Not to be confused with Modernism, the Modernisme movement is distinctly Catalan—it can be more closely associated with Art Nouveau in France and Belgium, Liberty style in Italy and Glasgow style in Scotland. The Modernistas rejected the tradition and religiousness of the Romantics and sought to earn Catalan culture the same regard as that of other European countries.
While Modernistas operated across various media throughout much of the 20th century, the striking and fantastical structures created by the movement’s artists and architects may have made the most impressive impact—specifically in shaping the urban landscape of Barcelona, the center of the movement. Today, there is even a self-guided walking tour route that takes visitors through the impressive 115 existing monuments to Modernisme.
The movement’s most prominent architect is of course Antoni Gaudí. It is impossible to visit the city of Barcelona without feeling his influence. Here, some of his most famous works.
La Sagrada Família
Gaudí’s most famous masterpiece, La Sagrada Família is known for its intricate spires that tower over the city—along with the cranes and scaffolding that remind visitors of its work-in-progress state. In 1883, a 31-year-old Guadí took over the project, a full year after construction had begun, and dramatically changed the original design to suit his own style. His version features 18 spires (eight have been completed so far) and three grand façades done in distinct styles. Gaudí worked exclusively on the project from 1915 until his death in 1926. The structure is slated to be completed in 2026, the centenary of his death.
Casa Milà (“La Pedrera”)
La Pedrera was completed in 1912 and was Guadí’s last civil project. Commissioned by businessman Pere Milà i Camps, the building is quite innovative in many ways—its floors are supported completely by columns with no load-bearing walls and it also features an underground garage. The brightly lit, undulating façade and the twisting wrought iron decoration on the windows and balconies have been a point of controversy among locals and art critics alike—but visitors just tend to stand in awe.
Offering sweeping views of the city, this candy-colored park complex on the El Carmel hill is a must-see of any visitor. It is one of the largest architectural works in south Europe, thanks to the sprawling gardens and paths. The park was originally commissioned by Count Eusebi Güell as part of a luxury residential development, but only two houses were constructed as the project attracted no attention from potential buyers. Though he did not design either dwelling, Gaudí himself spent his savings on one and lived there with his family from 1906 to 1926. Today, the home is a museum that sits amid the vibrant mosaics and striking architectural features.
Sometimes called “the House of Bones,” this home in the heart of Barcelona was an existing home remodeled by Gaudí between 1904 and 1906 at the behest of textile industrialist Josep Batlló. The structure appears to contain no straight edges at all and is instead an amalgamation of fluid lines and round, organic shapes. It served as the Batlló family home until 1954 when it was purchased by an insurance company and used as office space. In 1993, private owners purchased the building and have since begun renting out various rooms as event space for important local functions.
Have you seen any of Gaudí’s works in person? Which is your favorite? Tell us in the comments!