Modernista architectural movement, also referred as the Catalan Art Noveau, took place at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century. It was characterized with a boom in building design and construction and changed dramatically the monumental landscape of Barcelona.
Some of its most prominent buildings are located around the Passeig de Gracia boulevard, however, the whole city and particularly the Eixample neighborhood is dotted with spectacular ´casas´ that awe us with their ornamentation and intricate details. Here is a shortlist of some of our favourite off the beaten track Modernism jewels of Barcelona, away from the usual touristic tracks:
Casa de les Punxes (Av. Diagonal 420)
Architect: Josep Puig i Cadafalch, Year 1906
Designed by one of the most prominent architects at the time – Puig and Cadafalch for the 3 sisters of the Terradas family. For this reason, if we look closely at the design, we will notice not one but 3 different houses: each house on each side of this unusual triangular block. The style of this home is influenced heavily by northern European Gothic architecture and the most prominent detail are the spikey towers that give it its nickname in Catalan – ´Casa de les Punxes´ – the house of spikes. Nowadays it is privately owned and several offices are located there. However, some parts of the house have recently been converted into a museum and are open for visitors.
La Casa Comalat (Av. Diagonal, 442)
Architect: Salvador Valeri i Pupurull, Year 1911
This peculiar building which at first sight might look like a Gaudi masterpiece was actually designed by one of his biggest admirers – the architect Salvador Valeri i Pupurull. We can clearly observe typical Gaudiesque elements in the facades such as the organic forms, the curved balconies and the colourful ceramics reminiscent of the Maestro´s ´trencadis´ technique. This Art Noveau gem is not open to the public at present but it is absolutely worth the visit even just to catch a glimpse of its exterior frontage.
Casa Bellesguard (Carrer de Bellesguard, 16)
Architect: Antoni Gaudi, Year 1900
Although a bit off the beaten track, this lesser-known modernist house by Gaudi is a true gem worth the extra mile. The name ¨Bellesguard´ comes from the ancient Catalan word for ´beautiful view´ as the house is perched on the Collserola mountain that overlooks the city. In the past on this same spot there was a castle belonging to the King of Aragon. Gaudi used medieval structures as a base for the design of the house but he did include some typical modernist elements as the broken tiles, for example. The construction went on for 9 years and the Fugueras family that had commissioned the maestro had to eventually sell the house to avoid bankruptcy. Nowadays it belongs to the Aguila family that maintains both the interior of the house and the gardens open to the public.
El Parthenon Masriera (Carrer Bailen 70)
Architect: Josep Vilaseca, Year 1880 approx
Nicknamed ´the mysterious temple´ by the neighbors, this peculiar house indeed puzzles the passersby with its Roman columns and Masonic elements. It was constructed at the beginning of the Modernist period by the architect Josep Vilaseca for the Masriera brothers who owned a jewelry business and were passionate painters. They used the house as both a studio and a home and a peculiar detail about it is that there was also a private theatre inside. With time, a religious congregation acquired the house and turned it into a place for prayers for the nuns.
Casa Planells (Avinguda Diagonal, 332)
Architect: Josep Maria Jujols, Year 1923
A notorious standout on the already notorious Diagonal Avenue is Casa Planells, designed by the architect Josep Maria Jujol who collaborated with Gaudi on various projects such as Parc Guell and Casa Batllo. What is most striking about Casa Planells is the depth that the architect achieved despite the limited space – in just 80m2 he built 120m2 apartments. The limited ornamentation of the façade signals for both Jujol´s particular style as well as to the final years of Modernism when the trend for heavy decoration was coming to an end.
Casa Xina (Muntaner, 54)
Architect: Joan F. Guardiola, Year 1911
In contrast to the tradition of the Catalan buildings to be named after the family that commissioned them (for example Casa Mila), this building was actually named after its architect: Casa Guardiola. Joan Guardiola was a Swedish-born architect who graduated in Barcelona. However, his peculiar style of mixing Art Noveau with oriental motifs never really took off, but it led to the house being nicknamed Casa Xina or the ´Chinese house´. It is a residential building nowadays and is located a short stroll from the University square.