FLC’s Barcelona Architecture Tour: Exploring Barcelona’s Lesser-Known Architectural Marvels

There are so many fascinating architectural designs and stories to uncover in Barcelona – Rafael Gómez-Moriana shares some of the very best on FLC’s Barcelona Architecture Tour.

FLC's Barcelona Architecture Tour - by Ben Holbrook

Words & photos by your architecture-loving reporter, Ben Holbrook.

People often ask me, “Why Barcelona?”

What was it about the city that made me want to live here… I still struggle to pinpoint just one reason, but what I do know is that I remember arriving in Barcelona and being completely bowled over by the architecture.

It was wild and colourful, like a child’s Crayola drawing after having too much sugar. An explosion of texture, pastel-hues and intricate gothic stuccos.

Everything, from the street-lamps to the public benches seemed to have been lavished with design. I found ornate colonnades, pretty porticoes and ostentatious friezes hidden among avant-garde facades of glass and steel.

It was all so different to what I was used to back home in the UK. Nothing like the utilitarian, ‘this’ll do for now’ buildings I had grown up in.

private architectural tours of Barcelona designed by Rafael Gómez-Moriana from Food Lovers Company Barcelona.Just walking down the street in Barcelona is a joy and to this day, almost 10 years after first coming here, I still find myself wandering around with a sense of bewilderment, with my mouth wide open and neck craning ever upward.

Barcelona’s world of innovative design and engineering… beyond Gaudi

And what I realise now, what continues to hold my interest in Barcelona’s architecture, is that there’s still so much more to explore.

And certainly a whole lot more to see beyond Antoni Gaudi’s famous modernist masterpieces (though they are absolutely visiting as well).

Exploring the MACBA contemporary art museum in Barcelona on FLC's Barcelona Architecture Tour - by Ben Holbrook

Storytime with Rafa.

In fact, some of the most interesting buildings in Barcelona are the buildings that bridge the past with today. The old and the new, fused beautifully together.

Ancient, hulking stone structures that have been embellished with modern materials to create atypical spaces. Historic sites that have been repurposed to host contemporary lifestyles. And these are the buildings, and stories, I loved discovering on the FLC Barcelona Architecture Tour.

Here are a few more reasons why I recommend FLC’s architecture tours in Barcelona:

FLC, aka the Food Lovers Company, in Barcelona specialises in gastronomic and cultural experiences that let you discover the local and authentic Barcelona.

Because the tour was set up to share a passion rather than make money

private architectural tours of Barcelona designed by Rafael Gómez-Moriana

Margherita and Nuria (left to right), whose passion fuels FLC’s unique architecture tours in Barcelona.

This project was born from a love for Barcelona’s rich cultural and historical heritage. Nuria and Margherita have been immersed in their beautifully curated food and wine tours for over 3 years.

But their role as cultural guardians means they are constantly in close contact with professionals from different fields.

private architectural tours of Barcelona designed by Rafael Gómez-Moriana from Food Lovers Company Barcelona.

Light and angles.

And when the pair met architect, teacher and writer Rafael Gómez-Moriana (Rafa for short), they were compelled to act on their shared passion and collaborate in the creation of a range of private architectural tours in Barcelona.

Let me introduce you to your guide…

Because Rafa really is the perfect architecture guide

private architecture tours of Barcelona designed by Rafael Gómez-Moriana

Rafael Gómez-Moriana. Architect. Teacher. Writer. And a truly inspiring guide.

Rafael Gómez-Moriana. Say it out loud – what a name! This Spanish-Canadian architecture critic lectures at university level and writes for international design magazines such as The Architectural Review, Mark, Frame, and Azure.

private architectural tours of Barcelona designed by Rafael Gómez-Moriana from Food Lovers Company Barcelona.

An x-ray view of one of Barcelona’s most interesting buildings.

But more importantly than being academically over qualified, he also possesses that open and encouraging nature of all great guides and teachers.

I’m by no means an aficionado of architecture, but I felt extremely comfortable and free to express my thoughts with Rafa. No question was too silly to ask.

And like Nuria and Margherita, Rafa is truly enamoured of his work and the great architects who have shaped Barcelona. I found his passion and knowledge overwhelmingly inspiring.

Because there’s more to Barcelona’s architecture scene than Gaudi

private architectural tours of Barcelona designed by Rafael Gómez-Moriana

Bridging the past with the present – literally.

Barcelona is synonymous with Gaudi’s modernist masterpieces, but curious travellers willing to dig a little deeper are rewarded with an entire world of different styles and stories.

While most architecture tours in Barcelona focus almost exclusively on the buildings of Antoni Gaudi, the FLC Architecture Tour highlights lesser-known treasures, many of which were completely new to me even though I make a living from photographing and writing about the city.

Because the stories are as fascinating as the architectural designs

private architectural tours of Barcelona designed by Rafael Gómez-Moriana

Secret stairwells (found thanks to Rafa’s professional blueprint reading skills)|.

I don’t know about you, but for me travelling is all about uncovering stories. Yes, looking at a beautiful building is rewarding in its own right, but I’m far more interested in hearing the fables that surround it.

I love to discover the beautiful and bizarre elements of what may at first appear to be the plain and everyday.

private architectural tours of Barcelona designed by Rafael Gómez-Moriana from Food Lovers Company Barcelona.And Rafa seems to agree with me.

While studying the intricate Catalan arches of a beautiful but familiar building, he shared a story that drew me infinitely closer to the subject…

Apparently there was a Spanish architect who studied the Catalan vault system while living in Barcelona. He patented the building technique in New York in 1881 and made more money than he would ever be able to spend.

private architecture tours of Barcelona designed by Rafael Gómez-Moriana

Catalan tiles and tales of tycoons.

The “Tile Arch System” was a simple but inge­nious self-supporting arch which can be seen in buildings across America today. Over 400 structures feature it in New York City alone, including the Oyster Bar at Grand Central Station, City Hall Subway Station, Queensboro Bridge, and the Boston Public Library.

And this, my friend, was only one of Rafa’s many fascinating stories.

Because you don’t know what you don’t know

German Pavilion Barcelona - Modern architecture in Montjuic, Barcelona.

Discovering one of the most important buildings in the history of modern architecture.

When I’m exploring a new city, I want to get out of my comfort zone. I want to experience new things. I want to see the world from a new and different perspective. And that’s what I loved about this tour with Rafa.

As an experienced architect and university lecturer, he has a way of getting your brain waves sparking. He inspires you to think about things you’ve never thought of before, to ask questions and challenge your preconceptions.

German Pavilion Barcelona - Modern architecture in Montjuic, Barcelona.

Building or sculpture?

One of the buildings we visited on the tour was very familiar to me. I must have cycled past it two or three hundred times in the last few years, but I’d never thought twice about it.

It turns out, this unassuming structure is one of the most important buildings in the history of modern architecture. And on closer inspection I could see why. I was completely intrigued.

“Anyone who studies architecture will study this building at some point,” Rafa explained. “And any architect travelling in Spain will come to visit it. It inspired many of the world’s greatest architects.”

German Pavilion Barcelona - Modern architecture tour in Montjuic, Barcelona.

Blurring the lines between inside and outside.

It was built for the 1929 International Exposition and was the official gateway to the German section of the exhibition.

“It’s more like a sculpture or work of art than a building,” I said. And I could see Rafa getting excited that I was also enthusiastic about it, feeding my curiosity with little secrets and facts about its design and history.

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe's German Pavilion in Barcelona

Reflections of a sound.

I felt I had uncovered a new part of myself, a part that wanted to delve deeper into the world of architecture.

Because there’s beauty as well as devils in the detail

private architectural tours of Barcelona designed by Rafael Gómez-Moriana from Food Lovers Company Barcelona.

“But how had I not noticed before? Why was it wonky? What was the significance of this design feature?”

To walk the streets of Barcelona with Rafa is to see the world through the eyes of an architect. He is one of those people who simply notices things you don’t, constantly pointing out little design quirks and hypothesising their origins. Looking for meaning in what appears to be random.

Barcelona Pompeu Fabra University's Dipòsit de les Aigües (water reservoir – designed in 1874 by architect Josep Fontserè.

Inside one of the most beautiful and storied university libraries on Earth.

In the corridor of the university, in a narrow tunnel connecting the new building to the old water reservoir, Rafa pointed out that the entire structure was askew. It was one of those things that you can’t un-see.

But how had I not noticed before? Why was it wonky? What was the significance of this design feature? Or was it just an accident?

Barcelona Pompeu Fabra University's Dipòsit de les Aigües (water reservoir – designed in 1874 by architect Josep Fontserè.

Cryptic light in the old water tower – which is now a fascinating university library.

Again, as with all good teachers, Rafa has a way of opening up your mind to a world of possibilities, to the joy of curiosity, to the beauty that lays before us but so often fail to see.

How infinitely more rewarding and interesting life would be if we could always have a Rafa at our side.

Because there’s an architecture tour to suit your personal tastes and preferences

Rafa guiding us to Barcelona's very own Arc de Triomf - on the FLC Barcelona Architecture Tour.

Rafa guiding us to Barcelona’s very own Arc de Triomf.

Rafa guiding us to Barcelona's very own Arc de Triomf - on the FLC Barcelona Architecture Tour. FLC’s range of architecture tours in Barcelona are thematic, with each focussing on a specific period of the city’s rich architectural and urban history.

Whatever style of design you are interested in exploring, whether it be the icons of Gaudi or more obscure hidden gems, there’s a tour to fit. And if there isn’t, Rafa can tailor one especially.

Available tours include the:

* Medieval Architecture Tour of Barcelona

* Modernist Architecture Tour of Barcelona

* Rationalist Architecture Tour of Barcelona

* Olympic Architecture Tour of Barcelona

* Contemporary Architecture Tour of Barcelona

* Custom Architecture Tour of Barcelona ~ Tailored to your specific requirements

Make it Happen

private architectural tours of Barcelona designed by Rafael Gómez-Moriana from Food Lovers Company Barcelona.

Debrief drinks in a beautiful secret square.

Find out more about FLC’s different architecture tours here.

Tours are always private so be sure to get in touch here to organise and book your tour.

Groups are kept to a maximum of 10 people, which keeps them intimate, and can be conducted in English and/or Spanish.

FLC’s tours last approximately four hours and involve walking and taking public transport (taxis for smaller groups). You can also enjoy your Barcelona architecture tour by bicycle – just get in touch to discuss your requirements.

MORE authentic cultural and gastronomical experiences in Barcelona from FLC:

See all of FLC’s tours and experiences here. 

See the post I published about my delicious experience on the Food Lovers Barcelona Food Tour here.

///


More Essential Architectural Marvels in Barcelona

Discover Casa Vicens (Barcelona) ~ Gaudí’s First Ever House Design

La Sagrada Familia ~ Skip the Line, Do it Right

Casa Batlló – Guide Coming Soon

Rooftop Jazz Nights at Casa Milá (aka La Pedrera) 

Exploring Barcelona’s La Modelo Prison ~ Political Oppression & 1,000 Executions

Visit The Torre Glòries Building ~ Barcelona’s Psychedelic Disco Gherkin

Visit The Montjuïc Communications Tower ~ Olympic Barcelona

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.