Modernista Walk, part two

Carrer de Girona to the Arc de Triomf metro

Farmacia Bolós

Start at (or from Modernista Walk Part One, return) to the Rambla de Catalunya; in among the smart boutiques, at No.77, is the Farmacia Bolós, with a delicate stained-glass orange tree in the entrance and a big collection of ceramic apothecary pots. Close by, on C/ de València (which crosses the Rambla), the Casa Domènech i Estapà (1909) at No.241 was built by the eponymous architect for himself; he gave it a colourful façade using affordable stone and brick, and crowned its cornice with an original doodad.

Continuing up Rambla de Catalunya, Casa Josep i Ramon Queraltó (1906), on a xamfrà at No.88, shows what even a lesser-known Modernista architect, Josep Plantada i Artigas, could produce, although later owners spoiled the façade.

Follow C/ de Valencia back to the Passeig de Gràcia, and at No.60 you will find the Casa Olano (1885), used as headquarters for the Basque government at the end of the Civil War; its nickname, ‘the House of the Pirate’, comes from its figure of the Basque Juan Sebastian Elcano, who brought Magellan’s last surviving ship back to port and became the first man to sail round the world.

Across the street is the Modernista Café Torino (with its swirling woodwork. On the xamfrà at No.66, the Casa Vídua Marfà is a quaint neo-Gothic work with trilobe arches and svelte columns designed by Manuel Comas Thos in 1905; have a look inside the vestibule to see the beautiful triangular skylight of coloured glass.

Continue down C/ de València to No.302, the French-style Casa Elizalde, built in 1888 and nearly knocked down illegally in 1974 when the owner thought no one was looking. Now in the safe hands of the Ajuntament, it serves as a civic centre. From its inner courtyard there’s a rare view of the secret back façades of the Eixample houses.

At the intersection of C/ de Valencia and C/ de Roger de Llúria, Queviures Murria is a beautiful Modernista grocer’s from 1900, still bearing tile advertisements designed by Ramón Casas and others for old Catalan liqueurs. The most famous, Anís del Mono, shows the little monkey who would later appear in paintings by Picasso, Gris and Braque. It must have been good stuff: Jean Charcot, the French explorer, took 125 bottles of Anís del Mono with him in 1903 to keep warm in the Antarctic.

On the opposite corner, at No.80, is Juli Fossas Martinez’s finest Modernista building, the Casa Josefa Villanueva (1909). The tribunas, inspired by the Casa Batlló, culminate in a mini temple topped with a bulb and spire – there were originally two of these, but one was demolished.

Mercat de la Concepció

Carry on along C/ de Valencia and on your right you’ll see the entrance to the restored Mercat de la Concepció, completed for the 1888 Universal Exhibition by Ruis i Taulet. In spite of whatever regret he felt for losing the Eixample design contest to Cerdà, he came through with a handsome iron market building with a colourful tile roof, famous for its 24-hour flower stalls.

Just here, at the C/ de Valencia intersection with C/ Bruc, at No.112 stands one of the last blasts of Modernisme, Antoni de Falguera i Sivilla’s Conservatori Superior Municipal de Música (1916), framed by twin, pointy towers.

Retrace your steps back to Passeig de Gràcia and turn right: next to Gaudí’s La Pedrera at No.96, is the Modernista Casa Ramón Casas, built in 1899 for the wealthy painter by Antoni Rovira i Rabassa; his friend Santiago Rusinyol had an apartment on the third floor.

Carry on up the Passeig de Gràcia, and turn left down C/ del Rosselló, then right up Rambla de Catalunya to No.122, Casa Costa (1904), topped by three distinct round windows, one of Josep Domènech i Estapà’s more original works.

At No.126, just before the Rambla meets the Diagonal, Puig i Cadafalch’s Can Serra (1903–8) was designed as a single family home, this time in a Renaissance Plateresque style, with sculptures by Eusebi Arnau. A religious community bought it and wanted to tear it down, and in 1981, after a 15-year battle, the compromise was to bulldoze the back to make way for a sleek modern annexe that looms behind its ladylike profile; it’s now the seat of the Diputació de Barcelona.

Inside Casa Sayrach

Where the Rambla de Catalunya meets the Diagonal, don’t miss La Coqueta (1972) by Josep Granyer, the companion piece to his Thinker Bull – this a languorous, coquettish giraffe posing like an Ingres nude.The wonderful Casa Sayrach, left up the Avinguda Diagonal at No.423–5, was one of the last Modernista houses, designed in 1915 by Manuel Sayrach, who was better known as a poet and dramatist. The double façade of sculpted windows is crowned with a sinuous cornice reminiscent of La Pedrera and a gooey-looking conical cupola; the vestibule is an orgy of undulating decoration.

Another local landmark, Casa Lluís Pérez Samanillo, 502 Avinguda Diagonal, was designed by Joan Josep Hervás i Arizmendi, who married a Loire château to Modernisme to create this winner of the city prize for the best building of 1910.

Returning back along the Diagonal, you will find the Casa Comalat (1911), at No.442, built by one of Gaudí’s followers, Salvador Valer. The plot required two façades, and Valer came up trumps. The Diagonal facade has a splendid molten Baroque crown covered with blue and yellow ceramics, and a magnificent entrance hall of tiles and stained glass. Façade number two at 316 C/ de Còrsega was inspired by the Casa Batlló. Colourful and undulating, it has bone-shaped arches at ground level and window galleries above where Persian blinds form an integral part of the design, the whole crowned by a wavy cornice with a peephole.

Detail of the Casa de les Punxes

Farther down the Diagonal (No.416–20) towers Puig i Cadafalch’s massive neo-Gothic apartment block, the Casa Terrades, better known as the Casa de les Punxes (1906) or ‘House of Spikes’, a pigeon-hater’s dream, bristling with the pointiest of witch’s hat roofs and spires and lavishly decorated with ironwork, a sun dial and ceramic panels. The effect is heightened by the fact that it’s the only free-standing house in the Eixample. As you’d expect on a house by Puig, there’s a figure of St George, but also an inscription: ‘Patron of Catalunya, restore our freedom.’ It may have managed to survive the Franco years, but Puig’s career as an architect did not: after the Civil War he was forbidden to build.

Continue along the Diagonal and turn right at Carrer de Bailen; 113 C/ de Bailèn is the sensuous white Casa Llopis i Bofill, the best-known work of one of Domènech’s collaborators, Antoni M. Gallissà, who was inspired by the Alhambra. The fine floral sgraffito, brick and tile work is by Jujol.

Retrace your steps back to the Diagonal, until it runs into Plaça Verdaguer. Nearby, at 108 Passeig de Sant Joan, is Puig i Cadafalch’s Palau Macaya (1901), a Modernista update of the Gothic palaces on Carrer Montcada, with a Moorish touch and gold sgraffito on the façade and in the lovely courtyard. Eusebi Arnau sculpted the capitals; on one he added a bicycle.

Further down the Diagonal, at No.332, towards the Sagrada Família, you’ll find the striking Casa Planells (1924), a late Modernista work by Josep Maria Jujol with undulating lines similar to La Pedrera, but with a Central European flavour.

Walking back towards the Plaça de Catalunya, turn left down Carrer de Napolis, right on Carrer d’Argo, then turn right off Passeig de Sant Joan into C/ d’Ausias Marc, where at No.42 you’ll see the creamy undulations of the Casa Antònia Burés (1903–6). This was a key work of the first decade of the 20th century, and has curving stone balconies and two tribunas supported by beautiful spreading, feathery, stone pine trees – the master builder Enric Pi (pine) used this as his signature.

On the other side of the street, the monumental Casa Roger (1888), at Nos.33–9 C/ d’Ausias Marc, was Enric Sagnier’s first work in the Eixample, and he gave the bourgeoisie their money’s worth in a kind of copybook of Gothic and Baroque styles, with a touch of Greek on top. If you can, have a look in the lavish vestibule at No.37.

Opposite, overlooking the xamfré at No.30, the handsome stone Casa Francesc Burés (1905) is often attributed to Gaudí’s assistant Francesc Berenguer; step into the vestibule to see the spectacular stair.

Continue along C/ d’Ausias Marc. Modernista pharmacies are the lilies of the Eixample and the Farmàcia Nordbeck (1905) at No.31 is one of the most delightful; the sinuous designs and stained glass lend a fitting magical air to a place one visits for secret potions to get rid of warts.

Across the street, elegant and curvaceous Modernista stonework and reliefs by Roque Cot Cot (apparently not a stage name) characterize No.22, the Casa Antònia Puget (1906), with another sumptuous vestibule, guarded by St Anthony of Padua. Next door at C/d'Ausias Marc 16–20, the two lacy Casas Felip (1901–13) were built for the same family over an extended period by Telm Fernàndez; the later half, with its tribunas and stone balconies, show the Felip family’s rise in the world. Pop in at No.20 to see another beautiful vestibule. The walk finishes here, with the Arc de Triomf or Urquinaona metro stations both within easy walking distance.

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