Strangely enough, the Palau de la Música Catalana, the so-called building that epitomises Catalan art nouveau wasn’t designed by Gaudí, but by his contemporary Lluís Domènech i Montaner. This concert hall in Barcelona, which is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997, is an artistic landmark of outstanding beauty and a highly prestigious music venue.
Total creative freedom
Its history began in 1905, when Lluís Domènech i Montaner was commissioned to build a new concert hall for the Orfeó Català. With total creative freedom, he designed an allegory of nature in nymphs, flowers and plant motifs that made the perfect backdrop for listening to the music.
Statement of intent
The Modernisme reflected by the Palau de la Música is more than an aesthetic trend: it represents an ideological movement that wanted to modernise the city. Moreover, the Palau may be one of the most truly Catalan constructions there are in the city due to the fact that there was an express request made to the architect that he applied materials and techniques that represented the Catalan character.
Exuberant, voluptuous, impressive
To make sure that he fulfilled this request, Domènech i Montaner hired a number of local craftsmen and artisans who crafted exquisite decorative, structural, ornamental and sculptural elements. The facade itself is one of the most stunning parts of the building, combining elements of both Spanish and Arabic architecture, being richly decorated, and mixing exposed brick with mosaics, iron, stained glass and glazed tiles.
We will never run out of adjectives to describe architect Lluís Domènech i Montaner‘s magnificent building. The Palau de la Música bewitches visitors with its surreal nature of luxurious colours and flower-crowned dancing nymphs that escape impossibly from the stained glass windows. It is pure exuberance watched over by the severe faces of music’s great masters.
Inside, the concert hall is the must-see area of the building, decorated with massive sculptures, a gigantic pipe organ, and the most amazing skylight which is made completely out of stained glass, allowing the room to be illuminated only by sunlight during the day.
The building was built around a glass-covered metallic structure, a very avant-garde idea for the times. Domènech i Montaner wanted light to be an architectural element, so large panels of stained glass, other windows and a central skylight let the sun flood into the Palau.
A privileged setting for music
From its inauguration in 1908, the Palau de la Música has been a privileged setting for music, but also for politics and ideas. Great musical masters like Enric Granados, Manuel de Falla, Maurice Ravel, Igor Stravinsky and Frederic Mompou made their debuts in this auditorium. The Palau de la Música is a benchmark not only in the worlds of music and Modernista architecture: is the symbol of an era in Barcelona, the age when it became a modern city.
Between 1982 and 1989 parts of the building were restored to their original state, technically upgraded and expanded to allow additional uses. The new work did not compromise the decorative or structural integrity of the original building. Stone, brick, iron, glass, and ceramics were used in the same way that Domènech i Montaner used them. One of the most important expansions is the adjoining building of six stories that houses dressing rooms, a library, and an archive.
From 2006 to 2008 some further restoration was carried out: the lantern on the top of the tower on the corner of the building was reinstalled, as were some ornamental features of the facade.