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For the Barcelona of Josep Lluís Sert


Promoter of avant-garde architecture in Catalonia, his works trace a route through the city that stops at the project he created for his friend Joan Miró or the TB Dispensary.


Antoni Gaudí, Josep Lluís Sert

(1902-1983) is the most relevant architect that Barcelona has given to the world. His career was linked to the convulsions of the 20th century, in which, with his innate sense of cosmopolitanism, he lived committed to innovation and social responsibility. In his essay

Modernity in the architecture of republican Spain

, the architect Oriol Bohigas dealt with, among other topics, the flowering and implantation in the country of artistic avant-garde, the new methods imposed by the Bauhaus school and by the books of Le Corbusier, and pointed out that "the fundamental man of that revolutionary irruption was, without question, a socialist aristocrat who is still today the best modern architect that Spain has had: Josep Lluís Sert."

enlarge photo The architect, in his house in the United States in 1958. PHILLIP HARRINGTON alamy

Before concluding his studies in Barcelona, ​​Sert made two foundational trips. One to the island of Ibiza, where he discovered the architecture without architects that

Bernard Rudofsky

claimed so much

: simple geometric constructions in an intact landscape that gave him a deep sense of rest for the eyes and for the spirit. The other went to Paris, in 1926, in order to visit his uncle, the painter

José María Sert

(already married to Misia, pianist and muse of so many). Introduced by the couple, in the French capital Josep Lluís met



Sergei Diaguilev

- the Russian visionary who revolutionized ballet - and the composer

Maurice Ravel

, among other illustrious characters of the time. On one of his walks, he came across the window of a bookstore on Rue de Castiglione where two titles caught his attention:

Vers une architecture


L'art décoratif d'aujourd'hui

, signed by an author whose name he read for the first time. time: Le Corbusier. If it had not been done with them, this route would not be written.

As soon as he finished his Architecture degree, Sert returned to Paris to work at Le Corbusier's atelier on Rue de Sèvres, but not before setting up his own workshop on Via Laietana in Barcelona together with

Sixte Illescas


It is not by chance, therefore, that both architects, in that same 1929, made themselves known with two buildings that still exist in the Catalan city.

Illescas with

the Casa Vilaró

, at number 67 avenida del Coll del Portell, today converted into a hotel and recognizable by its shape of a liner as the trend set then — inevitable not to think of the Real Club Náutico de San Sebastián, of the same anus-.

And Sert with the

residential building at number 36 Rosselló street

, in which it broke with the classic facades of the Eixample.

Thus, in November 1930 the

Group of Catalan Architects and Technicians for the Progress of Contemporary Architecture


was formalized

, an organization that united and spread architectural rationalism in Catalonia through the construction of schools, hospitals, workers' housing, places leisure, as well as the creation of the



and the opening of an exhibition space called

Mobles i Decoració de la Vivenda Actual

(MIDVA), in which furniture with designs by the Viennese firm Thonet,

Alvar Aalto



was sold


The outcome of the Spanish civil war forced Sert to go into exile to the United States, something that would end up being fruitful and luminous.

In 1942 he published the book

Can Our Cities Survive?

, which disseminated in the English-speaking world the urban doctrines of the International Congress of Modern Architecture (CIAM).

In any case, before and after the exile, he designed a series of buildings for Barcelona that still allow us to get an idea of ​​his intentions and understand the magnitude of

an architectural heritage sensitive to human problems.

A route through Barcelona that we can take taking into account its ideology of defending an architecture that simplifies life, and that also brings us closer to other essential corners of the city.

1. The first home

Rosselló, 36 (1929)

In addition to being the first house designed by Josep Lluís Sert, his attempt to introduce a new typology and to open rationalist paths that he would later refine with greater success, this building is interesting because

Joan Sales

, author of the mythical novel

Uncertain Glory


lived here.

), and, above all, first editor of one of the masterpieces of Catalan literature:

La plaça del Diamant

, by

Mercè Rodoreda

, published in Club Editor in 1962.

Today, on the ground floor of the building is the

Frankfurt Roussillon

(is there something more to Barcelona than its


With its renowned hamburgers.

And just a stone's throw away is the

old Modelo prison

, where free guided tours are held and whose transformation is one of the most interesting ongoing projects in the city (it is essential to reserve in advance).


Model, batega! Proposal

from the technical team Forgas Arquitectos, SLP / Planas Esquius Segatti, SCP, has won the competition to reorder the old prison and turn it into a new urban park on this left of the Eixample.

2. Josefa López House

Muntaner, 342 (1931)

Due to its striking green color, on the corner of Carrer de Muntaner and Rector Ubach, this building that Sert designed together with Illescas never goes unnoticed. The

overwhelming composition of the façade stands out

, in which, according to Oriol Bohigas, one can see a "very elegant calligraphy of more or less Loosian origin".

Adolf Loos

, the Austrian architect so determined in Vienna, who considered ornament a crime, would surely have fallen in love with these pure and harmonious lines that, by force, they retain neoplasticist reminiscences. This is the first mature work of rationalism, and Sert and his wife, Moncha, lived on the top floor until they went into exile.

The neighboring and refined

Mercat Galvany

, in operation since 1927, is one of the icons of the Sarrià-Sant Gervasi neighborhood and is well worth a visit.

On the same street as Muntaner (at number 314), the

Barraquer clinic

cannot be ignored

, a prodigious building by

Joaquim Lloret

(1936-1939), of a high technological level and, according to Bohigas, of surprising internal spatiality.

enlarge photo The antituberculous dispensary designed by Sert in the Raval neighborhood.


3. TB clinic

Torres i Amat, 8 (1934-1938)

Behind the church of Sant Pere Nolasc and the Plaza de Castilla, that rare enclave that joins the legendary calle dels Tallers and el Macba, hides the most decisive architectural work of the time. Josep Lluís Sert together with J

oan Baptista Subirana


Josep Torres Clavé

—members of the GATCPAC— searched and found between 1934 and 1937 the best technical solutions for a sanitary building, commissioned by the Department of Health and Social Assistance of the Generalitat. Three

buildings with right angles and pure forms

, one of the greatest achievements of rationalist architecture in our country, and in which

functionality and simplicity stand

out above all

, from structures that prioritized ventilation and the ideal reception of the sun for the treatment of the sick. Today it functions as a primary care center.

After admiring it, in this area of ​​the Raval it is always worth being tempted by new shops.

It is imperatively recommended to visit

Les Topettes

, the perfume and soap


of the moment;

as well as the recent

Lata Peinada bookstore

, the first specialized in Latin American literature, and the

Pa de Kilo


, very close to the

Nomad cafe

and a benchmark for bread lovers in this Barcelona neighborhood.

Since we are here, it is also highly advisable to discover the dishes of the

Mirch Indian Garito

, the Hindu


restaurant-beach bar

most sought after by



Soaps from Les Topettes store, in Barcelona.

4. Roca Jewelry

Paseo de Gràcia, 18 (1934)

This is probably one of the corners that has been passed the most times in this city, but, no matter how much it is done, one never tires of appreciating the facade of the

Roca jewelry store

, "slightly mutilated" according to Bohigas, but without losing its general image and its stylistic elements.

It was inaugurated in 1934 and is one of Sert's first works.

The book

Del món al museu (Disseny de producte, patrimoni cultural)

, published by the Museu del Disseny de Barcelona, ​​echoed the

Cadira de Braços

that the architect himself designed for jewelery, a select and refined chair.

And it is that the architects of the GATCPAC also designed the

Llum de Peu lamp

, in 1932, which illuminated the ceiling to see through its reflection.

5. Casa Bloc

Paseo de Torras i Bages, 101 (1932-1937)

In the Sant Andreu neighborhood this essential

prototype of social housing


and one of the brightest examples of rationalist architecture in Barcelona.

Here, light, ventilation and hygiene converge, the three fundamental premises of the group that designed during

the Second Republic

a group of houses - all exterior - for the workers, then crowded into barracks in the industrial neighborhoods, and for whom Josep Lluís Sert, Joan Baptista Subirana and Josep Torres Clavé wanted to create a

clean, clear and affordable environment

that would make their life easier.

The blocks, five S-shaped buildings, stand on pillars to allow the smooth entry of the inhabitants and to create green spaces before them, still present, although unfortunately not in the best condition.

It is worth making an appointment and visiting one of the houses presented as a museum-floor (

It has been rehabilitated by

Disseny Hub de Barcelona

, which has recovered the original hydraulic flooring, the folding doors - taken from other disused floors -, the inexpensive kitchens, the laundry room with a shower (separate from the sink) and even pieces of the original furniture from the thirties of the last century.

enlarge photo The church of Sant Andreu de Palomar.


Not far away is the

church of Sant Andreu de Palomar,

in which in June 1976 the women of the striking workers of Motor Ibérica were locked up for 28 days, and next to it is the mythical modernist café Versalles, an institution in Sant Andreu , open since 1915.

6. CRAI Pavelló Library of the Republic

Cardenal Vidal i Barraquer, 34 (1937 (posthumous reproduction from 1992)

This is the

replica of the Spanish Pavilion from the 1937 Paris International Exposition

, by Sert and

Luis Lacasa

with the collaboration of a clever

Antonio Bonet

, who would later become a great architect in exile, and who would leave, also in Barcelona, important works such as the Urquinaona Tower or the famous Meridiana Dog Track, and he would be the architect of the famous BKF chair. In his immense and definitive book

Modern Architecture Since 1900

, William Curtis notes: “The building was constructed from a steel frame, but had a courtyard covered by a double-thick canopy in the center. This was the construction that housed




of Picasso, and that it tried to show to the world in general the

liberal values ​​of the Republic

. It looked like a

brightly colored

agitprop [

agitation propaganda]


. Both the interior and exterior structures were used as a support for

photomontages, paintings, sculptures, maps, diagrams and objects

that proclaimed a progressive spirit ”. Much has been said about this building, but it is always exciting to come to see it and remember the original. Today, this replica, installed in the Montbau neighborhood since 1992, is a wonderful library together with the striking sculptural group made up of the


, by the pioneer of

pop art

Claes Oldenburg


Exterior of the CRAI Biblioteca del Pavelló de la República, a replica of the one made by Josep Lluís Sert for the Universal Exhibition in Paris in 1937.

This pavilion was fundamental in Sert's life for another reason, since it caused the break with his uncle, the painter José María Sert, whose figure continues to give name to a passage that connects the Eixample with the Born (the Sert passage), where a plaque informs that he was born here.

And it is that in that year of 1937, while the universal exhibition in favor of the Republic was inaugurated, he had painted

a mural tribute to Saint Teresa and the national martyrs in the Vatican Pavilion,


Intercession of Saint Teresa of Jesus in War Spanish civil


7. Joan Miró Foundation

Montjuïc Park, s / n (1975)

Located in the middle of the Montjuïc mountain, undoubtedly a “sacred” location, this is the building that best represents (and culminates) Sert's career, as it somehow delicately combines

his first founding trip to Ibiza with the proportions based on the


—a system of measurements based on the figure of a man with a raised hand— by Le Corbusier. Here everything comes together:

volumetric composition






primary colors

. There is dialogue between the gardens and the museum. Inside, the space remains harmonious and Mediterranean, with double-height rooms that absorb natural light, the transparency of beauty. A capital work,

a gift for the city and for his friend Joan Miró

, whose friendship has been discussed at length in other articles.

Hence, it is a good example of a museum in which the artist and the architect establish a dialogue of complicity between the work and the spaces that host it.

enlarge photo Work 'La Caresse d'un oiseau (1967), exhibited in one of the terraces of the Miró Foundation.


When in 1964 the novelist and politician

André Malraux

attended the inauguration of the

Maeght Foundation

, a work by Sert in the French town of Saint-Paul-de-Vence, he said that he was dealing with “something created for the history of the spirit”.

Every time you return to the

Miró Foundation,

you can only borrow that expression, words whose meaning extends to the kitchen of the nearby

Bodega Amposta

, a gastronomic temple about 20 minutes away on foot.

If after visiting the foundation and tasting some chickpeas with carabineros you don't levitate, something is wrong.

Use Lahoz

is the author of the novel 'Jauja' (Destiny).

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Source: elparis

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