Spain is well-known for its culture, food, arts and literature, bullfights, the La Tomatina festival, football (or soccer), wine and the architecture in Spain. But there are so many interestingly unique things about this country that most people are unaware of. Did you know it’s Europe’s second-largest country and nudity is legal there? Also, according to a few studies, Spanish people live longer. Only the Japanese have a higher life expectancy than the Spanish. Restaurante Botin in Madrid has been awarded the oldest restaurant by Guinness World Records. Spain has given birth to some of the World’s Greatest artists including Diego Velazquez, Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali. It houses 47 UNESCO heritage sites.
Just like these unknown facts about Spain, you will learn about some Unique buildings in Spain that you should not miss on your visit. Listed as per date of construction, oldest to newest.
1. La Foncalada, Oviedo, Asturias | Architecture In Spain
The most interesting thing about this structure is its construction details. This dates back to AD 900. It was created for public use and protects a natural drinking water sprout under it. It is located in Oviedo cathedral and has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site.
2. Barcelona Pavilion, Barcelona
The Barcelona Pavilion is a world-famous masterpiece designed by architect Mies Van der Rohe, the construction of which was completed in 1929. Being an architect, not much introduction is needed for this building. There is no excuse to miss this structure when visiting Spain.
This was originally supposed to be named the German Pavilion and was only a temporary structure to display artwork. But the beauty of the design by Van der Rohe forced it to make this a permanent structure and stand alone as an artwork in itself.
3. La Sagrada Familia, Barcelona | Architecture In Spain
One can’t think of Spain without imaging La Sagrada Familia. Designed by Antonio Gaudi and under construction for over a century, this is a major landmark of Spain. This was the last building Gehry worked on until he died. From the Gothic exterior to the elevated interiors, the whole building is mesmerising.
Apart from these 15 buildings, there are so many more adding to the architectural beauty of Spain. Bodga Ysios by Santiago Calatrava; Casa Vicens, Guell Palace and Park, Casa Calvet, Casa Mila, Casa Batllo and numerous other buildings by Antonio Gaudi; the Kingdom of Asturias in Leon; the Monastery of El Escorial; and Agbar Tower by Jean Nouvel to list a few.
4. Segovia aqueducts, Segovia
The Segovia aqueducts were built between 98-117 CE and are still used to carry from the Frio river to the city of Segovia, i.e. 16 km. The aboveground portion is 728 metres (2,388 feet) long and consists of some 165 arches more than 9 metres (30 feet) high. In the centre a dip in the terrain necessitated two tiers of arches; there the structure stands 28.5 metres (93.5 feet) above ground level.
In 1985, the aqueducts were awarded the Segovia UNESCO world heritage site. The aqueduct was built of approximately 24,000 Guadarrama granite stone blocks. It is one of the preserved examples of Roman engineering, which is a reason alone for an architect/architecture enthusiast to visit this building.
5. Alhambra Palace, Alhambra | Architecture In Spain
Alhambra contains a very rich history which dates back to AD 889. It begins with the construction of a small fortress on the remains of a Roman fortification. By the orders of Yusuf I, Sultan of Grandana, in 1333, the fortress was converted into a royal palace. In 1492, the Renaissance style was introduced into the building when it was renovated into the Royal Court of Isabella and Ferdinand. There were many renovations made after this, adding new styles and destroying old elements.
The Alhambra palace is filled with Renaissance, Islamic and Moorish architectural and art details. Even though it is located in Spain, there is a strong representation of early Islamic architecture elements present in this building that makes it very fascinating and a must-visit!
6. Mosque of Cordoba, Cordoba
The interiors of the Great Mosque of Cordoba, according to Muhammad Iqbal have “countless pillars like rows of palm trees in Syria’s oases.” Some elements of this mosque were inspired by the Umayyad Mosque of Damascus built before it. The layout has been influenced by the Islamic mosques built in the early days.
Its thick exterior walls give it a fortress appearance. A bridge or raised corridor once connected the prayer hall on the west side of the mosque to the Caliph’s palace across the street. The mosque’s naves were decorated with the priceless wine-coloured marble that was brought in from the region’s mountains.
7. El Capricho de Gaudi, Comillas, Cantabria
You can’t go to Spain and not see as many Gaudi buildings as possible. And there are too many to cover, which would still feel insufficient. But visiting this building is a must. The external detailing and the architect’s fusion of Catalan and Moorish design elements make this structure stand out above the rest. This was one of his initial projects and was completed in 1885.
There are numerous tiny details that should not be missed here. A few of these include the minaret and the use of floral tiles on the external walls.
8. Hospital de la Santa Crue, Barcelona | Architecture In Spain
Hospital de la Santa Creu I Sant Pau (Hospital of the Holy Cross and Saint Paul), one of the greatest examples of Barcelona architecture of the early 20th century, was designed by architect Lluis Domenech I Montaner. The works for this began in 1902.
The architect planned to build 48 pavilions, all of which were connected by a system of underground tunnels that were made to keep patients safe from the weather. But only 27 were built. The hospital is filled with paintings, sculptures, stained glass and gargoyles. Today, some pavilions have become the headquarters of important international entities such as the United Nations University or the World Health Organization.
9. Palau de la Musica Catalana, Barcelona
The only concert venue in Catalan Art Nouveau style to be declared a UNESCO World Heritage site, which is a very significant cultural and social landmark of Catalonia. This building was built by architect Lluis Domenech I Montaner between 1905 and 1908.
Domenech I Montaner’s masterwork is transformed into a magnificent music box that unites all the ornamental arts—sculpture, mosaic, stained glass, and ironwork—by a core metal structure coated in glass in the modernist construction. This Art Nouveau masterpiece is not one to miss on a visit to Spain.
10. MACBA Museum of Contemporary Art of Barcelona, Barcelona | Architecture In Spain
This museum is a signature building of architect Richard Meier, designed in 1990. A combination of rectilinear and curved parts form the contour of the building, and the geometry is softened by the outside light that enters the structure through open galleries and big skylights.
The most special feature of this building is the infinite amount of natural light flowing in through numerous openings. Even though it stands out a bit from the traditional architectural style of Spain, it still is a building to not be missed.
11. Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao
You cannot be an architect and not be fascinated by the curved structures of Frank Gehry buildings while wondering at the same time about the usage of negative spaces being formed by those curves. Guggenheim Museum is a must-visit Gehry building when visiting Spain. The Museum was opened in 1997.
This Museum boosted the economic conditions of Bilbao while also changing the way that everyone even architects see museums. The random curves of the exterior, made of titanium, limestone and glass, catch the light and react to the sun and weather. Retaining clips create a shallow central indentation in each of the 0.38mm titanium tiles, making the surface appear rippling with changes in light, giving the whole composition an extraordinary iridescence.
12. Hotel Marques de Riscal, Rioja | Architecture In Spain
After Guggenheim Museum, this is the second masterpiece by Frank Gehry in Spain. Located in the Rioja wine region, and constructed in 2006, the design of this hotel explores the history of 3 centuries. This is one of the lesser-known buildings designed by Gehry, which makes it even more exciting to visit on the trip to Spain. The best part is one gets to stay and relax while experiencing the works of Gehry.
13. City of Arts and Sciences, Valencia
The city of Arts and Sciences is a large-scale urban recreation centre designed by architect Santiago Calatrava, located between Valencia and the coastal district of Nazaret. It covers an area of 350,00 square meters.
The main idea of this project was to restore neglected areas of Valencia and create linear parks that span the entire city. This project will be the link in the chain that leaps into the third millennium. The series of his five buildings planned for this city join the cultural axis with its linearity and offer open and public spaces that also add character to the Valencians. This is not a building to miss when in Spain!
14. Caixa Forum, Madrid
Built in 2008, this cultural building is not only an attraction for visitors but also for the people of Madrid. Designed by Herzog and de Meuron, it appears as if it is floating above the ground, defying the laws of gravity.
This sculptural building resolves various problems such as the narrow streets, the entrance of the building, and the identity of the contemporary cultural centre.
15. Metropol Parasol, Seville | Architecture In Spain
Metropol Parasol is a part of a redevelopment of the Plaza de la Encarnacion in Seville, Spain by architect J Mayer H. This building is a giant timber lattice structure, completed in 2011. The scheme includes an archaeological museum, a farmers market, an elevated plaza, and bars and restaurants, all contained beneath and within the parasol structure.
This modern structure elevates the whole aesthetic of the city attracting thousands of visitors every day.
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