Barcelona – Day 7

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And yet, there is more!

Monday night, the activities of the II coupDefouet International Congress had ended, at last. But Vueling didn’t fly back home on Tuesday, so I had one more day. Peter Ranson, a friendly Edinburgh architect whom I had met at the congress, wasn’t going home yet either. We decided to have breakfast together at the Hotel-Bakery Praktik and then head for the Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau.

Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau

Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau

Due to the rapid late nineteenth century growth of Barcelona’s population and advanced knowledge in medicine, the existing hospitals became too small. With a legacy from the Catalan banker Pau Gil i Serra, a new hospital, designed by Lluís Domènech i Montaner, was commissioned in 1902, and opened in 1930. The hospital has been fully functional until June 2009 when again advanced knowledge demanded new premises.

Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau in 1903

Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau in 1903 © Sant Pau Recinte Modernista

Lluís Domènech i Montaner designed the hospital with its own layout, like a city within the city, at a 45º angle to the existing street plan. He allocated 145m² per patient, including the landscaped grounds, which was far more than that of the best European hospitals at the time. The site is as big as 9 street blocks of the neighbouring Eixample district.

The original plan was to build 48 pavilions but that number was eventually reduced to 27 of which only 16 are in Modernista (Art Nouveau) style. Of these, 12 were built by the architect himself, while the remainder was built by his son Pere Domènech i Roura. Each pavilion was assigned to a specific medical speciality, and all pavilions were linked by one kilometre of underground tunnels.

The chosen materials – including red brick, stone, sculptures, ceramics, mosaics, wood, marble, glass and metal – were the best; the most durable and the most suitable, from a decorative as well as from a hygienic point of view. I found it absolutely incredible to see what was accomplished one hundred years ago. Technically, but maybe even more so, aesthetically. If only todays hospitals possessed a fraction of the beauty of the two hospitals Lluís Domènech i Montaner built in Reus and Barcelona.

Casa Batlló by Antoni Gaudí

My Favourite Photo of Casa Batlló by Antoni Gaudí (Barcelona)

Another building that was still on my bucket list was the famous Casa Batlló by Antoni Gaudí. I have always been fascinated by this extremely odd building. And no way I was going to leave Barcelona without seeing it.

Inside Casa Batlló you get a device with headphones so you can take the guided tour in your own language and at your own pace. That seems extremely convenient. But the device didn’t work as well as expected, and most of the time I only listened to the guide. I preferred looking at the building instead of at a screen. I felt like looking at the screen was preventing me from actually seeing what Gaudí created.

The device also gave me a ‘disconnected’ feel. Like you’re alone in the house. But you’re not. Like ants, people were everywhere! Just imagine: all rooms in the house were empty, except for a swarming crowd. And the only information available was inside a device. Everyone was staring at his own device and they were all bumping into each other.

I tried to take pictures, most of which are unsatisfactory because of all these people. To get an idea of the interior of Casa Batlló I would like to suggest you watch the official video here. Much better.

Virtual Tour Casa Batlló

A Spanish friend told me Casa Batlló is owned by the multi-million dollar company Chupa Chups that uses the museum as a cash cow. Now, I don’t know anything about the motives of the Bernat family that is behind Chupa Chups. But in combination with the extreme entrance fees and my personal experience the information did cause some mixed feelings.

After I left Casa Batlló there was one more place I wanted to go. The Museu del Modernisme Barcelona, a private museum specialized in Catalan Modernisme, a few blocks away from Casa Batlló. The museum houses a splendid collection of furniture that used to be in famous houses like Casa Batlló, Casa Mila and Casa Calvet, and objects by designers like Antoni Gaudí and Gaspar Homar i Mezquida. A collection which a married couple of Barcelona antique dealers, Fernando Pinós and María Guirao, have amassed during their 40 years in business.

With only two more visitors at this museum, I could take my time and fully enjoy every object. The museum is relatively small, only two floors, yet a must see for every Art Nouveau lover exploring Barcelona. There was only one thing I regretted about my visit to this museum: afraid my suitcase would get too heavy, I didn’t buy the catalogue. Stupid. The catalogue was very complete and only €6,-.

And this, my dear reader, concludes my week in Barcelona. Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined my first encounter with Barcelona to be so intense. Eager to see as much as possible, I have had an itinerary that might be too much for a regular holiday. But I do hope I have given you insight into what Barcelona has to offer. More importantly, I hope I have made clear the exceptional added value of participating in the coupDefouet International Congress. See you there next time???

Read more
II coupDefouet International Congress
Mein-Barcelona.com
Casa Batlló
Museu del Modernisme Barcelona
Museu del Modernisme Barcelona – Discount Tickets
NRC Cultuurblog
Sant Pau Art Nouveau Site
Wikipage Hospital de Sant Pau

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