Barcelona's "new town," its extension beyond the old city walls, actually contains a glorious grid of 18th- and 19th-century buildings, including the most vibrant examples of the moderniste movement. It is roughly divided into two areas: Dreta (right-hand), which is the southeast part of L'Eixample, and Esquerra (left-hand), meaning the northeastern side. The dividing line between the two is the Passeig de Gràcia. The famous Quadrat d'Or (Golden Triangle), an area bordered by the streets Bruc, Aribau, Aragó, and the Diagonal, has been named the world's greatest living museum of turn-of-the-20th-century architecture. Most of the key buildings are within these hundred-odd city blocks, including Gaudí's La Pedrera and the ultimate moderniste calling card, the Manzana de la Discordia. Many of these still serve their original use: Luxury apartments for the city's 19th-century nouveau riche. Others are office buildings and shops (the Passeig de Gràcia, the neighborhood's main boulevard, is the city's foremost shopping precinct). In case you were wondering, the marine-colored, hexagonal tiles on the footpaths are reproductions of ones used by Gaudí for La Pedrera and the Casa Batlló.
Gaudí's Resting Place
Before you leave the Sagrada Família, pay a visit to the crypt, Gaudí's resting place since his death in 1926. The architect spent the last days of his life on site, living a hermitlike existence in a workroom and dedicating all of his time to the project. Funds had dried up, and the modernisme movement had fallen out of fashion. In general, the Sagrada Família was starting to be viewed as a monumental white elephant.
In contrast to the rest of the Sagrada Família, the crypt is built in neo-Gothic style. The first part of the building to be completed, it is the work of Francesc de Villar, the architect who was originally commissioned for the project until Gaudí took over. Villar was a religious architect who studied at Madrid's prestigious Academia de San Fernando and whose important works included restoring the Barri Gòtic church of Santa María del Pi and building the apse in the mountaintop Monastery of Montserrat. He quit the Sagrada Família project for unknown reasons and died in 1901. During 1936's "Tragic Week," when anarchists went on an anti-clerical rampage in the city, the crypt was ransacked. Ironically, the only artifact left intact was Gaudí's tomb.
La Manzana de la Discordia
The superlative showcase of the moderniste architecture is the Manzana de la Discordia (Illa de la Discordia). The "Block of Discord," which is on the Passeig de Gràcia between Consell de Cent and Aragó, consists of three works by the three master architects of the movement: Josep Puig i Cadafalch, Lluis Domènech i Montaner, and Antoni Gaudí. Although they are all quite different in style, they offer a coherent insight into the stylistic language of the period. The Casa Amatller houses the Centre del Modernismo, an information point on the modernistes and the movement.
The Moderniste Walk
As most of Barcelona's moderniste legacy is in the Eixample neighborhood, it makes sense to see it on foot. The Centre del Modernisme at the Casa Amatller, Passeig de Gràcia 41 (tel. 93-488-01-39; Mon-Sat 10am-7pm, Sun 10am-2pm; Metro: Gràcia), is a one-stop information point on the movement. They have devised the "modernism route," a tour of the city's 100 most emblematic Art Nouveau buildings. You can either pick up a free map or buy a well-produced, explanatory book (14€), which includes a book of coupons offering discounts of between 15% and 50% on attractions that charge admission, such as Gaudí's Casa Batlló and La Pedrera.
If you wish to explore modernisme beyond the boundaries of Barcelona, the center supplies information on towns such as Reus (Gaudí's birthplace) and Terrassa, which has an important collection of moderniste industrial buildings. Tours are also offered.
The Centre del Modernisme also has branches at the Hospital Sant Pau and the Finca Güell in Pedralbes.
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