If there is one thing Barcelona is world-famous for it’s the early 20th century modernist architecture of Antonio Gaudí, renowned for such notable works as Casa Mila (La Pedrera), Casa Batlló or La Sagrada Familia. However, since the 1992 Olympic Games, Barcelona has developed new architectural guidelines to give new urban references and symbols to the city – such as the Agbar Tower by Jean Nouvel or the Gas Natural building by Enric Miralles and Benedetta Tagliabue. Here, Culture Trip presents some of the most striking and popular new architectural icons of Barcelona.
The Diagonal ZeroZero Tower is one of the most recent architectural icons of the city of Barcelona. The project designed by Enric Massip-Bosch Architects (EMBA), stands out for its innovative postmodern design and the way it seamlessly blends in with its surrounding urban landscape despite its height. In 2001 EMBA were awarded the LEAF prize for best commercial building of the year. The location of Diagonal Zero Tower is exceptional, situated by the seafront at the very beginning of Avinguda Diagonal, Barcelona’s main avenue, it is visible from across the city as well as from the coast. This impressive tower lays on the border between the dense city center and the large expanse of public space in the Forum area. Its immediate surroundings consist of isolated buildings in a diverse context of different scales and uses, which generate both a metropolitan center and a local neighborhood still in formation.
Located in Glories square, Torre Agbar is the first and one of the highest skyscrapers in the city of Barcelona. Designed by the French architect Jean Nouvel, it has become a leading symbol of the city. Constituted of 30 floors and reaching 145 meters in height, it is inspired by the shapes of the rocky mountains of Montserrat, one of Catalunya’s most popular mountains. Its main feature consists of two overlapping cylinders, covered by sheets of glass mode skin. Light is reflected in the building, creating a beautiful chromatic effect, which varies depending on the daylight. It also has thousands of asymmetrically distributed windows in the building that represent an easily distinguishable mosaic from the outside. Functionality and design fuse harmoniously with the use of modern materials and techniques combined with with consideration for the environment: the design takes advantage of the mild local climate to achieve a significant reduction in energy consumption and improve the quality of life of its inhabitants. In 2011 the European Commission granted the title Agbar Tower Green Building for their energy efficiency and low emissions of CO2.
Located in the heart of Barcelona’s 22@ district, the district of innovation, you will find Meliá Barcelona Sky -Hotel, also known as Torre Pere IV, created by French architect Dominic Perrault, famous for his design of the Great Library of France in Paris. A budget of €70 million was assigned for the construction of this emblematic building, the result is the impressive Meliá Barcelona Sky Hotel, a 120-meter-high building with a sleek modern design boasting 36 stories and 279 rooms, most of which enjoy spectacular views of the city. The building is characterized by its smooth flat surface and its partially suspended cantilever feature.
The Torre Mare Nostrum is located between the Olympic Village and the Barceloneta neighbourhood of Barcelona, designed by Enric Miralles and Benedetta Tagliabue, it has served as the headquarters of Gas Natural since late 2005. A striking building which stands out for its size, it consists of a main tower of 85 meters in height, and a horizontal part 85 meters long known as the “aircraft carrier.” This impressive horizontal body is connected to the main tower by a multi-storey bridge. The two suspended bodies are located on a large public square designed at the same time and the exterior of the building has a system of glass panels treated with different colors that change depending on the sunlight. The building also boasts a series of photovoltaic panels which enables the conversion of light into energy, significantly reducing the building’s dependency on fossil fuels.
The Hotel W building known locally as the Hotel Vela, meaning The Sail Hotel in reference to its shape, immediately rose to the status of one of Barcelona’s most iconic landmarks after its inauguration in October 2009. Located at the very end of the Passeig de la Barceloneta, it is built on the edge of the seafront and the view from the rooms on the front side leave guests with the impression of being in the middle of the sea. Rising to a height of approximately 100 meters, it has become part of the new skyline of Barcelona. The building’s architect, Spanish-born Ricardo Bofill was awarded the Prix Villégiature 2010 for the best hotel exterior design in Europe. The structure is divided into two distinct areas: the Atrium shopping area and the main body of the W Hotel. When designing the building, it was necessary for architects to create model wind tunnels to conduct aerodynamic simulations in order to optimize the structure for its unique position and shape.
The Suites Avenue building is located on the popular shopping avenue Passeig de Gràcia home to Antoni Gaudí’s iconic Modernist building Casa Mila (La Pedrera). It was no easy task to build a design which would not break with the harmony of area. The project was designed by the Japanese Toyo Ito who opted for an organic design, reflecting the feel and shape of nature to design a façade of undulating forms that simulated the movement of the waves, in homage to Antoni Gaudi, since according to Toyo Ito, Gaudí himself wanted to reflect the dynamism and flow of the sea in his designs. The front was constructed using steel panels, cut irregularly, thus providing a high level of transparency and luminosity inside the building and a pearly hue means the perceived color changes throughout the day. The lightness of the structure and the use of a specially designed glass provide a slight oscillation optical effect.
Plaça Europa is located in the town of L’Hospitalet and is considered one of the gateways to Barcelona. Much of the recent development in the area has been financed by both public and private investment in an attempt to boost Barcelona’s image as a top-end destination for business conventions and seminaries. This is a fine example of how international interests contribute to the shaping of the morphology of urban areas as the Fira is used for large fairs and conventions organised by local and international groups, attracting thousands of visitors every year. The Towers Porta Fira project was designed by Toyo Ito and a study of architects headed by b720 Fermín Vázquez, who built two high-rise towers that are related, such as the Hotel Porta Fira. The fact that these buildings are designed by internationally renowned architects such Toyo Ito, Richard Rogers, Jean Nouvel and Rafael Moneo adds great architectural worth to the area and a stroll round the outside of the area is well worth the time for any design-lover.
Hotel Renaissance building was designed by architect Jean Nouvel and Ribas & Ribas architects. It comprises 27 floors and two 110-meter-high towers adjoined by a rooftop restaurant and a swimming pool. The hotel hosts, quite uniquely, an atrium of palm trees and other tropical vegetation and the exterior design of the building; palm leaf-shaped windows bring an unique feel to some of the hotels 357 rooms. The project is interpreted as a desire to demonstrate that the building is something alive and constantly evolving, like the living plants inside of its greenhouse. The guests are invited to visit the peaceful atrium, thus giving them a chance to relax and take a brake from Barcelona’s buzzing city life.