façade reflects the other nearby buildings, the traffic and the surrounding mountains. Its location, next to the Alhóndiga and the Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Navigation of Bilbao, is another example of the modernization that the Bilbao Eixample has experienced.

But the exterior of the Osakidetza headquarters has more functions than its clear aesthetic component. The envelope of this glass building has a climatic benefit, since it allows the interior to be air-conditioned. Nor are the false office ceilings necessary to separate the seven floors inside the building. In this way, artificial air recirculation is avoided, which increases the hygiene conditions inside.

Palacio de Cristal in Madrid

El Palacio de Cristal de Madrid

The Palacio de Cristal in Madrid was inaugurated in 1887. | Shutterstock

One of the most representative glass buildings of Spanish architecture. Its location in Madrid‘s Retiro Park makes it one of the most visited locations in the capital. Its structure is made of metal and it is covered by glass sheets that allow you to see the horse chestnut trees outside. It was the first non-industrial construction that used these materials. Architect Ricardo Velázquez Bosco designed its construction in 1887, on the occasion of the Philippine Islands Exposition, a Spanish colony at that time.

Palacio de Cristal is inspired by the Crystal Palace in Hyde Park (London), designed by Joseph Paxton in 1851, which was built for the first Great World Exhibition. The interior is decorated with small ceramic friezes and auctions by Daniel Zuloaga. It currently serves as a room for contemporary art exhibitions organised by the Reina Sofia Museum.

MUSAC in León

El MUSAC es uno de los principales atractivos de León

MUSAC is one of León’s main attractions. | Shutterstock

The capital of León has a glass building destined to be a museum for the 21st century. The Museum of Contemporary Art of Castile and León, MUSAC by its acronym, houses a permanent collection that includes exclusive contemporary art. Opened to the public in 2005, it was designed by the Madrid architecture studio Mansilla + Tuñón. For their work, it was awarded the European Union’s Mies van der Rohe Prize for Contemporary Architecture in 2007.

Its recognisable façade is made up of a group of squares and rhombuses. This recognisable exterior of multicoloured glass is a wink to the stained glass windows of León Cathedral. Developed on a single floor, it has more than 8,000 square metres of surface area. It also has three courtyards and a garden surrounding the building in order to develop outdoor exhibitions.

Woermann Tower in Gran Canaria

Torre Woermann Las Palmas

The Woermann Tower is on the Isthmus of La Isleta, between Las Canteras beach and the Port of Las Palmas. | Shutterstock

This 76-metre high skyscraper is one of the hallmarks of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. Among its particular design, its glass façade with a combination of strategically organized colours, glass decorated with plant motifs and the horizontal brise soleil is striking. The location of the tower is the isthmus of La Isleta, between Las Canteras beach and the Port of Las Palmas.

Facilities are completed by a public square, built with Portuguese style stone, and another building next to the tower. The latter contains commercial premises and offices. Completed in 2005, the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York included images of the skyscraper a year later as an example of the new architecture in Spain.

Kursaal in Donostia

Kursaal San Sebastián

The Kursaal houses the San Sebastian Film Festival. | Shutterstock

Two translucent glass cubes make up this prestigious building in San Sebastian. An architectural complex that was inaugurated in 1999 and since then has been the main venue of the San Sebastian Film Festival. Its location in front of the Cantabrian Sea also makes it possible to go on foot to emblematic places in the city such as the Parte Vieja and La Bahía de La Concha. The design of straight lines and geometric shapes avoids generating any impact on the landscape of the Basque city, characterised by its classic French style buildings.

The largest of the cubes houses an auditorium with a capacity of almost 2,000 people. Then, the other building has the Chamber Hall which has a capacity of 600 spectators. This architectural complex was also awarded the Mies van der Rohe Prize for Contemporary Architecture by the European Union. Despite its success, the Kursaal has always been somewhat overshadowed by the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao.

Marenostrum Tower in Barcelona

La Torre Marenostrum en Barcelona

Marenostrum Tower in Barcelonaa. | Shutterstock

This glass building is the headquarters of Gas Natural and its structure and location have made it one of the best known skyscrapers in Barcelona. Also known as the gas tower, it is located in the Barceloneta district. The architects Enric Miralles and Benedetta Tagliablue designed its complex silhouette made up of three assembled glass buildings. The main part is a 20-storey, 86-metre-high building. Another four-storey tower and a horizontal cantilever that gives it its characteristic style complement the main body.

The skyscraper takes on different forms depending on the angle from which it is seen. The reflective glass that covers the façade also helps to bring about these changes and deformations. Its location in front of the Mediterranean Sea is another of its distinguishing features. Two other well-known buildings on Barcelona‘s skyline are located nearby, the Hotel Arts and the Torre Mapfre.

Abrante Viewpoint in La Gomera

Mirador de Abrante Canarias

Abrante Viewpoint is over 600 metres above sea level. | Shutterstock

At the top of the Abrante cliff, in the north of La Gomera, this viewpoint is located at 620 meters above sea level and with a vertical drop of about 200 meters. A cantilever makes this 7-metre long structure with a glass floor possible. Its location allows you to see the Agulo valley, the island of Tenerife and the Atlantic Ocean. To enter the platform you have to pass by the restaurant installed next to the viewpoint. However, it is not necessary to eat there or make a reservation in order to visit it. The work was carried out by José Luis Bermejo Martín and was completed in 2013. Since then it has become one of the busiest places on the island.

Pabellón de Cristal in Cuenca

Bosque de Acero de Cuenca

Bosque de Acero in Cuenca tries to imitate the shape of a forest. | JCCM

The city of La Mancha has this building distributed in 23 modules joined to a structural mesh in the shape of a tree. The climate of Cuenca, cold in winter and hot in summer, made it necessary to design a solution to this extreme factor. To withstand the temperatures, sliding panels can be deployed in the summer to prevent heat from entering the building. In the meantime, the panels remain closed in winter and the floor is heated by geothermal energy.

The pavilion is bordered by the rivers Júcar and Moscas. The intention of the project, completed in 2010, was to recover a natural site that was abandoned. Its function is to act as a link between nature and the city. The complex also consists of a skating rink, bars and a group of historical buildings currently in ruins.

Centro Botín in Santander

Centro Botín Santander

Centro Botín is located next to the Pereda Gardens. | Shutterstock

This art centre was designed by the Italian architect Renzo Piano and is one of the signs of identity of the Cantabrian city. Located in a cantilevered area over the sea, the building does not touch land. Its structure allows it to be suspended on pillars and columns at the height of the treetops in the Pereda Gardens. The infrastructure was inaugurated in 2014 and it has a glass ground floor and a ceramic façade; composed of 280,000 disc-shaped pieces that adapt to the shape of the building. While the western part is dedicated to art, with an exhibition hall of 2,500 square metres, the eastern side is dedicated to educational activities.


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