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Modernism on the Island of Mallorca

   This modernist route in Majorca, tries to give an overview of how this European cultural phenomenon arrived in the Balearic Islands, leaving some exquisite architectural jewels, which were not an isolated cultural phenomenon. Modernism was also known as Jugendstil, Modern Style, Nieuwe Kunst, Art Nouveau and also Secession, different names that define the cultural movement that took place in the XIX century and at the turn of the XX century.

   The common denominator of this movement is based on the search for an expresion that would finish the classic language within the artistic areas, breathing new air into art with innovation and new air. Specifically, in Spain the different regional architectural modernist varieties were used simultaneously as an architectural language. To understand Modernism in Spain, it must be noted that there are many different characteristic aspects within this movement all over the Spain, although there are not many buildings using a modernist architectural design.

   Modernism was introduced into the Balearic Islands by Catalonian architects and was taken by professionals as a sign of cosmopolitanism and development. It was in 1907 when three modernist tendencies, which took place simultaneously and incorporated French Art Nouveau, Catalonian Modernism and the influence of the Viennese Secession line, started be seen in the Balearic Islands

   To take a short tour around the modernism in the Palma city centre we suggest starting from the "Parc de Mar" (Sea Park). From there we find ourselves in Antoni Maura avenue and we can observe two modernist works, which correspond to the Secession tendency, characterised by a modernism of straight lines and more austerity, but with superfluous floral ornamented details sculpted in stone or decorated glass.

   No 56 in this avenue is Ca’n Mulet, work of the architect Gaspar Bennàssar which has recently been restored, the large doorway clearly shows modernist aspects in its floral uprights, as well as in the design of the interior and exterior ironwork.

   Another modernist work is Ca’n Salas, on the corner of Antoni Maura and Passeig Sagrera, by the same architect, although it has lost some of its interest due to the restoration work carried out in the thirties, which altered its original design.

   If we continue along Passeig Sagrera up to la Llotja (The old fish market), we can see the Ca’n Coll building, work by Gaspar Bennàssar y Jaume Alenyar, although unfortunately this building has not been restored and its maintenance has been deficient. Continuing along the route we can take a small break for lunch or a drink at No 3 Boteria street, La Bóveda, but beforehand we must observe the ironwork design of the upstairs iron bars in the building, the windows sculpted in stone and the ornamentation of the cubierta.

   Continuing with our route we arrive in the Plaça de la Reina (Queen square), to start our journey towards Carrer Conquistador (Conqueror street) where it is interesting to see the lower floors of the old Círculo Marllorquín (Majorcan circle) building restored in 1913 by Miquel Madorell i Rius with a modernist taste, social centre of the Majorcan bourgeoisie, this restoration affected the original aspect which was developed by Antoni Sureda i Villalonga.

   The principal façade of this building is in the calle Palau Reial (Royal Palace street), it has an iron and glass skylight, surrounded by monumental stone and marble pillars creating a very interesting interior. After 1982, the building became the seat for the Balearic Island Parliament. Inside, the old lift, which has been turned into a telephone box, is still conserved, as are a few viewpoints where we can look through stained glass windows by modernist artists.

   Further along our tour, at No 12 Carrer Palau Reial, we find a doorway which will attract our attention, as well as at No 14 and No 17 which are nowadays the restored old Banco de Crédito Balear and the current seat of the Conselleria d’Economia i Hisenda (Department of tax and economy). On arriving at number 16 in the same street we can find the main entrance to the Parliament.

   Antoni Gaudí was entrusted with the restoration of the Palma Cathedral, inspired by the need for ecclesiastic renewal, a larger participation by the citizens in the liturgy was the hoped for response, although it was Cardinal Campins who was the promoter of the restoration of the Seu in Palma, it was not until 1904 that Antoni Gaudí, carried out the restoration work which lasted until 1914. The baldachin, the gallery and the "reja des presbiterio" (Presbyterian bar) which are the highlights in this place, as are the illumination of the nave and the royal chapel by means of a chain shaped lighting system. Noteworthy too are the large windows, the second baldachin and the altar stairs among others. All designed by Antoni Gaudí.

   Now near the Plaça de Cort, we find the corner of Jaume II street, Ca’n Corbella, a project, which was carried out at the end of the 19th century, by the master builder Nicolau Lliteras, it is remarkably well kept nowadays. This building is considered to be pre-modernist because of its chronological stage with its aesthetics based on historic neomudejar architecture.

   Continuing along Carrer Colom (Columbus street), we will pass No 11, the old stocking house, nowadays the Miró jewellers, which is tiled with ceramics with La Roqueta factory colours. If we walk along a little further we get to the Plaça del Marquès de Palmer (Marquis de Palmer square), where you will surely notice the building on the corner of Ca ses monges street and, Ca’n Forteza Rey, work finished in 1909 and a jewel reminiscent of modernism, its exterior is prolific, wavy lines and abundant vegetable and animal ornamentation, based on Art nouveau and Catalonian modernism. This building is one of the most representative of Palma modernism, as is the neighbouring building "El Águila" (The eagle), designed by Gaspar Bennàssar y Jaume Alenyar in 1908 with a commercial use in mind. It has modernist elements with a Viennese tendency, the central design of the building is the round arch and the decoration which is reminiscent of the Karlplatz underground station in Vienna, precursor to Viennese Jugenstil and Secession.

   Before we leave high Palma and go down into low Palma, it is noteworthy to mention Ca’n Forteza which can be found at No 3 Brosseria street, where on the ground floor there is an old bookshop which even today still conserves the modernist furnishings and ceramics inside. Continuing our stroll we now go down the steps, to Plaça Major, el Forn del Teatre (The Theatre bakery) where its details and waves go back to modernism with Art nouveau inspirations; situated then in Weyler square opposite the bakery is the old Gran Hotel building.

   This place is a key area of Palma modernism due to its explosion of modernism in such a small area. It was designed by Lluis Domènech i Muntaner in 1901 and the work, which finished in 1903, was directed by Jaume Alenyar. The Gran hotel, the headquarters of the Caixa foundation in Palma, stands out for all of its aspects, ceramics, glass, sculpted stone, interior, furnishings.

   As we get close now to the end of our route, to one side of the Plaça del Mercat (Market Square), previously Santa Catalina Thomàs, very close to the Gran Hotel, we will see two twin buildings which make two corners, we refer to the "Cases Casasayas" designed by Francesc Roca i Simó in 1908 and the other known as the "Pensió La Menorquina" (Minorcan pension) in 1909.

   The urban situation so close to the Gran hotel is very interesting, but with very different modernist features, with very brutal features lacking both animal and vegetable ornamentation, here with a more geometric aspect with a secessionist tendency.

   To finish the route in the centre, we must cross the Market square and get to the cobbled Carrer Unió (Union street). At No 15, specifically, is "Forn fondo" (Fondo bakery) which still conserves its modernist past, tending towards Art Nouveau, its sign work and façade details.

   Leaving the centre of Palma, now in the Eixample area, other modernist architectural aspects stand out but they now stray greatly from the central area and old town area of Palma although they are nonetheless still important. There are important ornamental details on emblematic buildings such as the Balearic Caja de Ahorros y Monte de Piedad (Balearic savings bank) in Ramon Llull street, also by the architect Bennàssar. Crossing the Plaça de Sant Francesc (Saint Francis square) we arrive at the Plaça Quadrado (Quadrado Square) where Ca’n Barceló has a very interesting façade, work done by the master builder Bartomeu Ferrà, where the ceramics of the façade stand out with allegories to architectural arts, science, music, etc.. being a true reflection of the XIX and early XX century Majorcan bourgeoisie.

   From here it is worth side-tracking down Carrer Sindicat (Union Street) along Carrer de la Llotgeta to see the Casa Roca (Roca House) façade. At the end of Carrer Sindicat (Union street), we arrive at the Porta de Sant Antoni (Saint Anthony gate), The "Triquet" which will awaken our interest, can be found here, a building which was also designed by Bennàssar.

   Getting close to Plaça D’Espanya (Spain Square) now along the Alexandre Rosselló avenue, Niza bar, Cristal bar and other nearby buildings like the Comercial Trasatlántico bank and Ca’n Segura have modernist aspects as does the "Coliseu Balear" (Bull ring). The modern day cultural centre S’Escorxador (old municipal abattoir) and the Palma Cemetery, are also renowned for their modernist features.

   Modernist buildings also appear all over the outskirts of Palma, as well as unique features of this movement on some buildings be it for the sculpted stonework or for illuminating lighting or ironwork among others. The municipalities which are most developed with the airs of a city, where modernism took on great importance was Soller where the multiple modernist features which can be admired are, for example, the Soller railway station, the modernist façade of the Saint Bartholomew parish church and the Soller bank designed by Joan Rubió Bellver. Family houses like Ca’n Moratel, Ca’n Mateu Frontera, Ca’n Bell Esguardy Ca’n Prunera also stand out. Nearly all these buildings can be found in Carrer Lluna (Moon street) in this town.

   All in all, modernism was an architectural tendency that had a great force on the island of Majorca that left municipal buildings that today make up the modernist route on the island of Majorca. A clear heyday of the bourgeoisie of the beginning of the century and an exponent of the cosmopolitan citizen of the main city above all and the Soller municipality.


More information::
News: Palma Guided Tours Month Calendar
Ajuntament de Sóller - City walks




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