Essential Architecture-  Barcelona

Plau de la Musica


Lluís Domènech i Montaner


 in the Eixample, Barcelona


1901 - 1930


Art Nouveau 




I went to see Domenech i Montaner's Plau de la Musica two days later (the tour tickets sell out rapidly and I had to buy a ticket a day in advance). Domenech i Montaner has done several buildings in Barcelona. Of all these, the Plau de la Musica is probably Domenech i Montaner's master work.

At the time Domenech i Montaner was commissioned to build the Plau de la Musica, there was a fad for choral singing. Choral societies had formed all over Catalunya. These choral societies were largely working class social organizations, but also expressed Catalan nationalism. The Plau de la Musica was commissioned by the largest of the choral societies. It was designed for choral performances as well as the performance of classical music, especially Wagner, who was popular at the time (I've never understood the popularity of Wagner).

Photography is not allowed inside the Plau de la Musica, so I was only able to take photographs of the outside the building. You can buy an excellent book, translated into the major European languages, that includes photographs of the inside of the Plau de la Musica.

The decoration of Domenech i Montaner's Hospital Sant Pau become lush and ever present in the Plau de la Musica. The domed space of the auditorium of the Plau de la Musica is surmounted by a huge stained glass skylight. Surrounding the skylight are tiles with white and red roses, which are a theme through out the building. The walls of the auditorium are stained glass as well. Glass is not usually used in buildings where there is concern about acoustics and the Plau de la Musica was criticized originally because of poor acoustics. The modern building has a external curtain wall of Plexiglas panels with an air gap of a few feet that provides sound insulation. Before this curtain wall existed street noise may have penetrated the auditorium.

Supporting the orchestra level ceiling in the Plau de la Musica auditorium are two large pillars surmounted by sculpture. The sculpture on one side is dominated by a tree that symbolizes the choral society and Catalunya. On the pillar are horses ridden by Valkyries and the busts of classical music composers.

There is an active music program at the Plau de la Musica, with performances ranging from popular to baroque classical music. In addition to the main auditorium there is a chamber music auditorium. One of the frustrations in having such a poor command of spanish is that I was unable to unravel the schedule so I did not attend a performance at the Plau de la Musica. I suspect that it would be sublime to hear Mozart's Requiem Mass or Bach's B-minor Mass in this setting.