5 of the Best Modern buildings in Barcelona


The city of Barcelona is somewhat synonymous with the architecture and design of Antoni Gaudí. His unique nature-inspired style, organic forms and unconventional aesthetic are all factors that make his work stand out. Because of this, it is easy to miss the many more architectural masterpieces that are dotted all over the city.

This is not to say that the Gaudi buildings aren’t spectacular. They really are and all of them are well worth a visit. My love of modern architecture however, has opened my eyes to some iconic buildings in Barcelona, that weren’t designed by Gaudí. So read on if you would like to explore some of the very best of them!

1. Check out the views of the W Hotel

If you find yourself in Barcelona during summer, you will find it hard to miss this piece of architecture. This is because it is visible from most of the beaches along the city’s coastline. And what would a trip to Barcelona be without a visit to the beach?!

The W Hotel in Barcelona. Photo by Alfons Morales on Unsplash.

The W Hotel Barcelona is a 26 storey, 5 star hotel, designed by Barcelona born Ricardo Bofill. Sailing boats that frequent the waters along the Barcelona coastline served as the inspiration for the hotel’s iconic shape. The glass facade helps the building to blend into its surroundings by reflecting the sky and sea. This building definitely stands out along the skyline, however.

The W Hotel in Barcelona. Photo by David Klein on Unsplash.

This is an epic spot to visit for a drink or to watch the sunset. It has a number of exquisite bars and restaurants that will make you feel like part of Barcelona’s elite. But, if swanky bars are not your thing, I get it. This spot is still worth a visit for its spectacular architecture and magnificent views of the horizon.


2. Appreciate rationalist design at the Museum of Contemporary Art

Another modern work of architectural wonder is the Museum of Contemporary Art. American born Richard Meier designed the building in 1990 and it opened to the public in 1995. White enameled-steel and glass are the two main components of the MACBA exterior. The considered incorporation of natural light softens these often harsh materials.

MACBA exterior. Photo by Frans Ruiter on Unsplash.

The museum has contributed to the redefining of the Gothic district as an arts-centred quarter. The character of the Gothic Quarter itself was the inspiration behind the building’s structure. A main goal of its construction was to uplift the Raval neighbourhood by providing a community space. The Plaça dels Àngels sits next to the museum and provides an area for social gathering as well as the display of outdoor art pieces.

OPENING HOURS: Monday, Wednesday – Friday — 11 am to 7.30 pm, Saturdays — 10 am to 8 pm, Sundays/Holidays — 10 am to 3 pm
ADDRESS: Plaça dels Àngels, 1, 08001, Barcelona, Spain
Metro Station: L1 (Catalunya), L2 (Universitat) and L3 (Catalunya or Liceu)

3. Visit the bold and contemporary Fundació Joan Miró

Speaking of art, the Fundació Joan Miró (or Joan Miró Foundation) is one of my favourite places to visit when in Barcelona. It offers a perfect mix of art and architecture.

The home of the Foundation is an avant-garde building designed by Barcelona-born Josep Lluís Sert. The building opened on Montjuic Hill in 1975. Its structure, similarly to MACBA, draws on the rationalist movement for inspiration. At the same time, it includes traditional Mediterranean features, like a central courtyard and roof terrace, to bring a human aspect to the space.

The Joan Miró Foundation. Photo by Jan Genge on Unsplash

Balance, form, shape and colour are key elements of this unique building. These principles are key to the art of Miro. Because of this, Miró’s art and Sert’s architecture are the perfect compliment to one another.


4. Find tranquility at the German-designed Barcelona Pavilion

Not too far from the Fundació Joan Miró, lies a modern architecture icon. German architect Mies van Der Rohe designed this building with Lilly Reich. The structure was a commission for the International Exposition which was held in Barcelona in 1929. The building represented Germany in the exposition and was originally named the German Pavilion.

Stone and glass at the recreated Barcelona Pavilion. Photo by Jean-Philippe Delberghe on Unsplash.

Interestingly, the structure that stands today is not the same as the original Pavilion built in 1929. The original building was dismantled following the end of the exposition. The building you see today is a replica and was reconstructed in the 1980s from drawings and images of the original. The Barcelona City Council instigated the reconstruction and the building opened its doors again in 1986.

The reproduction of ‘Dawn’ by Georg Kolbe. Photo by Lisa Therese on Unsplash.

It is a meticulous replica which embodies the same modern characteristics and air of tranquility that van der Rohe had intended in 1929.

OPENING HOURS: Monday to Sunday — March to October 10:00 am to 8:00 pm, November to February 10:00 am to 6:00 pm
ADDRESS: Av. Francesc Ferrer i Guàrdia, 7, 08038 Barcelona
Metro Station: Pl. Espanya

5. Go back in time and marvel at the Les Aigües Library

One of the most marvellous buildings in all of Barcelona, the Les Aigües Library carries a unique history.

Josep Fontserè designed the building in the 1800s. At the time, it functioned as a reservoir which supplied water to the Parc de la Ciutadella. Fontserè modelled the building off traditional Roman reservoirs. As a result of this, it features high brick walls and perfectly calculated archways. Even though Gaudí was not the architect, nor the designer of the building, he did have a hand in this timeless structure. He assisted Fontserè with structural calculations and so helped to ensure that it remained standing all this time!

After some time, it’s function as a reservoir became unnecessary. The building had various uses in the following 100 years. In the early 90s, the Pompeu Fabra University took over the building and began with plans for adapting it into a library. The architects in charge of the renovation were Lluís Clotet (Barcelona born) and Ignacio Paricio.

Photo by Eliabe Costa on Unsplash.

Most of the structure remains unchanged, yet the inclusion of interior design elements transform the space into a functional and aesthetically beautiful centre for education. Modern fixtures, fittings, furniture and lighting are combined with the traditionally constructed brick bones of the building to make for a truly magnificent space.

OPENING HOURS: Get in touch with the Ciutadella Campus on (+34) 93 542 20 00 for visiting days and times
ADDRESS: Universidad Pompeu Fabra Campus de la Ciudadela, Carrer de Ramon Trias Fargas, 25, 27, 08005 Barcelona, Spain
Metro Station: Line 4 Ciutadella-Vila Olímpica

While the pieces in this article are mainly examples of modern architecture and design, there are tons of examples of other styles to be found in the city. Most of the buildings you pass in Barcelona have a certain charm to them. Whether it can be found in the colour, the flower boxes hanging out the window or the laundry drying overhead, there is beauty everywhere in this city!

The Gothic Quarter aptly plays host to many Gothic style buildings. The church at the top of Mount Tibidabo is constructed in a primarily Neo-Byzantine style. The Royal Monastery of Pedralbes is a a quiet monastery, outside of the city centre and is a beautiful example of the Catalan Gothic Style.

Whatever your favourite architectural style, Barcelona is sure to win you over with its bold character and charm.

Plannig a trip to Barcelona ? Get ready !

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