After recently revisiting the Sant Pau site with my friend Laurie from Sydney, I wonder from a ‘locals’ (I use the term loosely) point of view, why this collection of buildings still continues to seemingly sit under the radar. Certainly it’s not Gaudi’s famous ‘Sagrada Familia’ but its uniqueness in architecture and design does in my opinion, stand up against any of the Gaudi casa’s.


The ‘Sant Pau Art Nouveau Site’ brochure states that it is “a jewel of Modernista architecture” and I couldn’t agree more. A visit into the interior of these buildings, particularly the main entrance building would be, I imagine, like walking inside an elaborately decorated and coloured jewellery box. Certainly the designers of today’s stark white, clinical and ‘less than human’ modern hospital interiors could take some inspiration from these interiors.

Brief History:

In 1401 the Council of One Hundred (Concell de Cent), the former governing body of Barcelona, agreed to build the hospital ‘de la Santa Creu’. Designed by Guillem d’Abriell, it merged and centralised six hospitals in the city. This building exists in its current form between carrer de l’Hospital and carrer del Carme, in the suburb of El Ravel.

By the end of the 19th century ‘de la Santa Creu’ was too small and outdated, this was due both to the continuing population growth of the city and because of advances made in medicine and hygiene. It became a matter of necessity to locate a site and commission a new hospital.

Through the contributions of the City of Barcelona and based on the bequest of the Catalan banker Pau Gil, building works of this new hospital, designed by Spanish-Catalan modernist architect, Lluís Domènech i Montaner (December 21, 1850 – December 27, 1923), were undertaken from 1902 through to 1930 in the district of Eixample. His son, Pere Domènech i Roura, became wholly responsible at some point between 1914 and 1920 for the continuation of the works, albeit simpler designs. The hospital took the name “Hospital de Santa Creu i de Sant Pau” to honour its benefactor. Beginning in 1916 and by the end of 1929, hospital services were relocated to this newly established hospital which was officially inaugurated in 1930.

thomas_30    Ramon Casas 1909 Charcoal and Pastel

Early image of the site and 1909 Charcoal and Pastel portrait of Lluís Domènech i Montaner by Ramon Casas

The buildings are principally modernist ‘Art Nouveau’ in style; however, Lluís Domènech i Montaner also implements styles from earlier eras of architecture, particularly ‘Mudejar architecture’ which emphasises the use of bricks. He collaborated with among others, renowned sculpture artists Pau Gargallo and Eusebi Arnau, painter Francesc Labarta and Josep Perpinyà who made the wrought iron elements.

To ensure the greatest comfort for the sick, the site encompasses; an administration building, an open space of 8 freestanding constituent pavilions acting as hospital wards, an operations house for surgeries – all of which are set in manicured gardens and connected by a subterranean tunnel network. Additional buildings designed specifically by Pere Domènech i Roura include a convent, kitchens and a pharmacy.


Architectural scale model of site

Recinte Modernista de Sant Pau (trans. from Catalan: Modernist Centre of Sant Pau)

In 1997 it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site and in 2009 with the relocation of the final patients to the new Hospital Quirónsalud, the site was decommissioned as a working hospital. From this point on a restoration process was initiated based on original designs by Lluís Domènech i Montaner and in 2014 it became known as ‘Recinte Modernista de Sant Pau’.


The Administration Building:

The main entrance building; the largest and most decorated building in the complex, chapel-like in appearance, the exterior is topped by a 62 metre high clock tower. It is not a coincidence that the façade of the building is intended as a monumental altarpiece – it is to symbolize the Christian tradition. Running around the outer walls of the building are sixteen mosaic panels, the work of Mario Maragliano following designs by Francesc Labarta, depicting several episodes of the history of the hospital.



The interior consists of an impressive entrance hall, a large domed glass roof over a grand staircase and two wings leading off to various administration and service rooms including a ‘well considered’ fitted-out, contemporary auditorium.

apartmentbarcelona    Fotografia Robert Ramos

divisare    geecasandra

One room that particularly stands out is the Domènech i Montaner room, formerly the main hall, almost 18 metre high and culminating in a convergence of architecture, sculpture, stained glass, mosaic, ceramics and painting.



Directly opposite this exquisite mosaic is the painting by Aleix Clapès representing the transfer of the remains of St. Eulalia

The Pavilions (Hospital Wards):

Each pavilion (all are decorated differently), includes a long ward for patients and a circular day room at the front for those who could receive visitors. At the rear are independent compartments for the terminally ill or patients with serious infections. Two of the pavilions are open to the public.


Operations House:

The large hall with glazing in the back for additional light source was the principal operating theatre. Additional surgical rooms are located below the glass apses on the northern end of the building.


Current Use:

As well as a museum and cultural centre, several pavilions have been converted into functional working spaces for the use of organisations linked to European Union and United Nations who are involved in programs associated with sustainability, health and education.


For those of you not in Barcelona click here for a virtual visit:

Address: Carrer de Sant Antoni Maria Claret, 167 – Barcelona

Source ref: Wikipedia,,,,,

Image ref:,,,,,,,,,,


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