The Glassiest of Places

The window in the sleeping rooms at the Renaissance Barcelona Fira.

The window in the sleeping rooms at the Renaissance Barcelona Fira.

The intricate design that covers one complete side of the building was cast in concrete and filled with glass.

The intricate design that covers one complete side of the building was cast in concrete and filled with glass.

I was fortunate to spend two weeks in Europe last month and got to visit a number of countries and cities.

And in the course of my travels, I found the glassiest building I’ve ever seen. I even got to stay in it—and man, was it memorable.

Barcelona, Spain is one of my favorite cities to visit. It’s an amazing combination of history and art combined with a modernista vibe and viewpoint. It embraces history and is cutting edge. The city of Antonio Gaudi embraces architecture as its birthright and showcases landmark buildings with distinction and reverence. So I’d like to say that I researched the city extensively and found this particular building ahead of time. The reality, however, is that it was a breakfast and tour package that attracted me to the Renaissance Barcelona Fira just outside the city. I think there was a higher force at work, though, because the Fira is by far the most unique and “glassiest” building I’ve ever seen—and as you can expect, I’ve seen a lot.

The hallways are all open to the air on one side and a festival of decorative glass throughout.

The hallways are all open to the air on one side and a festival of decorative glass throughout.

Most areas in sleeping and in the public rooms are also divided by glass.

Most areas in the sleeping and public rooms are also divided by glass.

Renaissance gave the two designing architects, Jean Nouvel and Jose Ribas, a free rein in design. The result was two 24-story towers linked by two vertical communication columns to create a large atrium area. You can get a great feel for it with the great photos here and here.

“The symbol of Barcelona is the palm tree,” said Nouvel in a recent interview with the company’s magazine, “so the Fira has vertical loggias and courtyards filled with them, while the rooms have palm frond-shaped windows and lamps that cast shadows of branches across the room.”

One side of the building is open so the two towers are in the open air. What you notice first is the expansive use of glass. In fact, your senses are assaulted by a cacophony of different glasses, designed to create the feeling of a vertical palm garden. The walls are clad almost entirely in green decorative glass. The elevators are glass, as are the staircase and stairwells.

The sleeping rooms are a celebration of the ceramic, as well. Glass fills large custom concrete window openings designed to look like palm fronds. The rooms are all white with decorative glass walls and dividers sporting palm designs. (I must admit, the palm frond windows and totally white room reminded me more of snowflakes in the movie “Frozen” than breezy palms, but it was striking nonetheless.)

“I am an hedonist,” said Nouvel, “and I want my work to give pleasure.” From glass geeks like me, I say “well done.”

2 Responses to “The Glassiest of Places”

  1. Ed Zaucha says:

    Well done – I was there in June but never did the research you did. I mnissed this. What a great city.

  2. Deb Levy says:

    Thanks Ed. Barcelona is beautiful and so many buildings are homages to what glass can do, that it balances out Gaudi, who favored concrete and metal.

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