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26 Nov 2013 | Estimated reading time: 5 minutes |
Fake Architecture

Top 5 'Fake' Monuments

Top 5 'Fake' Monuments

Discover the Buildings Where Not All is What it Seems

Looks can be deceiving in Barcelona. Some of the most known artistic works aren't in fact original and some of the history isn't widely known, on occasions even being falsified. Sit back and relax as we discover these buildings and their real history.

  • The Gothic Quarter

    The Gothic Quarter
    The Gothic Quarter

    It's probably widely known that the 'Gothic' Quarter isn't quite as it seems despite the fact that it's actually one of the most famous and visited areas in Barcelona. Many of the buildings in this zone have been renovated or built from scratch during the 19th and 20th centuries as Barcelona hosted two International Universal Expositions (one in 1888 and another in 1929). The majority of the architecture then, isn't technically gothic, but rather neo-gothic. "The Neo-Gothic Quarter" doesn't quite roll off the tongue though.

    The 'Centre Excursionista de Catalunya' building and the 'Casa de l'Ardiaca' are two known examples of "false" buildings, even so, they were declared as national historic monuments in 1924 despite the fact that many of the legal motives stated for the designation were false.

    Professor Agustín Cocola attempted to demystify things through his doctorate thesis, various articles, and a book on the subject. There are even tourist routes about the invention of the Gothic Quarter.

    Of course, there are buildings and structures that date as far back as the Roman era in this area of Barcelona, so don't feel completely cheated! Just don't go around thinking everything in the area is actually gothic...

  • The Columns of Montjüic

    Columns of Montjüic
    The Columns of Montjüic

    The Columns of Montjuïc have a controversial history and in 2010 they reappeared. However, these aren't the originals, which were sadly destroyed during the reign of the dictator Primo de Rivera.

    Located on Avenida María Cristina, the original columns were erected in 1919 for the Universal Exposition of 1929. They represent the 4 bars on the Catalan flag, which a highly nationalist dictator like Primo de Ribera most certainly didn't approve of. He made many changes to the area, like naming the Plaza nearby Plaza de España, and removing the columns was just one of those changes. The architect Puig i Cadafalch who was in charge of renovating most of the area was made redundant.

  • Ciutadella Park

    Ciutadella Park
    Ciutadella Park

    This park was redesigned in 1888 for the upcoming Universal Exposition at the time. Built just a few centuries ago, the history of Ciutadella Park has taken many turns

    Prior to that, it was a fortress built in 1714 by Philip V after he put an end to Catalonia as a nation. This building, in which many located were forced to work, has been controversial throughout its history. Due to the connotations of the fortress, it was ordered to be demolished and rebuilt several times throughout the history of the area.

    When it was finally rebuilt in 1888 as a park before the exposition arrived, they added various sculptures and works of art to mimic the style of the century that came before it.

  • The Roman Columns

    The Roman Columns
    The Roman Columns

    Also known as the Columns of Hercules, these formed a part of the original Roman temple to Augustus Caesar in Barcelona. They're the only part of the temple that remain... But is that really true?

    Well yes and no. In reality, out of the four columns that you can find in the Gothic Quarter of Barcelona, three of them are real and one of them is a reconstruction. They didn't find the columns in whole pieces and they had to rebuild them from the original parts. An imitation was displayed nearby at Plaça del Rei and it was later decided to display it alongside the originals.

    Anyway, the majority of the monument is original and they're worth seeing up close. Can you figure out which one is false? If you want the closest look possible you can even stay in Apartment Llibreteria Augustus, which has the monument right beside the bedroom balcony!

  • Barcelona Pavilion

    The German Pavilion
    Barcelona Pavilion

    It's also called the German Pavilion and was constructed on Montjuïc for the Universal Exposition of 192. Its original design was a huge success, showing Germany as a progressive and modern state in the post-WWI era.

    Despite its success, just one year after the exposition, the German Pavilion was dismantled as financially it was never realistic to keep it open permanently after the exposition. Rather than use the building for something else, the building was demolished, with the materials being used throughout German buildings.

    Of course, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe went on to establish himself as one of the greatest architects of the century. Even though the pavilion had only lasted one year, it inspired hundreds of artistic works, even down to the "Barcelona Chair", which is considered a design icon. It's no wonder then that during the 80s an initiative was created to reconstruct the building according to the original plans, attempting to use materials from the same sources as the original buildings. It was said to cost around $1.5m at the time or $3.5m in today's terms.

    Thus the Mies van der Rohe Foundation in Barcelona was created, dedicated to modern architecture and the preservation of the reconstruction. The original DNA though, is hidden throughout Germany.

Miscellaneous Falsifications

City Hall Facade
City Hall Facade

It's not all large monuments that are reconstructions or hide some sort of secret. For example:

  • The rose window of Santa Maria del Mar: The original broke in 1428 during an Earthquake and resulted in the death of two people. Also, much of the building had to be restored in the 1930s after being set ablaze for 11 days on end.
  • Barcelona Cathedral door: On the facade on Carrer Pietat, there is a relief of "La Pieta". It's made of plastic though, as the original had various attempts of robbery laid upon it.
  • Amorat. Also plastic: For exactly the same reason, the sculpture of Amorat in Casa Pich i Pon by Plaza de Cataluña has also been substituted after various attempted robberies.
  • The Angel of Portal del Ángel: During the middle ages there was a festival in which pregnant women would ask for the protection of the angel, but the figure along with the festival moved to Hostafrancs. The current one on Portal del Angel is from a suitably named sculptor; Ángel Ferrant Vázquez, and was made in the 20th century.
  • City Hall Facade: In the 19th century, during the construction of the facade of the City Hall on Plaza Sant Jaume, the municipal architect decided to demolish another facade which faced Carrer Ciutat due to the 'bad reputation' of the gothic style. The gothic doorway was created again... but with disastrous results...

These have been some of the biggest architectural deceptions in Barcelona. Nothing too devastating hopefully. Do you know of any more? Let us know by dropping a comment.

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Guest Writer

Lola García Lola García
Local expert in Barcelona. I love to travel and Catalonia. My passion is to write on my blog to help you discover my dearest city. For any questions, I'm right here where you need me. (✿◠‿◠)

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