An iconic example of Barcelona’s modernism, Casa Fuster by architect Lluís Domènech i Montaner marks the very upper limit of Passeig de Gràcia, where the avenue becomes narrower and changes its name as it leaves Eixample to enter a different district, Vila de Gràcia.
Casa Fuster is considered to be one of the most expensive built in Barcelona at the time, especially because the high quality of its finishes including white marble – this is also the first house in Barcelona with facades in white marble, instead of the Montjuic stone used all throughout history for churches, urban palaces and all important public landmarks. The house was a gift from the wealthy bourgeois Mariano Fuster i Fuster to his wife Consuelo Fabra i Puig. The posterior facade on Carrer Jesús features a relief bearing the initials C.F., reminding us of the original owner of the property. Casa Fuster is Domènech i Montaner’s last building in Barcelona (1908 – 1911) and he worked on this project together with his son Pere Domènech i Roure. Casa Fuster’s design is an elegant combination of curves and straight lines, where two flat facades meet a cylindrical turret on the corner with glass galleries decorated with sculptures reminiscent of swallows’ nests.The entire house is a mix of neo-Gothic and Modernista style. Domènech i Montaner left his unmistakable imprint on the building with the characteristic pink marble columns, the trilobate windows and plenty of floral motifs.The French-style top floor, and the elegant entrance, which was the home of the Cafè Vienès for many years, make the building a perfect example of the modernista style.
Due to the elevated construction costs, the Fuster family left the home in the early 1920s. In 1962, an electrical company bought the building with plans to demolish it to construct a skyscraper, but due to public uproar, thankfully this was never carried out. In 2000, the building was acquired by a hotel chain and since 2004 has been known as the Hotel Casa Fuster.
Achitect Lluís Domènech i Montaner (1850 – 1923) is one of the most important protagonists of Catalan Modernism, and several of his works have been recognized as UNESCO World Heritage sites. He studied architecture and mathematical physics and graduated in 1873. After having graduated he travelled around Europe, meeting the artistic elite and discovering new architectural trends. Upon returning to Barcelona, he joined the School of Architecture as a lecturer, then as professor, and then became its director in 1900, training, among others, students such as Josep Puig i Cadafalch, Antoni Gaudí or Josep M. Jujol, and overall exercising a considerable influence on what was to become Modernisme in Catalonia.
Domènech i Montaner also stood out as a designer of typefaces and book bindings, and as a book illustrator. He also collaborated with the main Catalan publications of the time such as La Renaixença, La Veu de Catalunya, and founded the magazine El Poble Català. He published many books and articles, and through the family business, the editorial Montaner i Simon, he initiated and directed the art encyclopedia Historia General del Arte, later continued by Josep Puig i Cadafalch.
Domènech i Montaner was one of the founders of political Catalan nationalism and founder of the Regionalist League, which soon became the main political force in Catalonia. He focused in the world of politics in 1870, and committed to his belief in Catalan nationalism, he also founded the Catalanist Union in 1891. He chaired the assembly that drafted the Bases de Manresa, the document that served as the basis for the self-government of Catalonia. He became a member of the Spanish Parliament in 1901. Because of disagreements with political leader Francesc Cambó, he split from the party in 1904 and distanced himself from politics to focus on research and history.