Barcelona boasts being a modernist city for a reason: more than fourteen conserved houses in the city invite us to enjoy a comprehensive artistic movement. Modernism is a movement of cultural renewal that was manifested in the work of creators coming from different countries all across Europe and Latin America. For this reason, it was the first “international” cultural phenomenon. Artistic modernism receives specific names in each language: Art nouveau, Jungenstile, Modern Style, Liberty, etc. Denominations that include precious, novel, young, free and cosmopolitan characterize authors who are ascribed to this movement, as well as a style that is captured in the modernist houses in Barcelona.
From an aesthetic point of view, modernism is singled out for manifesting itself through multiple creative disciplines: architecture, decorative arts (ceramics, furniture, stained glass, forging and jewelry), painting and drawing, graphic design, sculpture and poetry. Regarding previous trends, it is distinguished by the great development of the decorative arts. It surpassed the processes of artisan production, contributing modern conceptions to produce series of pieces and commercialize them on a large scale (for example in jewelry, ceramics, furniture and graphic arts).
Below we have selected the six most important modernist houses in Barcelona that you should know. These treasures are just waiting to be discovered…
Casa Batlló: A Rooftop Dragon
A gigantic dragon with shimmering scales rests on the roof of Casa Batlló, the most special building of the ‘Mansana de la Discòrdia’ and one of the most popular modernist houses in Barcelona. Antoni Gaudí remodeled the building between 1904 and 1906. The tour begins with the luxurious noble level of the house, which was the residence of the Batlló family. Continuing through the lighted patio, we can see the attic, where the storage rooms and laundry was located, the roof and the mythical chimneys. A curiosity: the doors of each floor are identified by letters of modernist features, designed by Gaudí himself. The entrance is not cheap (€22.50) because it does not receive public subsidies or private donations. The house is open every day of the year.
La Pedrera: Waves of Stones and Wrought Iron
There are always tourists with cameras focusing in on the limestone and wrought iron waves on the facade of Casa Milà (better known as La Pedrera). It is the most photographed and visited Gaudí civil building in Barcelona, since in 1987 the roof was opened to the public where the shadows of the chimneys transform into galactic warriors. His fame rose between 1906 and 1912 on behalf of the industrialist Pere Milà and his wife, Rosario Segimon, widow of a wealthy Indian, who lived on the noble floor and rented the other flats. Opens every day. Price: €20.50.
Casa Amatller: The Chocolatier Obsessed with Photography
The house that Josep Puig i Cadafalch reformed between 1898 and 1900 was commissioned by the industrialist chocolatier Antoni Amatller. It is one of the few interiors from the modernist houses in Barcelona that retain all the original furniture, like the ceilings, floors, columns, original decoration and symbols of the early twentieth century. Amatller, who was a great amateur photographer, photographed every single nook and cranny of the house. This was a great help in the restoration process that ended just a few years ago. The modernist architect counted on a great team of craftsmen who worked with ceramics, forges, stuccos, cabinets and also the lamps that completed the look of the Casa Amatller. Price of admission: €15.
Palau Baró de Quadras: A Modernist Roof Waiting to be Discovered
The Palau Baró de Quadras has been owned, since 1970, by the City Council. It was reformed to first house the Museum of Music. Since 2013, it has become the headquarters of the Institut Ramon Llull. The building, renovated between 1904 and 1906 by Puig i Cadafalch, has a double facade. One facing towards Rosselló and the other to Diagonal, creating a perspective that both don’t seem to belong to the same building. The pavement of Roman mosaic, the fountain, the lamps with winged dragons and the majestic staircase emphasize the vestibule. The entrance costs 12 euros and permits access to the ground floor, the main floor with its noble halls and roof. From the top floor, you can contemplate the House of the Punxes coming from the same modernist architect.
Palau Güell: The Home of the Most Influential Couple in Barcelona
Eusebi Güell, a Barcelona businessman, politician and bourgeois, commissioned Gaudi in 1885 to build a new residence near la Rambla. This is where he would live for 20 years with his wife, Isabel López, and their eight children. The Palau Güell was built with mahogany woods and beautiful marbles, brought over with industrial ships by his father-in-law, the Marquis of Comillas. It was the richest and most influential marriage of Barcelona in the late nineteenth century. For security and conservation reasons, the number of visitors allowed inside the building is small, even though this is one of the most interesting modernist houses in Barcelona. General rate: 12 euros.
Casa Fuster: The Best Overview of Paseo de Gràcia
Casa Fuster is the work of the architect Domènech i Montaner. He constructed the house in 1908 by order of Mariano Fuster, from the Majorcan society that gave it to his wife, Consuelo Fabra i Puig, daughter of the Marquis of Alella. From its terrace on the gardens of Salvador Espriu, you can see a panoramic view of the Passeig de Gràcia. In 2004 it opened as a luxury hotel. The hotel has recovered the 1940s Viennese Café by showcasing its impressive columns. Part of the main floor, where the Fuster family lived, is now part of the restaurant.