Barcelona beyond Gaudí

The city’s architects uncover some of Barcelona’s hidden spaces which, beyond their functional nature, surprise by their extraordinary beauty.

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osep Maria Alventosa and Xavi Morell—who have built several houses, carried out numerous renovations and won awards for the el CEIP Cappont in Lleida (Western Catalonia), Public Housing in Tàrrega (Western Catalonia) or the Showroom of Gaggenau in Barcelona—recommend a visit to the Martí i Pol Gardens at the Can Framis Museum, Josep Llinas’ residential building in Ciutat Vella, and José Antonio Coderch’s fishermen’s homes. “We believe that all 3 projects have the same leitmotiv, that of improving the surroundings through their intervention. The first, and best known, manages to create a relaxing, serene space in an environment dominated by large office buildings and the frenetic rhythm of everyday life in the area of the Plaça de les Glòries. The other two are in very dense urban areas, Ciutat Vella and Barceloneta, and improve the quality of the public spaces and their relationship with the surroundings. More light, improved aeration and better perspectives. They are projects from very different periods (1951, 1989, 2007), where the focus is on improving public areas to enhance private space,” Alventosa and Morell explain.

The six architects at Cierto Estudio—Marta Benedicto, Carlota de Gispert, Ivet Gasol, Anna Llonch, Lucía Millet and Clara Vidal—also highlight the housing for fishermen at the Viviendas para Pescadores Grupo Almirante Cervera by Coderch. “They are a reference for us. Projects like that transmit the wish to create community spaces with synergies between neighbours and full of activity. This atmosphere, for example, is one of the objectives we are looking for in our proposal for a new large-scale social housing project at the Plaça de les Glòries, La Comunitat Habitacional.” A visit to Coderch’s Viviendas is not to be missed because, as they explain, “the interior spacial quality of the flats is magnificent and the integration of the community with the public space is quintessential. Access to the interior of the block is through the Plaça del Llagut from the Carrer de la Maquinista. It is a gem untouched by tourism and of great architectural wealth.”

It is odd that it is one of the icons that appears in all the pictures of the Barcelona skyline, but it is surely one of the least visited by the locals

The founders of Cierto Estudio, who also carry out interior renovations, and have even designed the furniture in their studio, urge us to visit the Vil·la Cecilia Gardens in Sarrià. “This is one of the petite oases designed by José Antonio Martínez Lapeña and Elías Torres, a show of modernity and genius in equal parts. The enclosures, which show the name of the gardens, are a real wonder! We are inspired by the fantasy of the architecture and we are particularly interested in the details, crucial for us in terms of architecture and furnishing.”

Josep Puigdomènech, a partner at Meritxell Ribé-The Room Studio, takes us to cosmopolitan locations, like the Collserola Tower—up in the hills above Barcelona—and the Plaça de la Rosa dels Vents—at the end of the port’s breakwater—spaces that fulfil their vocation of conceiving projects as a harmonious whole: architecture, interior design, technology and home automation. Puigdomènech and Meritxell Ribé are authors of residential and commercial buildings, like their Espai Travessera showroom, the conversion of a building that housed the old Paris Espai car repair shop and several flats in one of the city’s classier districts. “The Collserola Telecoms Tower, designed by British architect Norman Foster to house all the telecommunications required for the 1992 Olympics, is a unique construction from which to admire the city. It has a viewing platform over 500 meters high, accessible via a panoramic lift, from which there are 360º views of the entire metropolitan area. These views can only be compare to those from a plane, but with the advantage that you can access it simply and calmly. It is odd that it is one of the icons that appears in all the pictures of the Barcelona skyline, but it is surely one of the least visited by the locals,” explains Puigdomènech, who in his leisure time usually goes running.

The inner yards of the Eixample district’s blocks, with their inward facing galleries, the columns and wrought iron railings, ground floor flats, some with gardens… They are dynamic, living spaces, where hotels coexist alongside august properties, offices and public buildings

The Plaça de la Rosa dels Vents is a must to visit for the peace and the microclimate it offers. “It gives you a radically alternative perspective of the city, with views of the Mediterranean Sea and a sea breeze that makes you completely disconnected on the one hand, while at the same time finding yourself at the base of an impressive building, the W Hotel, with an all-glass facade that seems to meld with the sky.”

Marta Casas, the soul of the architecture and interior design studio Mimouca Barcelona, with different projects in Barcelona, is in love with the inner yards of the Eixample district’s blocks, with their inward facing galleries, the columns and wrought iron railings, ground floor flats, some with gardens… “They are dynamic, living spaces, where hotels coexist alongside august properties, offices and public buildings. They are a reflection of the life of the city, of its most intimate side. It always strikes me how they catch the light, their architectural diversity, their colours.”

Casas usually takes walks along the Passeig Picasso. “It is a stately boulevard, with very slender, French-inspired arcades that allow a double floor within the interior facades. These façades correspond to residential buildings built at the beginning of the last century for the bourgeoisie of El Born. The very beautiful suspended forged iron and glass ceiling lamps stand out, providing a warm atmosphere at dusk. You will find several emblematic shops there, like Jaime J. Renovell’s bulk dried fruits and beans store. The street’s solemnity and elegance, the combination of stone and forged iron strikes me.”

Without a doubt, Barcelona is a metropolis that will never cease to surprise us.

Featured images:
1. Can Framis Museum. Photo by Josep Azuara Robles
2. Jardins de Vil·la Cecília.
3. Torre de Collserola. Marc Dmoz in Flickr.
4. Passeig Picasso. Photo by Aikaterini Filippakopoulou