Do you know what the best hidden architecture secrets of Barcelona are? This city has to offer a lot of amazing and impressive architectural treasures that are known all over the world like the masterpieces of Antoni Gaudí. But we thought it would be interesting to show you what inspired the architects when designing some of the most famous buildings in the Barcelona skyline. Let us take you on a short journey of uncovering some of the best architecture secrets of Barcelona.
One of the most surprising architecture secrets of Barcelona is the shopping center L’illa Diagonal which was designed by Rafael Moneo and Manuel de Solà Morales. The façade of the building is 334 meters long and at the first glance looks pretty normal right? But when you have a closer look you can see that it is designed like a skyscraper lying down inspired by the famous Rockefeller Center in New York City. The height of the building varies from 40 to 60 metres at the ends to 30 meters in the middle. Another fun fact is that its foundation stone contains a newspaper of that day (4/7/1990), a silver place setting, an insurance policy and a deposit certificate.
The Torre Agbar clearly stands out when you look at Barcelona’s skyline because of its unusual design. It is intended to recall the shape of a geyser rising into the air, blue at the bottom and white at the top. The building is known by several nicknames such as “el supositori” (the suppository) or “l’obús” (the shell). The external skin of the tower is made out of aluminium which makes it seem like the skin of a reptile. The architects used 40 different gloss paints which is why the colour of Torre Agbar changes depending on the lighting conditions. At night the building is illuminated colourfully by 4.500 LED-projectors from the Barcelona company Lightled. However like a lot other buildings in Barcelona the Torre Agbar is supposed to be a homage to Gaudí, which is why the architect Nouvel payed attention to not designing it higher than the Sagrada Familia in its finished state.
Revealing another one of the architecture secrets of Barcelona we will have a look at the Olympic Flame on top of the Montjuic mountain which was built for Telefónica to transmit television coverage of the 1992 Olympic Summer Games. When designing the Torre Telefónica the architect Santiago Calatrava was inspired by animal skeletons and the way they move. In the end he decided the tower should represent an athlete holding the Olympic Flame. Again Gaudí’s influence on the architects of Barcelona can be seen as the base of the tower is covered with trencadís, the mosaic technique created from broken tile shards. Because of its orientation the Olympic Flame also works as a giant sundial using the Europa square to indicate the hour.
The huge cathedral on top of the Tibidabo can be seen from almost every street in Barcelona and radiates a mystic vibe. It was build in 1961 and is dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. What you maybe don’t know is that the inspiration for it was the famous Sacré-Cœur in Paris. It is build as a romanesque fortress of stone from Montjuïc topped by a monumental neo-gothic church accessed by two grand outdoor stairways with a huge bronze statue of Christ on top overlooking the whole city. The way from the crypt through the church up to the christus sculpture reflects the rise and the purification of the human condition by means of sacrifice and atonement.
The Forum Herzog & de Meuron is another one of the architecture secrets of Barcelona. The triangular blue concrete building can be conceived as a sponge saturated with water and blends with the sky and the Mediterranean Sea. A series of courtyards that intersect the elevated structure establish a complex interaction between the covered open spaces and the various levels of the Forum building, constantly creating new viewing angles and changing light effects. The glazed exterior visually reflects the sky linking the roof with the water-like soffit below. Did you know? The roof of the building is covered with water to keep the building cool in summer.
The W Hotel also known as Hotel Vela designed by the architect Ricardo Bofill absolutely lives up to its name as it looks like a sail blowing in the wind. Some people also refer to it as a fish rather than a sail though. The colour of the outer skin of the building reflects the sky and the Mediterranean sea so that it integrates perfectly into the landscape. In the tail of the fish or where the sail is bent the amazing suites of the Hotel are located and therefor of course offer the best views of Barcelona. All in all an interesting and really impressive building in the skyline of the city.
Las Arenas on Plaça Espanya is when you have a closer look not a regular shopping center as it is build inside a former bullfighting arena. Barcelona has always been characterized by a special sensitivity and respect towards its past (cultural, historical, architectural). Las Arenas is the perfect example for that because it unites architectural historical reverence with technological innovation. The ornate, moorish-looking circular facade of the original remained but in the inside the architect Richard Rogers inserted a colourful circus of leisure in an atrium criss-crossed by escalators, walkways and huge structural elements. Did you know? Barcelona has been the epicenter of the anti-bullfighting movement, so when the architects first started working on the project the building was already abandoned, covered in graffiti and trees where growing inside.
Let us show you another one of the architecture secrets of Barcelona: The CCB first opened its doors in 1993 as a center that organizes debates, exhibitions, festivals, book readings and much more. Located in a former charity house, Albert Viaplana and Helio Piñón redesigned the building in an effort to match the past with the future of the house. They achieved this by changing only one of the sides of the inner courtyard with a modern glass wall that reflects the old wall. Also the top floor of the CCB provides both an observation deck and a reflection of the city in a stunning metaphor of the center’s function.
Of course you wouldn’t consider the Sagrada Familia one of the architecture secrets of Barcelona but still there are some things about the construction that might be surprising. The towers of the church for example each have a special meaning. The tower above the apse, crowned by a star represents the Virgin Mary while the 12 towers around it stand for the twelve Apostles. In the middle of the church there is the tower dedicated to Jesus Christ and around it are four towers representing the Gospels (the books containing the life and teaching of Jesus) All of the Sagrada Familia is being build in logical structures, forms and geometries inspired by nature, with light and colour also playing a central role.
Maybe one of the best hidden architecture secrets of Barcelona is the abandoned metro station “Gaudí”. Located down Avenida Gaudí near the Sagrada Familia the Gaudí station was build around 1968 to make a connection between the lines L2 and L5. The station is completely finished and can still be seen from the Sagrada Familia – Hospital de Sant Pau line in both directions. Passengers say they saw shadows and shapes of ghosts, even the ghost of the famous architect Antoni Gaudí which is why now commercial scary metro tours venture through it. The metro station nowadays also often is used for advertisement, especially during the christmas season. Alltogether there are 12 abandoned stations like this one in Barcelona.
We hope you enjoyed reading through our list of architecture secrets of Barcelona and might even have been surprised by most of them.
Do you know any other architectural secrets? Just let us know in the comments below.