Catalan Vault: Introduction and examples

Everything you ever wanted to know about Catalán vaulted ceilings

Have you ever looked up at the ceiling of an apartment in Barcelona and wondered why they often have exposed wooden beams and an arch-shaped series of bricks? Well if you do, welcome to the club. The first time I came to my friend’s flat and looked at those curvy ceilings, my naive mind told me the place must be under some kind of renovation. But then I encountered the same scene in my first rented apartment, my second one, and mostly every flat I’ve been in so far.

What kind of construction is this? At the beginning I didn’t like it, so primitive, so uncompleted! But the more I explored this “Catalan style ceiling” the more I liked its unique character. So if you have the same wonder, why don’t you join me in discovering this piece of Catalan charm!

Catalan vault

And by the way this design’s called Catalan vault or in Catalan “Volta Catalana

Design and origin

Catalan vault is a building technique that lays plain bricks lengthwise over the parallel wooden beams or centering to form an arch-shaped ceiling. To create such a curvy ceiling with bricks and no framework needed, builders have to use a fast setting mortar to allow the brick to hold itself after being tapped into place.

Constructing vaults in brick was mastered by the Romans, who use arched structure to strengthen their buildings and constructions. This technique was then improved by Catalan people with layers of thinner, lighter bricks to create a ceiling not only light but also very strong. Up till now the technique has been widely used in buildings all over the region, for which it is named “Volta Catalana”. Other names for this technique are Catalan arch, Catalan turn or Timbrel vault.

Volta Catalana

Reason for this design

Structural strength: Catalan vaults consist of a single or series of arches on the ceiling which create a shell structure. Thanks to that both the floor above and the ceiling itself will be able distribute gravity forces equally to the whole construction system thus bringing geometric flexibility and endurance of the structural floor surface.

I asked some of my Catalan friends and they said that a long time ago in the region people stored tons of agriculture products on the top floor. So it is very important to have a heavily reinforced structure.

Resource efficiency: Since this technique was popular among  common people, the material had to be easy to make and affordable. Also, compared to making the same ceiling with a solid design, Catalan vaults costs less and do not require elaborate falsework. Yes that’s true they don’t need a framework to build. If you are skeptical about that, check this video

 

 

Different types

Catalan vaults vary depending on its purpose of use and the design of the whole construction.

  • The most popular Catalan vault you can see consists of small arches connected to wooden beams, called vigas in Catalan. They are used on the ceilings of multistory buildings to form a strong structure that can bear heavy weight. Some modern designs also replace wood with iron to reinforce the ceiling even more.
  • For a roof that doesn’t need to bear heavy object above, the arch will be larger and number of arch is reduced. An example of that is the roof of Casaramona (a.k.a CaixaForum)

Volta catalana Casaramona

 

  • Another type is four arches meeting  at a center point, supported by 4 pillars. A perfect example for that is the Manhattan municipal building designed by Rafael Guastavino.

Catalan vault Manhattan Municipal Building

Manhattan Municipal Building

 

Famous constructions & architecture

Barcelona’s most famous architect Gaudi (see more about his masterpieces here) frequently used the traditional Catalan vault technique to suit the constructional form of his curvy design style. The most obvious example is The School of the Sagrada Familia

catalan vault SCHOOLS OF THE SAGRADA FAMILIA catalan vault SCHOOLS OF THE SAGRADA FAMILIA 2

School of the Sagrada Familia

 

Calatan vaulted ceilings can also be seen outside of its original birthplace, in America thanks to Valencia architect Rafael Guastavino. Inspired by Catalan vault, he invented the Guastavino tile. The design was then used by Rafael himself and his son to build more than one thousand vaults in churches, cathedrals, chapels, and public buildings in America. Some of his most remarkable pieces are:

Catalan vault City Hall subway station

New York’s City Hall subway station

 

Catalan vault Vanderbilt Hotel New York City

New York City ‘s Vanderbilt Hotel

 

Catalan vault National Museum of Natural History Baird auditorium

National Museum of Natural History’s Baird auditorium

 

Suitelife’s flats with Catalan vaulted ceiling

Love the curves now? Make you desire come to life! Check out some of our flats with this Catalan traditional design or contact us to find a flat with this beautiful feature!

Catalan vault Alan harper flat

Alan Harper's flat

Catalan vault Arc of Light

Arc of Light

 

 

Catalan vault Carmen san diego

Carmen san diego

Catalan vault Joaquin Costa V

Joaquin Costa V

 

There are many other options you can find in our long term flats collection here

Tips for apartment hunting: if you fancy the traditional Catalan vaulted ceiling, our recommendation is to look at the old city area, Ciutat Vella with neighbourhoods Barceloneta, Borne, Gothic Quarter and Raval neighborhood. What about modern flats? Check the Diagonal Mar area. The neighborhood guide can be found in this link.

peace!

T.Vu

Tapas: Ultimate Guide!

All you need to know about tapas in Barcelona: tips, recipes, history, how to eat and many more

Barcelona tapas

Tapas world: the 10 commandments on how to eat tapas in Barcelona

 

  • Thou shall not eat more than 2 tapas in the same bar.

Most of the tapas bars in Barcelona have their own specialties. That’s why you shouldn’t spend all your night in the same bar. Have a beer in one, eat some tapas, and then go to another one, have a glass of wine and some tapas, and keep going. You will be able to try a lot of different tapas and to meet a lot of people. Because eating tapas is also a social activity! That brings us to the second commandment…

  • Thou shall enjoy your time when eating tapas.

When you go tapear (this is the Spanish word for eating tapas), you’re supposed to have fun and relax with friends or nice people. This is a cool moment for talking and chilling out after work for example. This isn’t supposed to be stressful or boring. So bring some of your good friends (not too many) and have a nice time in one of the numerous tapas bars in Barcelona!

  • Thou shall eat tapas in the only right way.

And the only right way is standing in front of the bar, the tapas on the counter and your drink on your hand. Keep talking with your friends and don’t be afraid if it’s crowded. People are used to it and they won’t be moaning. Then, one person will pay for each round of tapas, no need to start splitting up bills, remember it’s a friendly time!

Tapas Barcelona

  • Thou shall eat tapas at the right time.

The best tapas time is during the aperitif, you’re done with your stressful day of work and you have a few hours before going to bed. Best time for tapas! People say that you shouldn’t have a big meal before sleeping, so tapas are exactly what you need!
Another great time for tapas is just before lunch, in order to whet your appetite…

  • Thou shall try the most famous tapas and then learn how to cook your own tapas.

That’s means you have to cook the tortilla de patatas and the patatas bravas. Finding the best ones is truly an assault course, but hey, when there’s a will, there’s a way! The next step will be to cook your own tapas. Start easily with pan con tomate and level up with chiquitos!

  • Thou shall eat pintxos at Maitea and go to La Flauta and Los Toreros in Barcelona.

Pintxos are good and pintxos at Maitea are excellent! For around 8€ you can have 5 or 6 pintxos. The restaurant is nice and the food is awesome. You should also go to La Flauta or Los Toreros, two of the best tapas restaurants in Barcelona. It’s a safe bet, believe us. You can learn more about these places on our top 10 Barcelona Restaurant guide.

Barcelona Tapas

 

  • Thou shall try a new tapas bar or restaurant in Barcelona every week.

Barcelona is full of tapas bars and restaurants. To live your gustatory experience to the maximum, you should try at least a new one every week. Taste their specialties and chill out in different atmosphere, from the very modern and trendy one to the very traditional and friendly one.

  • Thou shall do a tapas tour in Barcelona: free tapas with one drink.

To save some coins during your tapas night in Barcelona, you should have a look to our blog about the free tapas in Barcelona. You pay for one drink and you get one pintxos or tapas for free. What else?! You will find this kind of tapas bar in every neigborhood of Barcelona. No excuse for skipping this tapas tour.

  • Thou shall learn tapas history and tapas names in catalan.

Tapas in Barcelona are everywhere, you already know that. Tired of wondering what tapas are behind Catalan words? Check our vocabulary section and you will become a pro at ordering what you want!

Tapas Barcelona

  • Thou shall try catalan tapas.

Barcelona has its own specialties concerning tapas, and you have to taste them! Just a few names to make your mouth water: sofregitin, escudella, zarzuela… and of course, aioli! People also say that you can find the best fish tapas on Barcelona beaches. With this last info, you have all the tips you needed to eat tapas like a pro and spend an amazing time in Barcelona with your friends!


Check out more about Barcelona Beaches


We hope that this tapas guide will help you to feel Spanish, and even Catalan, when you’re eating tapas in Barcelona! If you liked it, do not hesitate to share it and give us your own tapas tips! Adéu!

How to get a Spanish NIE Number: It’s Kind of a Big Deal

What is a Spanish NIE number anyways?

The Spanish NIE numer, short for Número de Identificación de Extranjero, is a Foreigner Identification Number issued by the Administración General del Estado  (General Administration of the State) as a fiscal identification number for foreigners who want to stay more than 3 months in Spain, or in oder to be able to process certain transactions in Spain like buying a property. The equivalent of NIE for Spaniards is the NIF (Número de Identificación Fiscal).

The NIE number is different from the Empadronamiento or Padron Municipal which is about getting registered in your living community.

The Spanish NIE number starts with a letter, followed by seven numbers and another letter in the end (example X – 1234567 – B). Each NIE number is dedicated to one person and it is neither transferable nor does it expire.

Spanish NIE Number

Why it is important?

The Spanish NIE number is basically used as a code to serve people who don’t have Spanish Nationality. It is of essential for virtually every activity that requires your identification. Many people are not aware of the real importance of the NIE number. For example, your very first steps after moving to Barcelona, like opening a bank account and getting internet/phone contracts, will require a NIE.

 

Spanish NIE number

A quick anecdote: One of our colleagues here at SuiteLife had just arrived to BCN and wanted to get Internet installed in his apartment. He spoke to most all of the Internet companies and there was one that told him he could sign up without having a NIE. To make a long story short, after weeks of back and forth with the company, it turned out they were misinformed and he did indeed need a NIE number. Moral of the story is just get the thing! It’ll make your life a lot easier.

The Spanish NIE number is important for those who have a professional or economic interest in Spain, because for certain they must have a NIE in order to:

  • Study in Spain
  • Buy, sell or insure a property in Spain or purchase any asset over € 3,000
  • Buy a vehicle in Spain
  • Inheritance of assets in Spain
  • Setup a company, start a business or simply work in Spain
  • Pay Spanish taxes
  • Apply for a mortgage or other loan in Spain
  • Register for national Social Security Health plan
  • Register with social services and arrange receipt of social security benefits
  • Apply for a driving license

How to get NIE number – step by step

Step 1: Fill in the application form

The Spanish NIE number application form you need to find is called EX – 15 Solicitud de Numero de Identidad de Extranjero NIE y Cert . Download it here

The actual form is in Spanish, but don’t worry because you’ve reached the right place. We  have the document with the most essential fields translated to English so you can refer to it.

EX 15 Solicitud de Numero de Identidad de Extranjero NIE y Cert English sample

This is sample image of our translation. For higher quality one, download the pdf version here

Step 2: Make an appointment online

You have to make an appointment online first before coming in person; otherwise you will not be served. To do that, click on this link and choose “Acceder al Procedimiento” at the bottom.

  • In PROVINCIAS DISPONIBLES choose Barcelona.
  • In TRÁMITES DISPONIBLES PARA LA PROVINCIA SELECCIONADA choose Expedicion de tarjeta de identidad de extranjero (heulla)
  • Click Aceptar
  • Click Entrar
  • Fill in your information:
    • Choose PASAPORTE and enter your passport number below
    • Nombre y apellidos = name and surname
    • País de nacionalidad = your nationality
    • In Caracteres enter what you see on the picture above
    • Click Aceptar

Step 3: Prepare all the necessary documents (checklist)

  • Passport and copy of all pages
  • Address in Spain
  • Completed EX-15 formula
  • 2 recent Passport photos
  • Document proving why you need a Spanish NIE number, which differs depending on your intentions. In most cases it is:
    • a contract showing that you’re going to buy a property in Spain like real estate, car, etc. or
    • employed:  job contract from the Spanish company or
    • self-employed: a company ownership certificate or
    • persons with sufficient funds: proof that you can live in Spain without working or
    • students: acceptance letter from the school or
    • job seekers: you can go only with passport, but you will be issued a temporary NIE number valid only for 3 months.
  • non-EU citizens will need the additional proof of legal entry into Spain (for instance a landing card, known in Spanish as a declaración de entrada)
  • NIE application fee 10,40 euros (rate in 2014)

Step 4: Go to the authorized office – Where to apply for NIE number in Barcelona

You can apply for NIE number at police stations with a Oficina de Extranjeros (Foreigners Office). In Barcelona they are located on:
  

  • Carrer de Balmes 192,  08006 Barcelona
  • Rambla de Guipúscoa 74,  08020 Barcelona
  • Carrer de Múrcia 42,  08027 Barcelona
  • Passeig de Sant Joan 189,  08037 Barcelona

Opening hours:

  • Monday to Thursday from 9h to 17h30
  • Friday 9h to 14h
  • Summer (June 16th to September 15th) from 9h to 14h

#Useful tip: it is possible you will have to wait in queue hours until your turn at the office, so bring something that can keep you occupied for example a book or a magazine.

Step 5: useful Spanish terms

Some simple Spanish phrases that you might need:

Hello! I would like to apply for NIE number = Hola ! Me gustaría obtener mi número de identidad de extranjero (NIE) .

Where can submit my NIE application? = ¿ Dónde puedo inscribirme?

I have an appointment to get my NIE = Tengo una cita para obtener mi número de identidad de extranjero (NIE).

Step 6: keep calm and wait for it

After submitting all the documents, a photocopy of the application, a paper indicating when the card is available (keep it safe, you will need to show it to them later when you pick up your NIE card) and your passport will be returned to you. Usually after two weeks the NIE card should be available to pick up, but the process can sometimes take as long as 6 weeks. So stay patient!

Keep calm and wait for it

Apply for NIE number before you come to Barcelona

It is also possible to apply for Spanish NIE number before coming to Spain, either by asking the Spanish consulate in your country or using a specialised agency of which many are available online, and the fees vary as well. But since you have read our guide, getting it all on your own won’t be such a pain. It’s not so complicated, right?

Beside this we also have many other helpful tips if you’re moving to Barcelona like a piece of cake. Check it out

Is there any other problem you have in Barcelona? Do tell us in the comments below, we would love to help!

peace!

T.Vu

 

Barcelona Street Profile: Carrer Joaquin Costa

Joaquin Costa: Barcelona Street Profile

El Raval is famous for being kind of an infamous neighborhood and we feel like that is total bullsh*t! This is an amazing, eccentric and eclectic neighborhood with many awesome things to do and today we take a look at one of its emblematic streets, Carrer Joaquin Costa.

Carrer Joaquin Costa Street Barcelona

History

The street name came from the Catalán politician, lawyer, historian and economist who was known to be the major representative of the “Regenerationism”, which was an intellectual movement that searched for the causes of Spain’s (as a State) decadence. The street is located in the Raval neighborhood, part of the old town. It starts from the metro station “Universitat” and goes down until reaching the center of Raval at equal distance from ”San Antoni” and “Liceu” metro stations.

As many other streets of this neighborhood, Joaquin Costa is a narrow, charming street full of shops, bars or restaurants, but also public buildings such as the Goya Theatre and the Centre Aragonés.

Shops on Joaquin Costa

 

- Fusta’m

 

Workshop Barcelona Fusta'm Joaquin Costa

Looking for a unique workshop? Then you’ll love Fusta’m! It all started almost 4 years ago with an idea of a couple, which was to restore old pieces of furniture from the 50′s, 60′s or even 70′s styles. You’ll find only authentic furniture, lighting and different decorative trinkets. Not only is it possible to buy these awesome pieces but you can also rent them for special occasions, events.

P.S : Entering the shop, if you’re curious enough, you’ll see behind the seller an old tapissery which is of origin.
Fore more info, check out Fusta Website

- A la Premsa d’Aquell Dia: The one-of-a-kind shop in Barcelona

A La Premsa d'Aquell Dia Barcelona Joaquin Costa

The story begins 20 years ago when, after a few trips around Europe (more precisely to Belgium, France and England) seeing a few shops selling unique old newspapers and magazines, a couple and their daughter decided to create their own shop back in Barcelona. They first settled in Carrer del Tigre in the Raval Neighborhood before moving to the next and current street Joaquin Costa 4 years ago because the shop was getting too small to stock all the newspapers and magazines they wanted. Even if one can think they also sell French magazines (because of the few “Paris Match” in the window display), they actually only sell Spanish newspapers. But if you’re interested in old newspapers in other languages they might help you find it by contacting some colleagues around Europe. The best example the couple told me was this time where a client wanted an english newspaper talking about the  titanic as it was not famous enough to talk about it in the Spanish newspapers. They finally found one that they bought for 12500 Pesetas (75€)!

A la premsa d'aquel Dia Barcelona Joaquin Costa

According to the couple, the two kinds of articles most wanted are the newspapers first step on the moon and the World Wars.

When going out of the shop, you can stop by the ”Lletraferit” Library Café just accross the street and grab a café con leche while reading a book! This place was actually funded by Diego Gary, son of famous French writer Romain Gary and American Actress of the 60′s Jean Seberg.

Fore more info check out A la Premsa D’aquell Dia Website

- Bubub

Bubub also caught our attention because of its old sign representing a cartoon dog, bringing back its past of Toy shop. Nowadays it is a small Greengrocer with great fresh products for a decent price! Vegetarians are gonna love it.

Bubub Greengrocer Barcelona in Joaquin Costa

 

Bars

 

Betty Fords Bar is a pretty famous bar located in this street, known for hosting hipsters but also for their good cocktails and burgers! Excellent place to start your parties!

Betty Ford's Bar Barcelona in Joaquin Costa

 

If you’re interested in a completely different kind of bar, we recommend you to go to Granja de Gava, a unique centenary bar which, as its name suggests, was a farm originally (Granja means Farm). It also saw the birth of a famous Catalán writer Terenci Moix in 1942. When you enter the bar, you can hear a soft jazz music and see an astonishing statue in papier-mâché of a giant fat lady decorated by a huge slice of pizza on her head. There are also art exhibitions, for example there is currently oil paintings of the local Marta Cino which are actually for sale.

Granja de Gava Bar Barcelona Joaquin Costa

 

Olimpic bar will be for people who don’t want to spend much money or beat about the bush: 1€20 a beer, 3€50 a Mojito, Caipirinha or Spritz, that’s right. And if you don’t believe me, check this out:

 

Olimpic Bar Barcelona Joaquin Costa

 

No wonder it is always packed…

Finally for the story, this awesome street once hosted one of the most famous Serial killer of the city, Enriqueta Marti who was called “La Vampira del carrer de Ponent” (Ponent street being the former name of Joaquin Costa street). So that you understand why she earned this name, she used to kidnapp dozens of children, make them prostitute and/or kill them. And with the rests (skin, blood, fat, hair, bones…), she’d make potions, balsams, etc. What a lovely person she was! :)

Enriqueta Marti Barcelona Joaquin Costa

 

Cheers,

 

Florian

Barcelona Tips: Moving to Barcelona!

 

TOP 10 Tips Before a Moving to Barcelona !

 

Plane taking off moving to Barcelona

 

Barcelona, a beautiful city with palmtrees everywhere, fresh sea air, a music on the streets, the smell of paella, incredible clubs… hmmm…. But it has something more. If you don’t know Spanish and you don’t know much about the city, Barcelona will slap you a couple times, before you settle down. I have selected the TOP 10 things you should be aware of before moving to Barcelona.

# 1 Cheap Train from the Airport

If you fly to Barcelona El Prat Airport, the cheapest way to get to the centre of the city is to use the train for € 2.

Barcelona tips on moving to Barcelona Train Airport

# 2 See the Flat Before Renting It

It’s a cliche, isn’t it? :) But it’s a must. If you have never been in Barcelona/Spain, you will be VERY surprised. No, seriously. It’s incredible how people can live in the 21st century in the EU. Don’t rent anything before you see the flat.

barcelona tips on moving to Barcelona Flat

# 3 Flatmates

If there are any, see them all too!

Tips on moving to Barcelona Flatmates

# 4 Go to See Flats During the Day

A lot of flats in Barcelona are spacey, sunny, and have beautiful views. But some of them can be very small and dark. If you are sun lover like I am, you should definitely see the flat during the day. I used to live in such a dark room in Barceloneta that even though I had exterior window, it wasn’t possible to see almost anything with daylight and I had to use a light and a lamp.

Tips on Moving to Barcelona Dark Room

 

# 5 The Utilities (water, gas, electricity, community, internet)

Make sure that the price is final. In Barcelona, it can easily be the case that you will have to pay for a second month for your room, for example, $400 instead of $350, because the owner “thought” that you were aware about an increase in price, because of utilities, “Gastos” en castellano. You can check our blog How much are utilities in Barcelona.

 

# 6 The Contract

Alright, this is my favorite part. If you are moving to Barcelona to rent a flat you sign a contract with the owner of the flat. If you come here to rent a room you will soon discover that often there are no official contracts to sign with owner or the person who re-rents you the room. It’s simply illegal to re-rent a room here, but nevertheless many people do it anyway. How to make it here then?? You just have to trust the person who rents you the room. :) Awesome, isn’t it? Usually, you have to pay one month deposit (or two). So I wish you GOOD LUCK, because you will need it! And that is why so many foreigners end up with bad experiences here. Like I did. People try so many times to persuade me “We don’t do any contracts here in Spain, no no” “Oh, I will give you the deposit back, sure!” or “I live just 2 minutes from here with my kids, I would never take your money” etc. People are can be tricky here, so what to do then? Sign a contract, but written on a computer and signed by hand. Don’t sign a contract written by hand, because in case of problems, the local police will not consider it as a relevant agreement. Don’t forget to include all detailed information including number of ID, passport or NIE in the contract.

tips moving to barcelona

# 7 Don’t Shop in Small Stores in Centre

Try to avoid the small shops in central districts such as the Gotico or el Born.  The prices of products are two or three times higher than usual. As an example, a bottle of water (1,5 l) can cost 0,40€ in the supermarket , but in those shops it can be priced around 1,30€ ! So wherever you are in Barcelona, ask somebody, where a “normal” supermarket is check our blog How to find a cheap Barcelona supermarket and the best Spanish food.

tips barcelona

# 8 Ask the Price before a Purchase

If you buy anything, anywhere in Barcelona, and the price is unclear, ask! It’s very strange for me too, because I feel stupid asking for each item “Cuanto cuesta?”, but it’s crucial. It happened to me in a bar a week ago. I have been there a couple times ago and I knew, that a glass of wine costs 2,50€. However, the bartender tried to persuade me that it cost 5€. It’s not just in bars, but it can happen in a lot of places.  So, pay attention, Mr(s). Foreigner!

 

# 9 Buy a Metro Ticket for 10 Fares

When I came here and was desperately looking for a flat so I didn’t pay attention just how much money I wasted using the metro. I didn’t know the city, thus I used the metro all the time. 1 individual fare costs 2€, but 10 fares are for 9,80€! That’s a difference! ;)


# 10 Don’t Use Transportation

If you don’t really have to, don’t use any transportation, because just walking through this city is great -it’s incredibly beautiful!

Moving to Barcelona tips

So, follow these tips when moving to Barcelona and your beginnings in Barcelona will be much smoother :)

Enjoy it here

~ Ivet

 

 

 

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