The architectural marvels of Spain

When it comes to architecture, Spain is a very special place. For hundreds of years, the residents of the country have been open to change. This has created an environment where architects have been able to experiment and flourish. The net result is that Spain is home to some truly remarkable buildings. Here are just a few of them:

La Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

No list of architectural marvels of Spain would be complete without talking about Barcelona’s beautiful basilica, the Sagrada Familia. This amazing building is Antoni Gaudi’s masterpiece, and is remarkable despite the fact that it is still not complete. The building work started in 1882 and has continued ever since.

An interesting and engaging combination of Gothic and curvilinear Art Nouveau forms that means that this church looks different to any other in the world. The basilica was only consecrated in 2010.

The aim is to complete the building before the 100th anniversary of Gaudi’s death in 2026. Whether that happens or not remains to be seen, but the use of innovative technology has greatly accelerated the rate of construction. The consensus is that the main structure will indeed be finished, but the artwork is likely to take many more decades to complete.

Barcelona’s cathedral

If you are visiting Barcelona, it is also worth finding the time to call in at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia (known in Catalan as ‘Catedral de la Santa Creu i Santa Eulàlia’). This is the city’s official cathedral. Its neo-Gothic façade is very impressive and the interior is stunning too.

The City of Arts and Sciences, Valencia

This is actually a complex of buildings that includes an IMAX cinema, an open-air aquarium, a science museum, and several other community buildings. Costing €90m (£70.7m) to build, it came in at three times the original budget, but is certainly a stunning sight to behold.

The shell-shaped buildings are reflected in a huge body of water, which is part of the outdoor aquarium. At night, the iconic L’Hemisferic building is lit up. From the front, it looks like a giant eye staring out into the night. The first time they see it, many feel an almost overwhelming compulsion to stop and return its gaze. It is a clever design that elicits a unusual reaction from many visitors.

Santiago Calatrava and Felix Candela designed the complex. Construction of it began in 1996, with the first building being inaugurated in 1998. However, the largest building in the complex, El Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia, was not completed until 2005.

Torre Agbar, Barcelona

You would not expect the headquarters of a water company to be an iconic building, yet that is exactly what has happened with the Torre Agbar in Barcelona. This 38-story skyscraper dominates the neighbourhood it was built in, but in a good way.

Despite being unconventional, it is still a beautiful building. The designer of the block, Jean Nouvel from France, specified that the façade of the cone-shaped building be constructed using panels made from reflective aluminium set behind glass louvers. As a result, the building shimmers in the sunlight and changes colour depending on the light. Despite only being finished in 2005, it has already become a much-loved landmark. Today, it is one of the city’s most popular tourist attractions.

The Metropol Parasol, Seville

For decades, the Plaza de la Encarnación had been going downhill. Between the ‘90s and early 2000s, the area was virtually unused because it was in such a poor state.

Fortunately, the city did not give up on the area. Instead, it hired the German architect Jurgen Mayer to give it a new lease of life.

He designed six parasol-like structures that are linked together. The canopy provides shade for the residents and tourists to enjoy during the boiling hot summer months. Incorporated into the columns are social spaces, on two levels. These are built on platforms and include a restaurant and huge terraces which offer diners spectacular views of the city. At street level, the shady square is used for local events and a market.

Below that level, there is the Aniquarium. Decades earlier, the city had attempted to build an underground car park on the site. During its construction, Roman and Moorish remains were uncovered. Rather than scatter the finds across Spain, a subterranean museum was built to display the finds, which created another tourist attraction for the area.

Remarkably, these parasols are built from wood. This is the largest wooden structure in the world, giving it great environmental credentials. The local population has taken this iconic piece of architecture to its heart, even giving it the affectionate nickname of Las Setas de la Encarnación (“Incarnación’s Mushrooms”).

The Great Mosque of Cordoba

The Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba is one of Spain’s oldest architectural marvels. Ground was broken to build it in 784 and building work continued periodically right up to the 16th Century. Even today, the structure is viewed as one of the most accomplished examples of Moorish architecture in the world.

It is believed that the Mosque was built on the site of a small Visigoth church. When in 1236 the city returned to Christian rule, the building became a Roman Catholic Church. The nave was added in the 16th Century, but the main part of the church was in fact built by the Moors.

The Alhambra, Granada

The Red One, which translates as Al-Hamra in Arabic, is a beautifully preserved example of a fortified palace.

In fact, when it was built in AD 889, it was designed as a fortress. It was Nasrid emir Mohammed ben Al-Ahmar who was behind the creation of the building as we see it today. In the mid-13th Century, he had the palace and walls built.

The building became even more ornate when it was transformed into a royal palace in 1333 by Yusuf I, the Sultan of Granada.

After the Christian Reconquista, the palace became the Royal Court of Ferdinand and Isabella. Today, this stunning building is one of Spain’s most important tourist attractions.

The above is just a taste of the many remarkable architectural buildings Spain has to offer. We have not even mentioned the iconic Guggenheim Museum, Parc Güell or the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, and a long-list of other unusual, innovative and beautiful buildings. If you love architecture, Spain truly is a great destination.

Posted by Mark
November 28, 2018

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