Palau de la Música Catalana and Hospital de Sant Pau, Barcelona, Spain

Two masterpieces of the imaginative and exuberant Modernista style that flowered in early 20th century Barcelona

Lluís Domènech i Montaner (1997) by Palau de la Música Catalana and Hospital de Sant Pau, BarcelonaUNESCO World Heritage

Born in Barcelona in 1850, the architect Lluís Domènech i Montaner was a highly influential figure in the world of Catalan Modernism throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries, playing a major part in defining modernist architecture in Cataluña during his 50-year career. 

Hospital de Sant Pau (1997) by Palau de la Música Catalana and Hospital de Sant Pau, BarcelonaUNESCO World Heritage

He also worked as a professor, an editor and a bookbinder, and was heavily involved in politics, becoming a prominent figure in the campaign for Catalan autonomy. 
He made a significant contribution to Barcelona’s modernist architecture, with two outstanding examples. 

Palau de la Música Catalana (1997) by Palau de la Música Catalana and Hospital de Sant Pau, BarcelonaUNESCO World Heritage

Considered by UNESCO to be “masterpieces of the imaginative and exuberant Art Nouveau that flowered in early 20th century Barcelona”, the Palau de la Música Catalana and the Hospital de Sant Pau were jointly granted World Heritage status in 1997.

Palau de la Música Catalana (1997) by Palau de la Música Catalana and Hospital de Sant Pau, BarcelonaUNESCO World Heritage

Palau de la Música Catalana

Centrally located in Barcelona, the Palau de la Música Catalana is the only music hall in the world to be listed as World Heritage. Built between 1905 and 1908, its construction was mainly financed by the city’s businessmen and other wealthy residents.

Central iron frame (1997) by Palau de la Música Catalana and Hospital de Sant Pau, BarcelonaUNESCO World Heritage

The Palau provides a perfect example of Domènech i Montaner’s work. It is a structure full of light and space as a result of both the new technologies that were used in its design and the materials that were used in its construction: 

Catalan Modernista style (1997) by Palau de la Música Catalana and Hospital de Sant Pau, BarcelonaUNESCO World Heritage

The central iron frame removed the need for supporting structures, allowing for an extensive floor space, and the glass skin which covers the frame was designed to let in the maximum amount of light possible.

Palau’s exuberant decoration (1997) by Palau de la Música Catalana and Hospital de Sant Pau, BarcelonaUNESCO World Heritage

Many different art techniques are visible in this creation, including sculpture, tiling, metalwork and glasswork. The architect worked with some of the best and most well-known artists and artisans of the time; they were behind much of the Palau’s exuberant decoration.

Antoni Rigalt i Blanch (1997) by Palau de la Música Catalana and Hospital de Sant Pau, BarcelonaUNESCO World Heritage

The skylight in the form of an inverted dome, which is located in the ceiling of the main hall, was designed and constructed by the glassmaker, Antoni Rigalt i Blanch. A representation of the sun, it allows natural light to flood the room and is an iconic element of the Palau.

Miguel Blay (1997) by Palau de la Música Catalana and Hospital de Sant Pau, BarcelonaUNESCO World Heritage

The figures which can be seen on what used to be the main façade of the Palau were the work of the sculptor, Miguel Blay. A mixture of children, older people, country folk and the gentry transmitted the clear message that the Palau was for everyone to enjoy.

Orfeo Catalá (1997) by Palau de la Música Catalana and Hospital de Sant Pau, BarcelonaUNESCO World Heritage

Built as the home of the Orfeo Catalá, a choral society which has been the main impulse behind the development of choral music in Cataluña, this prestigious venue is still very much in use today for concerts, operas and other musical and instrumental performances.

Hospital de Sant Pau (1997) by Palau de la Música Catalana and Hospital de Sant Pau, BarcelonaUNESCO World Heritage

Hospital de Sant Pau

The turn of the 20th century saw Barcelona undergo major urban development with its main hospital, the 500-year old Hospital de la Santa Creu, becoming unable to cope with the city’s ever-growing population. Its replacement was the Hospital de Sant Pau.

Needs of the contemporary hospital (1997) by Palau de la Música Catalana and Hospital de Sant Pau, BarcelonaUNESCO World Heritage

The new, much-needed hospital was possible thanks to the wealthy Catalan banker, Pau Gil, who, in his will, left part of his fortune to pay for its construction, stipulating that the most advanced technical, medical and architectural innovations be incorporated into its design. 

City-garden inspiration (1997) by Palau de la Música Catalana and Hospital de Sant Pau, BarcelonaUNESCO World Heritage

Domènech i Montaner was commissioned to carry out this project. He designed the complex with a city-garden in mind, creating a place which was rich in colour, decoration and greenery. 27 pavilions would be connected by over 1km of underground tunnels and surrounded by gardens.

Suited to the needs of patients (1997) by Palau de la Música Catalana and Hospital de Sant Pau, BarcelonaUNESCO World Heritage

Having visited over 100 hospitals on his travels around Europe in search of inspiration for his new project, he designed the spaces within the hospital with the objective of optimising the wellbeing and recovery of the patients while facilitating the work of the medical staff.

27 pavilions (1997) by Palau de la Música Catalana and Hospital de Sant Pau, BarcelonaUNESCO World Heritage

Each one housing a different speciality, the pavilions were built independently of each other to reduce the spread of disease. The connecting underground tunnels were used to transport patients from one pavilion to another.

Unique design (1997) by Palau de la Música Catalana and Hospital de Sant Pau, BarcelonaUNESCO World Heritage

The distance between the pavilions meant they didn’t cast shadows on each other, thereby allowing plenty of sunlight to pass through the windows, which, along with the doors, were carefully located to maximise airflow.

Hospital de Sant Pau (1997) by Palau de la Música Catalana and Hospital de Sant Pau, BarcelonaUNESCO World Heritage

Tiling was widely used in the decoration of the hospital. In line with the Modernist style, they also fulfilled a sanitary function, and rounded corners at the join between the floors and walls avoided the accumulation of dirt, meaning that hygiene levels were easily maintained. 

Aerial view (1997) by Palau de la Música Catalana and Hospital de Sant Pau, BarcelonaUNESCO World Heritage

The hospital was built at a 45º angle in relation to the adjoining streets, firstly in rebellion against the grid-like layout of the surrounding neighbourhood of Eixample, which the architect disliked, and, secondly, to benefit from the breeze coming in from the sea.

Hospital de Sant Pau (1997) by Palau de la Música Catalana and Hospital de Sant Pau, BarcelonaUNESCO World Heritage

Patients were not just separated according to their illness, but also according to their gender. The men’s pavilions were located to the right and were named after male saints, whereas the women’s were on the left, and were given names of female saints.

Spain’s first heart transplant (1997) by Palau de la Música Catalana and Hospital de Sant Pau, BarcelonaUNESCO World Heritage

In use as a hospital for almost a century, it was the location for Spain’s first heart transplant in 1984. In 2009, the facilities finally became obsolete and unable to accommodate the services necessary in a modern day medical facility, and a new hospital was built next door. 

Today, the buildings have undergone a careful rehabilitation which has restored them to their former glory. They now have a socio-cultural use as well as providing a base for various international organisations, and, of course, receive thousands of visitors each year.

Rehabilitation work (1997) by Palau de la Música Catalana and Hospital de Sant Pau, BarcelonaUNESCO World Heritage

Suffering from ill health in his later life, Domènech i Montaner delegated a large part of his work to his son, who was responsible for the completion of the Hospital de Sant Pau, and to his son-in-law. He then spent his final days studying history and Catalan heraldry.

Family plot in Canet de Mar (1997) by Palau de la Música Catalana and Hospital de Sant Pau, BarcelonaUNESCO World Heritage

His final wish to be buried in the family plot in Canet de Mar was denied due to the belief of the authorities that the event would turn into a political demonstration. Instead, upon his death in 1923, at the age of 73, he was laid to rest in a cemetery in the city of Barcelona.

Credits: Story

This exhibit was created by Turisme de Barcelona: visitbarcelona.com

More on the Palau de la Música Catalana and Hospital de Sant Pau, Barcelona and World Heritage: whc.unesco.org/en/list/804

Photos: Turisme de Barcelona

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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