Saturday, November 19, 2016

Hospital St. Pau - Barcelona's Other Architectural Masterpiece

Cycling Dali's Landscapes in Spain - Day 11

Well I've been meaning to write the last installment of my trip to Spain for a long time. So today seemed like a good time to do it.

The final day of the main tour was spent by the sea. And, there is nothing more wonderful than a full nights sleep by the sea to leave you feeling good about life. And having the chance to sleep in made it even better.

At 11:00 we gathered together for final transport back to Barcelona where we'd enjoy one more day and night before returning home.

To an architect Barcelona is a visual candy store. During the turn of the century when the world's major cities were choking themselves with the unsanitary by-products of the industrial revolution, Barcelona was embracing the implementation of Ildefons Cerda's visionary city plan entitled L'Eixample.

The L'Eixample plan stressed a grid filled with mid-rise superblocks served by wide streets and boulevards. At every intersection of streets you find vuilding corners tapered (chamfered) back at 45° angles to offer light and visibility.

The concept encouraged natural ventilation, smooth traffic flow while allowing natural light to flood public spaces. Although (sadly) many have been filled, each superblock was initially configured to contain a quiet green space in the center.

The plan delivered the sweet spot of urban density sufficient to support mass transit, yet is very walkable and lacks the claustrophobia inducing high rises of many major world cities.  

Aerial View of Barcelona's L'Eixample District

This short trip back to Barcelona allowed me almost a full afternoon to make a final architectural pilgrimage to visit architect Lluis Domenich i Montaner's Art Nouveau masterpiece Hospital St. Pau. i Montaner is the architect that designed the magical Palace of Catalan Music and supervised the 1888 Barcelona World Exhibition.

Hospital St. Pau
Although the origins of this hospital can be traced back to 1401, the hospital we see today began with a legacy from Catalan banker Pau Gil upon his death in Paris in 1898. Construction on the hospital began in 1902 and continued for a period of 28 years.

An integral part of L'Eixample, Luis Domenech i Montaner designed Sant Pau at a 45° angle using 9 L'Eixample blocks. The initial plan included 48 buildings and occupies a prominent location at the end of one of L'Eixample's few boulevards set at an angle to the grid. At the other end of the diagonal boulevard is Gaudi's Masterpiece the Sagrada Famillia. The site is on a hillside, so each building is gently embedded into the hillside.

The completed hospital has 27 buildings, 16 of which are Modernista. Of the 16, 12 were designed by Domenech i Montaner prior to his death in 1928. The remaining 4 were completed by his son Pere Domenech i Roura.

Sant Pau was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1997 and reopened to tours after a remarkable restoration in 2014.

Sant Pau was designed as a monumental city within a city. The hospital is organized as a campus arrayed along a linear spine. The multi-building design was conceived to assure there would be restful, healing green spaces providing views and furnishing fresh air to each of the patient wings.Each wing devoted to treatment of a specific medical specialty.

Each wing is connected by over a kilometre of tunnels where patients could be moved out of the weather along with supplies, laundry, medication and meals.

A Section of St. Pau's Tunnels

At the center of the campus is The Operations House. The building is oriented to maximize glare-free northern light in its three operating rooms. There is a main operating theater flanked by two small theaters (one exclusively for men, the other for women). 

The Operations House included modern sterilization, radiology and photography equipment and was the central storehouse for all the doctor's various instruments and tools.

The Main Operating Theater Today

 The Main Operating When it Was in Use
(Note original window sill heights)

Each of the spacious patient wings features high arched ceilings and each filled with natural light.

A Patient Ward

Patients in Each Ward Had Access to Circular Reading / Sitting Rooms

Sculpture is Integrated Throughout Sant Pau's Design 

As a center for research and training the main administrative building is a showpiece of art infused architecture. Every detail from structural columns, lighting and ceiling tracery down to its window handles are exquisitely designed and crafted. Much like his Palau, Sant Pau demonstrates the architect's mastery of glass, ceramic mosaic, metals and brick.

The Hospital Administration Building

 Rich Mosaics Adorn Stair Lights

The Graceful Ceiling of the Admin Building 
Features Stained Glass Skylights

 Typical Window Handles

Similar to many of Barcelona's buildings of the era, the wrought iron fencing and gates are also works of art.

 Angels at Each Gate

The restored site is now being re-purposed as a center of knowledge devoted healthcare, sustainability and education.

Each visit Barcelona affords me another opportunity to peel back additional layers of this wonderful cities rich architectural heritage.

The particulars:
An architectural tour de force, Hospital Sant Pau is still undergoing vigorous restoration and re-purposing so not all buildings are available to tour.

While Gaudi's buildings are overrun with tourists Sant Pau offers a blissful place. Staff on hand are very helpful and the site is easily accessed having its very own Metro stop. There is an admission charge for its self guided tour. Guided tours are also available as well. Check online here for times and current admission charges.

Roadboy's Travels © 2016

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