Spain Art and Architecture Part I – Montaner

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We recently returned from a trip to Portugal and Spain where we visited Pico Island in the Azores, Lisbon, Malaga, Granada, Seville, Madrid, Valencia, Barcelona, Figueres and Port Lligat. The focus of the trip was on art and architecture and we saw an eyeful! To start off with a bang, the first post is about a Catalan architect, Lluis Domenech i Montaner. Montaner is not as famous as Antonio Gaudi, his Barlenona counterpart, but designed a pair of outstanding buildings, Hospital de San Pau and the Palau de la Musica. Both are in Barcelona.

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As you can see, the Palau de la Musica is a spectacular building. It was designed and built in 1908 for a Catalan choir, the Orfeo Catala. The choral society continues to own the building to this day. Notable about the building is the huge span of the interior without columns to block the view. Montaner pioneered the use of iron and steel. The walls are the first examples of curtain wall structures.

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The Montaner architectural style, sometimes referred to as Catalan Modernism, is a bit of a mash-up of rationalism, art deco and extreme ornamentation. On one hand, you have the modern, rational structure of steel with the large span and lack of columns. Then, you have the marvelous stained glass – especially the large window in the ceiling. But there is no austere modernism here. Everywhere you turn, there are fantastic figures of people and animals carved into the walls and ceilings.

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When it was built, in 1908, concert halls were lit by dangerous gas. The choir would perform in daylight, so the decision was made to illuminate the concert hall with large windows. This makes the hall a magical, shiny place with light bouncing off every surface in multi colours due to the stained glass.

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If you book in advance, you can get a great tour of the inside of the concert hall and get great vantage points to take photographs. My only regret is that we didn’t book any tickets for a concert. Next time!

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