It was fifty years after Ildefons Cerda laid our his 520-block grid for the new Eixample district and the rich people of Barcelona decided to build their mansions on Passeig de Gracia, once a lonely road that ran from the city’s wall to the tiny vilage of Gracia but now the main street of the Eixample district. This was the period when Barcelona was immersed in the art movement known around the world as Art Nouveau but in Catalunya was called modernisme. And the city’s one-percenters each hired their favorite architect to build their mansion in their own contrasting modernisme style. That all happened about 100 years ago and now we were about to begin Part Two of our Eixample Walk, following Rick Steves’ Pocket Barcelona all the way. The walk began at the intersection of Passeig de Gracia and Carrer d’Arago. Here is what we saw:
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It’s called the Block of Discord (Spanish: Manzana de la Discordia) which is a pun on the word “manzana” which can mean either block or apple. And so the story of the Judgement of Paris involving the golden apple of discord, the prize in a beauty contest among three goddesses,* is tied into the story of Barcelona’s one percenters and the architects they hired to build their modernisme mansions, each in their own contrasting styles. It appears that the satirical newspaper critics of the day enjoyed writing about the wealthy and their pet architects.
The second house from the corner on the right is known as Casa Batlio and is one of Antoni Gaudi’s masterpieces. Right next door is a building called Casa Amatller that looks like it belongs on the banks of an Amsterdam canal instead of Barcelona’s Eixample. It was designed by Josep Puig i Cadafalch. Down the street on the corner of the same block is another modernisme wonder, Casa Lleo-Morera by Lluís Domènech i Montaner. And so we have three of the most famous modernisme buildings in Barcelona, all on the same block of Passeig de Gracia. There are also two additional buildings on the block: Casa Mulleras by Enric Sagnier and Casa Bonet by Marcel·lià Coquillat.
We rounded the corner at Carrer del Consell de Cent and walked past a couple of stores, a coffee shop and an art gallery until we came to Ramba la Catalunya, a pleasant street that parallels Passeig de Gracia. Pedestrians can walk up the middle of this street just like the namesake streets south of Placa de Catalunya. Directly in front of you all the way several miles in the distance is Mount Tibidabo and the church of Sagrat Cor.
We walked up the Rambla for four blocks and then turned right on Carrer de Provenca. One more block and we were back on Passeig de Gracia staring at another Gaudi masterpiece, Casa Mila. This building, also called La Pedrera (“the quarry”), was Gaudi’s last commercial project before he began his Sagrada Familia which consumed the last 26 years of his life.
Rick Steves’ walk ends at Casa Mila. He has a few suggestions for continuing on by walking up to Avinguda Diagonal (the only diagonal street in L’Eixample) and further exploring that area. We decided to walk eastward for two blocks until we came to Carrer Roger de Lluria. We then walked down that street for seven more blocks until we came to our hotel.
Gaudi’s La Sagrada Familia is also located in L’Eixample but way up in the northeast section of the district. A couple of days after our Eixample walk we visited this place, too, but it was too far to walk. So we took the Metro. I’ll write about this visit sometime soon.
Ildefonso Cerda coined the word “urbanization.” See here for more information on Cerda, the urban planner who spent all of his own money on plans for L’Eixample and died penniless. See here for more information on his detailed plans for L’Eixample. And see here for information on Proeixample, a modern-day organization that is attempting to bring back some of Cerda’s ideas.
*Aphrodite told Paris that if he chose her then she would give him Helen, wife of King Menelaus. Aphrodite got the apple and Paris got Helen, thus starting the Trojan War.