The comarca of La Garrotxa is known for many reasons: its nature, volcanoes, gastronomy, landscape and architecture. It is a comarca of the Old Catalonia and, therefore, the Romanesque churches and hermitages are common. After the Romanesque, Modernism is also important. This route is complemented by two others: Authentic Olot and Olot volcanoes. All of them offer routes focusing on different aspects which can help us to discover the city of Olot.
Modernism is an European cultural movement dating from the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th known as Art Noveau. It is a movement which seeks new Modern shapes. Although it is mainly known for its architecture and painting, it is also present in the other artistic disciplines. Aside from Antoni Gaudí, thre greatest exponent of the movement, there are also other Catalan names related to Modernism such as Santiago Rusiñol or Ramon Casas.
Catalonia is one of the places in Europe where Modernist architecture had a greatest impact. Its golden age coincided with an economic, cultural and political growth which contrasted with the Spanish decadence of the time. This movement became the tool for the new and powerful well-off population to show their economic power, artistic taste and Catalan pride. Modernism accepts new styles and colours, seeks inspiration in nature and usually uses sinuous lines to express sensuality and beauty.
We will start this route in Olot, where we will visit the Modernist buildings while wandering. We will even see some Noucentista ones. We will then explore some other towns of the comarca which also have Modernist constructions. To have a better understanding of the buildings we recommend you to read the text which tells us their individual features. We will see both new and old Modernist buildings.
We will start this route in the Hospie which houses La Garrotxa Museum, which has a great collection of paintings and sculptures of different styles and times, focusing on the Olot School of Landscape.
In the Àngel square there is the Ferrer patisserie, reformed in 1907 by Alfred Paluzié. Both the original furniture and the decoration of the 1907 reform have been preserved. One of the shop’s most remarkable elements is the floorboarded ceiling.
If we go to Olot’s oldest part, in the area between the Carme and the Tura, there are three Modernist buildings close to one another. Can Escubós is located in Baix del Tura Street 1-3 – Major Street 22 and is next to Pujador house. You can easily see it because it has decorated balconies a round tower. The style is eclectic and a bit Medieval. Can Escubós, reformed in 1907, is opposite. The balconies and openings are decorated with floral motifs, as well as red and green floral ceramics which contrast with the light green colour of the façade, typical features of Modernism.
Wandering around Major Street and its surroundings is a pleasure for the eye, since the lifely commercial life combined with the local products, the artistic elements and the quality materials create a spectacular view. Once we get to the end of the street, right in front of Sant Esteve church, we will face Gaietà house, one of the most beautiful and known houses in Olot. It is a three façade building full of colours right in the middle of the city. Like other buildings of the city, the merlons and the decoration have been clearly influenced by a Medieval style. The use of white and the greenish glazed ceramic help the openings to stand out. This house is a great example of Modernist style.
Sant Esteve church is documented since the 10th century, when it was located in the outskirts of Olot. It has been reformed over the centuries and nowadays it is Baroque style, although the stairway was built at the beginning of the 20th century.
Opposite Gaietà house there is the Firal, officially called Passeig Miquel Blay. The Solà-Morales house stands there. The building was reformed in 1781 by the famous Italian architect Britlli. Later, between 1912 and 1916, Lluís Domènech i Montaner reformed the façade and some rooms, combining the old Baroque elements with the new Modernist shapes. The elegant sculptures of the balcony are worth noting. Close to the Solà-Morales house, in Passeig Bisbe Guillamet, known as El Firalet, there is Can Joanetes, an old textile factory reformed in 1994 which nowadays houses Olot’s city hall.
The last Modernist building which we will be able to see in the old centre is Gassiot house, in Sant Rafael Street. This house, built by the doctor Jaume Gassiot Magret in 1911, was desgined by Alfred Palouzié. Among all Paluzié’s houses, this is the most Medieval one, although it is also Modernist. The neo-Gothic arches in the main façade, as well as the detailed wrought iron balustrade are of great interest.
We will now head to Olot’s new part, which was constructed at the beginning of the 20th century, after the city walls were demolished. Leaving the old centre in the direction of Les Preses, after Clarà square there is the Passeig de Barcelona, which leads to Malagrida expansion district, desgined in 1916. Here there are several interesting buildings such as Malagrida tower, which now is a youth hostel, and also Can Gou tower.
Manuel Malagrida was a man from Olot who had made a fortune dealing with tobacco in Argentina and, once back in his home town, donated some money for this project. Everything was designed by Malagrida, together with the municipal architect, Joan Roca Pinet. He followed an urban reform plan made by Alfred Paluzié ten years before. The wide avenues, the big squares and the streets layout turned it into a singular quarter. It is a great place to wander and visit the Parc Nou or the Moixina settings: a magic place with a beautiful landscape which has been a source of inspiration for many painters and artists.
The most remarkable buildings of the expansion district have left behind Modernism and follow the characteristics of Noucentisme. Firstly, there is the Masramon house, made by Rafael Masó and built in 1914 under the orders of Josep Maria Masramon, lawyer of the Regionalist League. It is a mixture of Modernism and Noucentisme. Close by, in Bisbe Vilanova Street there are two industrial Noucentist buildings, one opposite the other: Descals factory and Sacrest garage.
We have been able to see how at the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th both the economic power and the taste were combined to create exceptionally beautiful buildings.
However, Modernism was also present in other towns of the comarca. The Vall d’Hostoles, for example, also has several Modernist buildings. In Sant Feliu de Pallerols there is Can Casas, dating from the beginning of the 20th century it was first a café and later a chemist.
On the other hand, in Les Planes d’Hostoles there are also several Modernist buildings. Les Escoles is one of the most emblematic. A few metres away there is Can Garay, built in 1906. It has a big garden and a tower covered with glazed ceramic. In Les Planes there is Dels Tilers tower. This house was designed in 1912 by the architect from Barcelona Enric Sagnier (1858-1931), who also designed the famous Tibidabo in Barcelona. Over the years it has been reformed and has had a singular history.
In the Vall de Bianya there is Mas La Riba in Hostalets de Bianya, a manor house built in the 14th century and reformed in 1906 by Rafael Masó, who found his source of inspiration in the English and Nordic domestic architectures, as you can appreciate in the tower with a big English style garden and an intricate Modernist ornamentation.
Modernism has invited us to take a tour around the city of Olot and some towns in La Garrotxa, which were lucky to see the construction of buildings during this extraordinarily creative phase of the Catalan architecture. A period of our history in which the economic growth and the willingness to create a new country lead to these works of art which we can still admire today.
They have all contributed to this amazing heritage which we can enjoy and admire.