Palau de la Musica Catalana

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Former box office, Palau de la Musica Catalana, Lluis Domenech i Montaner, 1905-08

Metal, glass, brick and ceramic in the service of the local Orpheus Choir and Catalan nationalism. No surface left unadorned. (Even the step risers were patterned.) No two columns alike:

It was designed as a people’s palace for music, and choral music in particular, and its symbolism mixes the purely local (i.e. Catalan) with the international, bypassing the Spanish state completely. So, the stage is flanked by ludicrously ornate and organic sculptures of a local poet and Beethoven. The “ship’s prow” sculpture on the corner combines St George (patron saint of Barcelona) protecting a muse, children and workers:

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With their peacock motifs, the faux fan vaults of the auditorium are generic art nouveau, albeit with Barcelona roses:

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Glass balustrades:

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Montaner tried to use as much natural light as possible, so there is a wonderful stained-glass ceiling in the auditorium:

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and here is a detail:

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The brick and ceramic are local and the iron structure was high tech for its time – so it is a very fine example of Barcelona modernism.

I contrasted it with the Italianate and Moorish buildings I’d looked at in Bradford and Leeds and wondered why the English cities hadn’t chosen an architecture that was closer to the vernacular. I guess that Yorkshire didn’t have nationalist aspirations in the nineteenth century, and Gothic – even via Venice – was regarded as sufficiently homegrown.

The building this music palace most closely resembles in my experience is the Municipal House (Obecni Dum) in Prague. That also provides a tremendous concert hall and cultural space at a time of Czech national revival.

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Organ of the Municipal House, Prague, 1905-12

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