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Art Nouveau, Catalan-style (1880-1910)

Stained glass in the Palau de la Musica Catalana

That is what Modernisme is, a great movement of enthusiasm and liberty in search of beauty.Juan Ramón Jiménez

Modernista Architecture

In 1860, as Barcelona burst outside its medieval walls and expanded into the Eixample, it did so with feelings of ambivalence mixed in with ambition. Now that the city finally had room to build, how should it go about it? Tired neoclassical forms and pastiches could hardly express the spirit of the cultural reawakening of the Renaixença.

Catalan architects found their greatest inspiration in a book called Der Stil (1861–3) by German architect Gottfried Semper. Semper described how architecture derived from the shelter, warmth and defence of the cave and evolved according to need and society; a building and its decoration, he declared, should express its function. To mimic historical styles, as the medieval revivalists were doing, was repulsive. It was essential to be modern, and Modernisme, as the city’s new style came to be known, employed the latest technologies while never forgetting Semper’s influential dictum that ‘Originality is a return to origins’.

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Modernista Art and Architecture

Text © Dana Facaros & Michael Pauls

Images by PD Art, Uwe Kotte