eyond the different spaces taken by the tourists, Barcelona remains charming and, above all, has many hidden places. That’s why we wanted to ask different architecture studios for their favourite hideaways. Niches, settings, public and private spaces that even many Catalans do not know and that are representative of the city and their physical and social fabric. A range of places to discover for many, at least from the kaleidoscopic point of view of the architects. Hideaways that come to light, like gleaming treasures on the rich vessel that is Barcelona.
Architect Oriol Serrat, the head of OUA’s architecture department has a distinctive ability to see spaces from new perspectives. He suggests walking around the Raval district. “The neighbourhood, which was once very dense, was transformed by creating squares like the one the MACBA Contemporary Art Museum faces, or the Rambla del Raval boulevard, or the refurbishment of the Old Hospital, and this lets you understand the need for void in any construction.” In fact, the word “Raval” comes from the Arabic “a-raval”, which means “on the outskirts,” and in the past the Raval was outside the medieval city walls. “When you build, it is crucial to think about the importance of the unbuilt space, they are part of the wealth of what you are constructing. Walking through the Raval leads you to contemplate the set of voids that make up the morphology of every urban layout.”
Antoni Gaudí, who at that time was still a student, made the structural load calculations for the Dipòsit de les Aigües de Barcelona, a highly recommended visit
Serrat—who has led housing projects in Barcelona and the nearby towns of Badalona, Terrassa, Sitges and Calafell, among other places, as well as rebuilding the old Muntanyà car dealership as provisional premises for the Digital Playground communication company, and Hotel Me in Carrer Casp, also in Barcelona—further suggests visiting the Diposit de les Aigües de Barcelona (Barcelona Water Deposit). Construction by master builder Josep Fontserè began in 1874, but it was not inaugurated as a water reservoir to regulate the flow of water from Ciutadella Park until 1880. Antoni Gaudí, who at that time was still a student, made the structural load calculations for the deposit and the supporting elements. “It is a construction following a Roman prototype, made up of large one-meter thick, fourteen-meter high brick walls, intersected by barrel vaults extending as if by mirror effect over a length of 65 meters.” After having had different uses, it was refurbished by Lluís Cotet and Ignasi Paricio as a library for the UPF University. “They took great care to make interventions go unnoticed, adapting to the new needs of the building (air conditioning, lighting, wiring for workstations, etc.). The works do not take centre stage in the structure of the building, quite the contrary, they help enhance it. What’s more, once you’re inside the building it’s a pleasure to concentrate, feeling sheltered, and all at once enjoying the protracted perspectives offered by the view through the columns.”
Josep-Maria Jujol’s Finca San Salvador (1909-1910) “highlights Jujol’s great ability to propose projects and extraordinary, though little known works with very few means, but with invariably surprising, eye-catching results, and at the same time completely consistent with the location and the brief.”
The architects at Bajet Giramé are also of the same opinion: “It is a civic infrastructure with the spacial qualities to allow it to become—over a period of more than a hundred years—a water reservoir, a fire station, a court archive, a municipal asylum, a municipal police garage… until it became the best library—in terms of space—in Barcelona today.” “The building, and the transformation by Clotet-Paricio into a library, have influenced our understanding of the capacity of architecture to support and catalyse urban transformation over time. In fact, the strategy of our Home in Mitre project is analogous to that of Clotet-Paricio’s reformation of the Ciutadella Water Deposit library. We considered the project as a set of wooden boxes of different sizes that were inserted between the pillars and vaults of a previously emphasized structural space, to give rise to the domestic space of a home, rather than a library.” This project received the biannual Award from the Association of Young Architects of Catalonia (AJAC), as well as the Gold Award (first prize) in the category of interior design of the German Best Architects awards last year.
Maria Giramé and Pau Bajet also recommend the Passeig de Can Tunis: “It grew as a coastal neighbourhood with schools, services and associations until it was all knocked down for the industrial development of the Zona Franca free trade zone and the Port of Barcelona during the 60s. The absolute disregard for this area by the city contrasts with its qualities as a landscaped space at the foot of Montjuïc facing the sea and its proximity with the centre—just 20 minutes on foot from La Rambla. This site reminds us of the need for the city to recover El Morrot as a place for the people and not just for cars and goods traffic. A ‘front’ and not a ‘behind’ for Montjuïc hill.”
Architect and designer Tomás López, the creator of the interior at the Niubó dance school—a candidate for the FAD 2018 Awards—and spaces like Cafés El Magnífico, Sans&Sans and the Mayerling-Abamita apartments in Carrer Ausiàs March, along with other projects, highlights Josep-Maria Jujol’s Finca San Salvador (1909-1910). “The format of his interventions is far removed from that of Gaudí’s. It highlights Jujol’s great ability to propose projects and extraordinary though little known works with very few means, but with invariably surprising, eye-catching results, and at the same time completely consistent with the location and the brief.” He likewise recommends we visit the hilltop suburb of Vallvidrera and visit Vil·la Joana. “This is an old farmhouse with a long history, where illustrious Catalan poet and priest Jacint Verdaguer lived his last years and a place to visit little-known natural places, such as the Vallvidrera reservoir.”
Barcelona does hide many more places than we might think. A tour around spaces that show us the beauty of our city.