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THE BIRTH OF EIXAMPLE

Updated: Nov 30, 2023



Introduction


If you go to the El Born area of Barcelona, then you can vividly imagine what this city was like before the reform of Edelfons Cerda
Narrow streets of the old part of Barcelona

Picture yourself in Barcelona in the mid-1850s - a city surrounded by ancient fortified walls, lacking the modern amenities seen in many other European places of the time. The problem was obvious: there was not enough room for everyone. To solve it, a plan arose for the reorganization and expansion of the city.

And here comes Ildefonso Cerda, a brave engineer whose ideas still cause debate among architects and urban planners. He was clearly a utopian and a bit of a dreamer, which helped him think beyond the old city walls. He proposed the creation of a completely new charming district called Eixample.

In 1867, he wrote his most important work, entitled The General Theory of Urbanization. This book became the guidebook that led Barcelona to the modern wonder it is today. The word "urbanization" took on new meaning thanks to Cerda's creative thinking.

His legacy is not just buildings; this is part of the streets of Barcelona. Ildefonso Cerda's ideas changed the appearance of the city, making it lively and special. His vision inspired not only Barcelona, but also city planners around the world.

 

The Utopian City Design by Ildefons Cerda


Appreciate the visionary mind of Ildefonso Cerda, who aimed to bridge the traditional gaps between rich and poor neighborhoods. His mission? To cultivate an urban oasis—a city built on principles of equality and justice. Pursuing this utopian dream, Cerda envisioned Barcelona as an ideal garden city, where broad streets and verdant spaces would knit together the tapestry of a harmonious community.

Cerda's ingenious plan, though subject to some modifications, retained many of its fundamental principles. The city was neatly divided into equal octagonal blocks, a stroke of brilliance intended to ease movement and encourage interaction. Within each neighborhood, a shared green space blossomed—an enclave for everyone, promising a healthier and friendlier environment.



The unique layout of the Cerda blocks with cut corners not only provided great turning angles and visibility for various vehicles, but also laid the foundation for the further development of the cycling infrastructure that flourishes in Barcelona today. These wide streets proved to be an ideal place to promote cycling as a means of transportation in the city.
Carrer Girona and Carrer d'Alí Bei

To maintain an architectural symphony, Cerda imposed a cap on house heights, restricting them to 16 meters or four floors (though this was soon violated). His vision extended beyond residential structures, incorporating crucial public spaces such as markets, hospitals, parks, and a church. Each element was meticulously integrated into the urban fabric, contributing to a more inclusive and delightful Barcelona for all its residents.

Ildefonso Cerda's ideas weren't confined to urban planning; they embodied a social revolution, imprinted on the very layout of the city. His utopian vision placed society itself at the forefront, transcending mere bricks and mortar.



 

The Legacy of the 1888 Universal Exhibition


The main gate to enter the 1888 Barcelona World Fair
Arc de Triomf, Barcelona

A grand vision to transform Barcelona began to be realized at the end of the 19th century, spurred by the spectacular World's Fair of 1888. This transformative event left an indelible mark on the city's landscape, influencing the construction of numerous new buildings that changed its urban fabric.

Held in a vast area near the Arc de Triomphe (which was the main entrance to the exhibition), the Parc de la Citadel, the zoo and part of what is now France's train station, the exhibition was the turning point that would take Barcelona into a new era of progress and architectural wonders.



 

Inspiring Progress: Shaping the Barcelona of Tomorrow


The redesign of the Ciutadella Park, which became the center of the exhibition, became a canvas for the artistic ingenuity of José Fonsera. Using elements of the old military citadel, including the chapel (now a military parish), the governor's palace (converted to the IES Verdaguer Institute of Secondary Education) and the armory (now the seat of honor of the Parliament of Catalonia), Fonsera transformed the site into a testament to the city's evolving identity.

The exhibition area featured buildings conceived by the most respected architects of the era. This created fertile ground for the growing modernist architecture, a movement that would go on to define the aesthetic essence of Barcelona. Unfortunately, only a few of these buildings have stood the test of time.




 

Architectural Marvels: Exploring the Heritage of the 1888 Exhibition



One of the few buildings that survived after the Exhibition. Currently under renovation
the elegance of a greenhouse

Notable surviving monuments include the famous Arc de Triomphe by Josep Vilaseca, the Castle of the Three Dragons (originally a café-restaurant, now the Zoological Museum) designed by Luis Domenech I Montaner, the Antonio Rovira y Trias Museum of Geology, the Hivernacle (glass house) designed by Josep Amargos , and The Umbracle (a shade house by Josep Foncere). In addition, there are remains of the “Gallery of Machines” by Adria Casademont I Vidal, which today has been repurposed for zoo services.

As we walk through the surviving fragments of the 1888 exhibition, we not only pass through historical landmarks, but also experience the living legacy of a transformative event that paved the way for the Barcelona we value today.



In that era, elegant cast iron elements were considered the epitome of fashion and progressiveness. Today they also impress with their elegance.
Greenhouse or Hivernacle


 

The Eiffel Tower Dilemma: A Curious Turn of Events


Sketch of the Tour Eiffel

There is an urban historical anecdote that some people want to believe: the French engineer Gustave Eiffel presented his project for the construction of the Eiffel Tower in Barcelona to the World Exhibition organizers, but the Barcelona City Council considered it a strange and expensive building that did not fit into the urban style, and they preferred to build the Arc de Triomphe, in a more classical style. Following the city council of Barcelona's refusal, Eiffel presented his project to those in charge of the World Exhibition in Paris, which took place a year later, in 1889.



 

Enric Sagnier's Architectural Legacy on Girona Street


This is one of Enric Sagnier's early works, showcasing his eclectic style and incorporating various distinct details typical of different architectural influences.
Casa Antoni Roger Vidal

The splendor of the 1888 Universal Exhibition illuminated the fairgrounds and spread far beyond, casting a positive light throughout Barcelona. This transformative wave not only served as a catalyst for long-awaited plans, but also accelerated the development of new infrastructure and services, marking the beginning of an era for the city.

At the epicenter of the urban renaissance is Rue Girona, an integral part of the right side of the Eixample district.


Girona Street's Golden Square: A Showcase of Modernism Architecture


In the delightful collection of buildings gracing the street, one that steals the spotlight is the home of Isabelle Pomar at number 86. This enchanting architectural gem, brought to life between 1904 and 1906 by the imaginative Luis Domènech Montaner, serves as a vivid tribute to the allure of its time.

Contributing to the vibrant architectural mosaic is Casa Bure, a splendid creation by the seasoned architect Francisco Berenguer. Nestled at the corner of Aucias Marc and Girona streets, its presence infuses this historic corridor with a distinctive charm.

However, another remarkable residence from this era is the Casa Antoni Roger Vidal, the creation of Enric Sagnier Villavecchia. It proudly adorns the intersection of Calle Girona 20 and Calle Auzias Mark 33–35. Showcasing turn-of-the-century eclectic style, this architectural gem is one of Sagnier's early masterpieces.

Girona Street, with its collection of architectural wonders, reveals a fascinating story of the city's evolution and the rise of Catalan modernism. Each structure on this historic street is not just a building; it is a chapter in Barcelona's architectural narrative, inviting all who walk its path to become part of its living history.


 

Hostal Girona: Blending Modern Comfort with Traditional Catalan Style


An impressive feature of this building is its majestic marble staircase, which leaves a lasting impression on visitors.
Main entrance to Casa Enric Roger Vidal

Casa Enric Roger Vidal: An Exemplary Modernist Apartment Building


Casa Enric Roger Vidal: A Modernist Marvel in the Heart of Girona Street

The residence of Enric Roger Vidal, a creation by the Catalan architect Enric Sagnier in 1888, stands as a testament to early Catalan Modernist architecture characterized by its eclectic charm. Girona 24, a modernist apartment building, embodies this spirit with its towering wooden front door that beckons visitors into a grand double-sided marble staircase.


Enric Sagnier, a prolific architect in Catalonia, left an indelible mark with numerous structures (only two of which grace Girona Street). His creations, particularly concentrated in Barcelona's right Eixample, belonged to the prosperous bourgeoisie who played a pivotal role in the Catalan economy. The enduring legacy of Casa Enric Roger Vidal not only encapsulates the essence of Modernist architecture but also reflects the opulence of a bygone era, echoing the stories of the city's influential residents.



A Glimpse into the Past: The Historic Elevator at Casa Enric Roger Vidal


Two levels of the building are occupied by the Hostal Girona. The hotel was created with the intention of providing guests with a place that has personality, history, elegance, and comfort. From the moment you walk into the house, you have a unique chance to experience Barcelona up close.The guest rooms at Hostal Girona are carefully designed to create a space that seamlessly blends modern amenities with the traditional Catalan style.



For the mechanism to activate, it's essential to ensure all doors are tightly closed.
Vintage elevator

Within Casa Enric Roger Vidal, Hostal Girona occupies two floors, a hotel born from the desire to offer guests a place filled with personality, history, elegance and comfort. Entering this historic house offers a unique opportunity to get closer to the essence of Barcelona.

Hostal Girona's rooms have been carefully designed to combine modern comforts with traditional Catalan charm.

When you ascend or descend the historic elevator of the Casa Enric Roger Vidal, installed by Enrique Cardellach and Xno (a family company of two brothers, one of whom Felix Cardellach was a prominent figure in the Catalan Renaissance at the beginning of the 20th century), you are transported not only in space, but also in time.



Timeless Elegance: Embracing the Finest Catalan Mosaic Floors


In our hotel, the floors are not decorated with carpets, but with exquisite Catalan mosaics. Named Mosaico Nolla after the visionary Catalan businessman Miguel Nolla, these geometric patterns first appeared in Valencia in 1860.

Through painstaking restoration, we strive to preserve these historic details, ensuring our guests will always enjoy their timeless charm. Each step reflects the grandeur of a bygone era, preserving the essence of difference that Knoll's mosaic has embodied for generations.




Whether you're looking for a place to unwind and relax or a place to explore the city, Hostal Girona is the place to be. With its unique blend of modern and traditional, this hotel is sure to provide a memorable stay for all who visit.



 


In Barcelona, you'll encounter remnants of multiple eras side by side, creating a fascinating blend of history in one cityscape.
The remains of the Roman wall and part of the ancient walls of Barcelona.

And the remains of Barcelona's old walls can still be found in the city. All you have to do is look around to feel like a true explorer, discovering the wonders of Barcelona's historical past, from Roman walls to magnificent modernist structures.

















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