Parabolic wonders. The wine cathedral of El Pinell de Brai

No wonder they call it the wine cathedral. This cellar in Pinell de Brai, Terra Alta, is the work of architect Cèsar Martinell i Brunet, and was built between 1918 and 1922. The entire interior of the winery is divided by wide-span, roof-bearing parabolic arches, which make the entire space feel light and luminous.

El Pinell de Brai is located in the middle of a small plain, surrounded by mountains. Right in the center of the town, the winery stands out in size and finishes.

The monumental façade of the winery comprises three naves and is designed on three levels. From bottom to top, architect Cèsar Martinell laid out: a high stone base for doors and low ventilation windows, framed in bush hammered stone; a plastered masonry and brick level, with generous openings; and a powerful corniche with brick pinnacles which mark several points of the roof.

The inside of the Pinell de Brai winery is a large open space defined by the rhythm of the parabolic roof-bearing arches. These huge arches have perforated spandrels which enhance the building’s feeling of lightness and luminosity.

The impressive height, the feeling of spaciousness generated by the arches, and the trilobate windows which led the light flood the interior, make the winery look indeed like a Gothic cathedral.

But beyond the architectural beauty of the building, Cèsar Martinell also created a functional space for wine production. The architect had developed his own studies on the necessities of the wine industry in terms of ventilation, heat transmission and carbonic acid evacuation. And his design immensely improves the functional aspects, as well as the structural and building cost-related ones.

Martinell’s main contribution to the industrial architecture of his time was formulating a type of agricultural cellar which uses standardized pieces of brick and ceramics, thus lowering the price of the construction and making the siteworks easier and faster. Still, the design is full of carefully carried-out details.

Another original element of the design is the ceramic frieze crowning the base of the façade and running from end to end of the over 40 meters of façade.

Painted by Francesc Xavier Nogués, it humorously depicts scenes of grape and olive harvest and production. Despite its spectacular nature, due to lack of budget, it was removed from the initial project and was not incorporated until 1949.


Cèsar Martinell i Brunet (1888 – 1973) was a Catalan architect who designed in Modernist and Noucentiste style. Admirer of Gaudí and multifaceted person, he was also investigator, divulgator, and art historian.

Catalan painter, engraver and illustrator Xavier Nogués is one of the most representative artists of Noucentisme. His work is inspired by the traditions of Catalan popular art.

A Route of Jean Nouvel’s Barcelona

The Glòries tower, formerly Agbar, is without a doubt one of the symbols of Barcelona. This is not the only Jean Nouvel project in the city, though.

Jean Nouvel Torre Glories view from Design Museum Barcelona

Not far away from the tower, on the Diagonal avenue, there’s the fantastic Poblenou park, a green area of shadow with plenty of trees and flowers of all kinds.

Jean Nouvel Parc del Poblenou entrance Barcelona

And then, close to the city centre, there’s Fàbrica Moritz, a former beer factory turned into a restaurant.

Jean Nouvel Fabrica Moritz restaurant bar

Torre Glòries

The 34-storey-high building was designed in 2005 as the headquarters of the municipal water company Aguas de Barcelona (Agbar).

Jean Nouvel Torre Glories night lights

4,400 windows and over 56,000 transparent and translucent glass plates are covering the tower, and the louvres are tilted at different angles calculated to divert the direct sun light. 4,500 lights illuminate the facade at night, while the 25 different shades of the aluminium panels give it colour by day.

Jean Nouvel Torre Glories evening view looking up

The phallic character of Torre Glòries is obvious and even Jean Nouvel discussed this in detail, in 2005, when interviewed after the tower finally opened. As a result of its unusual shape people usually call it el supositori (the suppository).

This is not a tower. It is not a skyscraper in the American sense of the expression: it is a unique growth in the middle of this rather calm city. It is a fluid mass that has perforated the ground – a geyser under a permanent calculated pressure. The surface of this construction evokes the water: smooth and continuous, but also vibrating and transparent because it manifests itself in coloured depths – uncertain, luminous and nuanced. This architecture comes from the earth but does not have the weight of stone” Jean Nouvel says.

Jean Nouvel Torre Agbar and MBM arquitectos Design Museum

Parc del Poblenou

Close to the tower, the Parc Central del Poblenou – a naturalistic architectural jewel combining a great diversity of environments, was designed by Jean Nouvel’s French studio in collaboration with local architect Fermín Vázquez (b720), and opened in 2008.

Jean Nouvel Parc del Poblenou vegetation and old factory chimney

The park is surrounded by walls covered with bougainvilleas, separating the area from the surrounding streets and creating a vivid contrast with the steel and glass architecture around.

Jean Nouvel Parc del Poblenou, bougainvillea fence, view towards Diagonal avenue with Melia Hotel by architect Dominique Perrault

Inside, trees, plant vaults and domes offers shadow, and the area is subdivided into several sites, including playgrounds, sitting areas, lanes shadowed by willow trees, a floral cascade and even a lily dome covering the street which divides the site in two.

Jean Nouvel Parc del Poblenou alley continuing Carrer Pere IV

The story of Poble Nou Park is written in the language of shades. From subdued shades, punctuated with patterned sparks of sunlight, to black shadows created by walls that assert the geometry of their boundaries, from jagged shadows moving around openings in the foliage to square pattern shadows underneath the plaited lianas, from glistening water-shadows to the profound matte shadows of a far-away place, of undergrowth” the architects say.


Fàbrica Moritz

The building that, once, was the factory of Moritz beer, now hosts a microbrewery with a gastronomic and events space. This is a great destination for beer tasting and affordable dishes signed by Michelin-starred chef Jordi Vilà.

Jean Nouvel Fabrica Moritz vintage beer tanks near green vertical garden by Patrick Blanc

Even though today most of the production of Moritz is carried out in the Ambar brewery in Aragon, the company headquarters and registered address is still at this historic building on 41 Ronda de Sant Antoni. In 2011, the descendants of the brewing family entrusted Jean Nouvel to transform the historical factory into a gastronomical space. Fàbrica Moritz spans over 4,000 square metres and the interior is a blend of exposed brick and cement combined with contemporary touches. The interior patio features a vertical garden designed by Patrick Blanc, French botanist and modern innovator of the green wall .

Jean Nouvel Fabrica Moritz custom designed beer draughts

The beer is brewed daily here, in plain sight of visitors who can witness the brewing process, and the bar serves this fresh, unpasteurized beer. As all design elements, even the draught taps are custom-made.

Jean Nouvel Fabrica Moritz restaurant bar entrance

The project reveals the beauty of the industrial architecture with its brickwork, concrete, old machinery, goods lift, or colourful patterned tiles, whilst steel surfaces like the 25-metres-long bar for seafood and raw fish, glass dividers or light surfaces, are Nouvel’s touch of the space.

Jean Nouvel Fabrica Moritz custom made vertical wall divider with beer bottles

I strongly recommend you visit the underground to see the beer installations as well as some original installations such as this vertical divider created with, well, beer bottles.

Jean Nouvel Fabrica Moritz microbrewery beer tanks

French architect Jean Nouvel graduated in 1972 from Paris Beaux-Arts school and his projects can be seen in numerous cities around the world, from Abu Dhabi where he designed the Louvre to Sydney (One Central Park), and from Berlin (Galeries Lafayette) to Madrid (the extension of Reina Sofia Museum). This is just to name a few. And by all means, if you want to have the complete view of Nouvel’s designs in Barcelona, check his 110-metres-high Renaissance Hotel Fira as well.


Sources: Torre Glòries: Wikipedia | Parc del Poblenou: Jean Nouvel | Arquitectura y Empresa (Es.) | Fàbrica Moritz: Fàbrica Moritz | Patrick Blanc

Related posts:

The Design Museum of Barcelona. Right next to Torre Glòries, this building hosts the Design Museum collection plus a public library, an original indoor plaza, and a cafe with terrace over water. In Architecture

Inside Poblenou. A Story by Darius Koehli. See the Poblenou district through the lens of a great photographer. In Art


Can Manyer, a Modernist puzzle

Today it’s a public library in Vilassar de Mar. The building is the former Manyer Ordeig textile factory, founded in 1879. This main nave was added in 1905, by architect Bonaventura Bassegoda, and the pavement is made of second-hand pieces of hydraulic tiles.

The entire first floor is a maze of tiles, spread on about 800 square meters. The reason for choosing hydraulic tiles lied in its remarcable resistance, and the reason for choosing second-hand pieces–meaning used or defectuous tiles–was only their attractive price.

There was no aesthetic imput whatsoever, thus the tiles were simply laid, without following any design criteria. Still, many of the models can be found in remarcable, carefully designed, early 20th century catalogues of Catalan tile manufacturers.

Some of the tiles have historic value, like the one below, in the center, with floral design on coral background, designed by Josep Pascó for Escofet, and which can be seen for instance at the Ferrer Modernist pharmacy (1904).

Some other tiles have a simple and economic design which made them be widely used, like the 8 rhomboidal flower with black and grey one below, for instance, which caught my attention because the floor of my living room is made with it.

The works of restauration of the factory and of converting it to library were carried out by Dilmé and Fabré architects in 2014. Can Manyer is one of the most carefully carried out works of its kind I’ve seen so far here, in Catalunya. Everything was studied in detail and, except for the shiny protective layer applied over the floor–which makes it look like glass and reflects the light in a way that hydraulic tiles would never do, in my opinion–it’s a beauty.

Besides the architectural works, the team also recreated, digitally, the puzzle of the floor discovering, among others, a special design, an allegory of the city of Barcelona, depicted as a woman, and made of several tiles, spread all throughout the space.

The house of lilac shutters. Casa Jeroni Granell

The blocks of Eixample are an array of designs created in all the architectural styles of the last one hundred years. Some are contemporary, some others are rationalist, neoclassical or Modernist. Usually, the last ones are interesting visual surprises, as their facades always have a story to tell, be it in the shape of the sgraffito, or with the help of sculptures, or because of the use of colours.

This is Casa Jeroni Granell on 122, Girona street, finished in 1903. The thing that first caught my attention was the colour of the shutters, and apparently so did everybody when the house was finished.

As other buildings designed by Geroni Granell, the house bears his name because he was not only the architect, but also the owner, the constructor, and the promoter.

And in this case it seems he was also the designer of the stained glass pieces, produced at his Rigalt i Granell workshop. If this detail doesn’t say much to you, then think about the ceiling of Palau de la Música Catalana. Impressive, right? Well, the stained glass ceiling of the Palau is also the work of the same Rigalt i Granell.

The entrance hall takes the theme of the lily flower and plays with different sizes, colours and techniques, from the green sgraffito of the walls, with oversized flowers, to the plaster of the ceiling or the stained glass above the entrance door.

La Picantería de l’Escribà. An Array of Foodcultures

La Picantería is about those exotic flavours that jazz up any dish. We didn’t have anything spicy here (so far :)) but everything we tried had plenty of taste and colour.

The menu here takes the best of the culinary cultures of Peru, Japan, Brazil and Mexico and, just like the traditional picanterías of Arequipa, this place is also where food becomes a way of socializing.

La Picantería serves ceviches, tacos, nachos and grill with yakitori or ‘picanha’ beef, as well as causas – Peruvian potato dough with ajiamarillo sauce, to which other ingredients are then added.

We tried the causas topped with shrimps, slices of avocado and splashed with beetroot sauce, and fried yucca to accompany it.

We followed with patacón, a warm salad of octopus and calamari with veggies and fried banana.

As always, this funny thing happens at the time of the dessert, no matter if we are two or ten at the table: all dishes are to share, but the sweets remain an individual matter. Of course we tried one another’s and I can assure you that my chocolate tart was just as delicious as my friend’s cheese cake with maracuya topping.

You can find La Picantería de l’Escribà on C/Marià Aguiló at no. 59. This street runs parallel with Rambla del Poblenou and I always prefer to go here: this narrow street shadowed by orange trees is where some of the best places in Poblenou can be found, and where mainly people from the barrio go.


A Little Extra

Picanterías are traditional lunchtime restaurants of Peru. Born in the countryside, they were initially private homes with a post hung with a red cloth – the sign for food being offered. Clients would enter via the kitchen so they could see what was being cooked and could order. The dining room was rustic, with benches ranged along large tables, and the atmosphere was always lively as the picanterías were also socializing places.

After eating, and following the conversation, liquor was served. Owners would then create the “Picante”, which was olny served in late afternoon and before closing.

Even if in La Picantería de l’Escribà we don’t enter by the kitchen but by the bar, the place has a homy ambiance with plenty of decorations on the walls and tables to share.


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Umami and Other Tastes of Honest Greens. Translated from Japanese as delicious, umami is actually a taste: the fifth taste, the one besides sweet, sour, salty and bitter. It is present in a vast array of veggies as well as in most fermented foods, and it’s also one of the tasty bowls of Honest Greens.

Fairy tale mood at Recinte Modernista de Sant Pau

Winter nights are long, and this might be one of the reasons why the light installations are the season’s most enjoyable event.

Recinte Modernista de Sant Pau hosts until January 16th wonderland of lights and videomappings. The installations are displayed in the gardens, so this is a great opportunity to see all the façades of the various pavilions which form this Modernist hospital, designed by Lluís Domènech i Montaner (1849-1923), and declared UNESCO world heritage.

Inspired by poetry. Plensa / Estellés

In his art, Jaume Plensa makes frequent references to the poetry of Vicent Andrés Estellés. Back in 2017, Plensa created an art book that visually interprets poems by the Valencian writer. Recently, Plensa referred to yet another poem, this time as motto for an exhibition at the Senda art gallery.

It seems that poetry is, to Jaume Plensa, more than an inspiration source. “Poetry penetrates society in a humble yet constant manner, and transforms it constantly even if the society is unaware of that” he said in an interview for El Periodico.

“The poet that best represented my way of being”

Vicent Andrés Estellés (1924-1993) wrote the twenty one poems of the book entitled L’hotel París in 1956. They were finally published in 1973 and, some ten years later, Jaume Plensa, by then living in Berlin, read the book. Fascinated by the power of the verse, the artists immediately started to draw and paint the very book he had in his hands, giving the first shape of what would turn out to be, in 2017, an exquisite art book with an intricate copper case which encloses the poems as well as five illustrations and six copper transparencies.

“The beginning and the end are the same thing” Estellés writes. “It was a discovery, Plensa says. There were twenty one very short and simple poems, but at the same time very intense and sensual, about sex, love, death and solitude”, which made Plensa see “an extraordinary poet, one of the best in explaining the relationship between us people and life.”

The long night

Plensa recently exhibited, at Galeria Senda, an exhibition with the motto from another poem of Estellés, Propietats de la pena: “No t’han parit per a dormir: et pariren per a vetllar en la llarga nit del teu poble” – you weren’t born to sleep, you were born to watch the long night of your village. The delicate drawings on paper and large-sized sculptures of the exhibition explore the delicate balance between silence and words, idea and shape, light and darkness.

Explore the exhibition in 3d at this link.

I’ve always thought that the work of Jaume Plensa is, in itself, poetical. Still, with this extra layer of the verses of Estellés, it gains even more depth. After all, “we don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for” – to quote my favourite line from the Dead poets society.


Sources: jaumeplensa.com (en) | vilaweb.cat (cat) | elperiodico.com (es) | youtube.com/grupenciclopedia (cat) | versos.cat (cat)

Books and the City. Ona Llibres

There are places that attract like a magnet – those places where the world outside simply fades away. And Ona Llibres is one of them. This bookstore opened recently, and it’s definitely a place to go see, even if you don’t read in Catalan.

Located on Pau Claris, close to the intersection with Gran Via, Ona Llibres opens to the street with a completely glazed window, and an unexpected whirl of books mounted on the entrance wall. With some two metres in diameter, the installation is the work of Alicia Martín.

Art and Art Books

Besides the bookstore itself, Ona Llibres is also home to a special collection of artworks, displayed on the first floor. I was amazed when they told me “you can touch anything you want, and open the books, just put on the gloves” – but I was also very happy to do it.


Can moments have a colour? Apparently, yes. A lady putting on her gloves, a team of synchronized swim winning, or an actor who decides to retire – any moment, any action, and any thought can have a colour, thus a Pantone code. And they assembled in an atypical guide of moments. By Mercè Soler.


These crayons are not for writing, but for reading. And the way to read them is by using the sharpener, so that the crayons rotate… verse by verse. By Georgina Aspa.


Events. Joan Fontcuberta, Fahrenheit 451

Over 30 volumes of Farenheit 451, in various languages and various editions – symbolically burned and rescued, then showcased: this is what Joan Fontcuberta, one of the most intriguing contemporary photographers, created and displayed at Ona Llibres, last month. Besides commemorating the Ray Bradbury year, Fontcuberta also added “sieged culture” in the title of his exhibition.

“In Fahrenheit 451 the victims are the books – the access routes to cultivated intelligence, knowledge and free thought” he says.


The Bookstore

The space where the books are displayed is as immersive as the one dedicated to art. Ona Llibres say they offer around thirty thousand titles, of both Catalan and international writers translated into Catalan, and browsing their collection is always a joy.

Ona Llibres opened over half a century ago, in Barcelona, and was one of the most cherished places for literature in the Catalan language. In 2010, they closed their bookstore on Gran Via to open a smaller one, on Gran de Gràcia. Ten years later, and with the support of magnate Tatxo Benet, co-founder of Mediapro, Ona Llibres reopened in the heart of the city, not far away from where it started. The interior design, created by the Mediapro team, is playful and surprising and, by far, the two most notable features are the event/reading room, as well as the children space – where you can leave your kid to play while you’re busy checking the titles. Last but not least, the graphic identity of Ona Llibres, is signed by international studio We Are Mucho.


“There are books so delightful that I’d like to stay and live there” said Catalan journalist Emili Manzano i Mulet. There are also bookstores – as charming as the books, I’d add.

onallibres.cat

Camelia Art Café. Plant Oasis

Lots of plants, cushions with floral patterns, and an extensive collection of China cups and pots for coffee and tea: these were the details that immediately caught my eye when I went to Camelia art café for the first time.

Camelia Art Cafe interior

Camelia is cozy and chic, and it’s definitely an oasis to escape the mundane world outside. Close to Avenida Gaudí and Sagrada Família, this café is the right place for spending an afternoon with a friend, or starting the Sunday with a sweet treat. As a big fan of specialty coffee, let me just say that they have one of the best, in the area.


I go to Camelia every once in a while. It’s one of these places that make time stop, and leave room for a relaxed conversation or some reading. Besides, here I’ve had one of the best matcha lattes ever, as well as some gorgeous hot chocolates, not to mention the sweets!

Camelia Art Cafe hot chocolate

These vintage china cups always make me think of my childhood, and my grandma house. At Camelia, they come in all shapes and sizes. But, for being thin and delicate, they also break easily, and the barista once told me it was quite challenging to find the right temperature so that the china doesn’t break but the coffee is right.

Camelia Art Cafe espresso machine

As tastes to go with a coffee or a tea, I strongly recommend the lemon and rosemary cake, it’s a fantastic combination of soft dough with fresh notes of fruit and this aromatic plant which I haven’t tried in sweets, before.

Camelia Art Cafe espresso and rosemary cake

Another good choice at Camelia would be their alfajores de maicena – cornstarch cookies filled with caramel which, like the entire menu, are made in house. These alfajores are a sweet treat that especially the Argentinians are crazy about, and they them for breakfast, birthdays, celebrations, almost everything. The original recipe, of Arab origin, was brought to America by the Spaniards, during the ages of the colonies.

Camelia Art Cafe matcha latte

There are other things in Camelia’s menu like toasts, Benedict eggs or cheese plates, which I haven’t tried yet so I’ll go back sometimes soon. In the meantime, you can check their menu here and find out more from their IG account.

Camelia Art Cafe coffee cups

Enjoying JOYA

Jewellery is meant to be a joy for the eye, and JOYA Barcelona showcase a marvelous feast with their ongoing 2020 exhibition of creative designs.

Joya Maria Blondet

Space Continuity collection by Puerto Rican artist Maria Blondet.


Carrer de Banys Nous, a scenic street in the heart of the old quarter which got its name from the Jewish baths, built there about 800 years ago, is filled with eateries and nice stores. One of the iconic ones is Artesania de Catalunya, a place to shop authentic local craft, and also a place to see local art. Until the end of November 2020, they are running the JOYA exhibition – an array of delicate visual stories, made of silver, gold, glass, porcelain, resins or fiber, and created by artists and schools from around the world, Barcelona included of course.

Joya Marc Sallent

Craft-tech is a special section of the exhibition for artisans who combine handcrafting with the new technologies. I was fascinated by the thread portraits created by Barcelona-based Marc Sallent.


London-based jeweller Liana Pattihis created a collection with porcelain pieces from Japanese tea cup, silver, and patinated chains.


Youjin Um from Seoul prefers working with metal and especially with silver.


Joya Chama Navarro DOR museum award

Spanish designer Chama Navarro from Madrid won the DOR Museum award for her handmade work with sustainable, ecological, and environmentally friendly materials. She experiments with organic shapes and textures and works in glass and metal. DOR is a museum dedicated to jewellery and located near Girona. It is a private initiative run by the workshop d’Or Joiers from Barcelona.


The winner of the 12th edition of JOYA is Korean artist Namkyung Lee with her Image Space collection – a series of silver and cooper brooches with city images printed on acrylic.


A part of the exhibition is dedicated to art schools, and below are the creations of Jesus Delonso and Sonia Marin, respectively, both selected from Escuela ARTE 3 Madrid.


More details: Artesania Catalunya | Klimt02 | JOYA Barcelona.