The architectural design of Barcelona is very unique and important. This is part of the city’s identity. Actually, all of Barcelona – its culture, its music and its architect is a combination of Spanish, French, Islamic and international design. This colorful culture is the result of its geographical position. Due to the port on the Mediterranean sea, the city was always connected to the other parts of the world and other cultures. But in spite of the influence of other cultures the inhabitants of Barcelona did not lose their Catalan identity.
Due to the importance of architect in the culture of the city, we suggest that before you visit Barcelona – read a bit about the architectural characteristics of the city.
We can split the city’s architecture to three main generation and each one of them has its own unique characteristics.
The era of the gothic design arrived a bit late to Catalonia. It was popular during the region’s federation with Aragon, between the 13th and 15th centuries (for additional information – History of Barcelona) when in other European countries the characteristics of Renaissance were already appeared.
When we speak about the Gothic architecture in Barcelona we need to think about a unique version of this stream. It is not the same as the Gothic architecture in other European countries. This style combines usual Gothic elements with motifs from the Romanesque style and from the Catalan, French and Islamic architecture.
The main difference from Gothic design of other nationalities is the less exaggerated decoration and the lake of the seek of extreme height. Additionally, Catalan architects designed more unitary and less compartmentalized spaces. The main motifs of this design are arches, rib vaults, and octogonal elements. One of the main characteristics of Gothic design are the symbols who always has a story (in most of the cases a religious one). Gothic design is much more interesting when you understand this symbols and know what they want to tell you.
Since this stream was popular during the Middle Ages, most of the buildings built in this style are churches, monasteries and other religious constructions. Nevertheless, you can find many non-religious buildings too, such as palaces, castles and universities.
Modernista or Neo-Gothic design was a unique Catalan style in the 19th century and at the beginning of the 20th century. It can be considered to be the equivalent of French “Art Nouveau” style. Actually, many architect from Paris visited Barcelona, so it is not surprising that the Catalan architecture was influenced by them.
Modernista design combines Classical and Gothic elements with modern symbols form the Catalan culture and mythology and the nature such as trees, flowers, animals, etc. In fact, Modernista design is full of life and imagination. Another characteristics is the use of curve and colorful lines, and colors were usually bright. For Modernista architects symbolism and ornamentation were indispensable but they avoided symmetrical elements.
The biggest representative of Neo-Gothic style is Antoni Gaudi, one of the most famous icons of the city. But, of course, there were other great Catalan Modernista architects like Lluis Domenech i Montaner or Josep Puig i Cadalfach.
In contrast with the Gothic design, during the Modernista period besides churches and universities, many private and family houses were designed. Since at the end of the 19th century many industrialists and traders became rich in Barcelona and they wanted to show their wealth and power, numerous crazy Modernista buildings were constructed for them. Most of them are situated in Eixample but there are exceptions, for instance Palau Güell (Güell Palace) that is situated in El Raval.
In the second part of 20th century and at the beginning of and in 21st century many buildings in Barcelona were constructed in Modern design. Most of the people who are speaking about architecture in Barcelona think about the Gothic and Modernista styles, but the Modern stream is also interesting and unique.
One of the characteristics of the style is that Modern architects try to use nature and to save energy. This design combines elements from the other two main architectural style of Barcelona but it has its own uniqueness. Actually, we cannot speak about a concrete Modern style, ever Modern work is unique and different,