If you have a pair of sunglasses and a sketch book, you’ll need nothing else in Spain. In addition to the sunshine and its (amazing) food, Spain is also widely known for its architecture. Influenced by the Romans, the Visigoths and the Muslims among others, Spain has a beautiful mixture of architectural styles that have remained or have evolved in very interesting ways. Every single province owns an amazing legacy behind its walls.
The featured projects reflect the culture of the province; sometimes its future, sometimes its past. However, there are many other great buildings that I have not included in order to make this article a little bit shorter.
If you want to get inspired for your next (road) trip, make sure you check these projects.
Check Part II of this post
50+ Architectural Reasons to Visit Every Province in Spain (2/2)
New BBVA Headquarters
Location: Calle Sauceda + Calle Fresneda, Las Tablas (Madrid)
Year: 2015 (expected)
Brief Description: The new HQ of the Spanish bank BBVA is located on the periphery of Madrid, that’s why the project will be a fundamental motor for the development and growth of the city and its surroundings. It is surrounded by streets of newly erected offices, commercial buildings, and residential developments. It’s a “site without qualities”, a desert-like place. The architects proposed the creation of an artificial garden, an oasis, evolving from inside out—a place that establishes a balance between the natural environment and the buildings, and functions like a small city. Read more here.
Other projects in Madrid: Museo ABC (Aranguren & Gallegos Arquitectos), Caixa Forum (Herzog&deMeuron) and Círculo de Bellas Artes (Antonio Palacios)
Escuela de Artes de Guadalajara
Location: Plaza de Ceuta y Melilla, 19005 (Guadalajara)
Architect: BN Asociados
Brief Description: The design of this arts schools was made to promote cultural life, generating transformation, creativity and thought. The conceptual idea of this proposal is based on a linear spine parallel to the main facade. This “spine” acts as the connector of the different parts of the program, vertical circulation and leisure activities. Two main materials, concrete and zinc generate a container, which contributes to enhance the creativity of the youth who will use the building. Read more here.
Other projects in Guadalajara: Sede Social de Caja de Guadalajara (Solano & Catalán), Palacio del Infantado (Juan Guas) and Centro Cultural en El Olivar (Silvia Babsky Nadel and Ramón Valls Navascues)
Museo de Arte Abstracto Español
Location: Casas Colgadas, 16001 (Cuenca)
Architect: Fernando Barja and Francisco León Meler
Year: 1978 (restoration)
Brief Description: The building, located among the über famous Hanging Houses of Cuenca, dates back to the 15th century and it’s been refurbished several times. It has a collection of some 129 paintings, mainly by 1950s and 1960s Spanish artists. Since 2011, the building has experienced a big growth in its visitor rate. Apparently, a Japanese manga TV series has been featuring Cuenca’s landscape. Read more here.
Other projects in Cuenca: Ars Natura (José María de la Puerta), Catedral de Cuenca and Bosque de Acero (Moneo)
FEDA. Confederación de Empresarios de Albacete
Location: Calle Zamora, 40 02005 (Albacete)
Architect: Cor & Asociados
Brief Description: The Confederation of Employers of Albacete (FEDA) is a nonprofit organization representing and supporting the business network in the Region. The building’s concept is based on the idea of ‘diffuse limits’ and ‘blurry’ architecture. The intention was to cover the volume of the building with a veil capable of blurring it and making it change. The building reacts to the weather variations and the movement of users with different levels of brightness and textures. Read more here.
Other projects in Albacete: Comisaría Provincial (Matos-Castillo Arquitectos), Museo Semana Santa de Hellín (EXIT Arquitectos) and Catedral de San Juan Bautista
5. Ciudad Real
Capilla de Valleacerón
Location: Almadén, 13400 (Ciudad Real)
Architect: Juan Carlos Sancho y Sol Madridejos
Brief Description: The Chapel is developed around the study and manipulation of a locally tensed “box-fold”. It is set at the top of a slight rights, making it the reference point in the landscape seen from the property entrance 2 Km away at a low point, as well as in different visions from the entire itinerary. The Chapel has a naked design and lacks artificial lighting. The exterior-interior spatial relationship determines its focus, its meaning. Only a cross and an image at the focal point underscore the symbolic aspects of the project. Read more here.
Other projects in Ciudad Real: Monumento Almodovar (Enproyecto arquitectura), 14 Viñas Winery (S.M.A.O) and Ayuntamiento de Ciudad Real (Fernando de Higueras)
Cristo de la Luz
Location: Cuesta de las Carmelitas Descalzas, 10, 45002 (Toledo)
Architect: Musà ibn Alí
Brief Description: Built over the site of a Visigothic church, the Mezquita is one of the oldest Moorish monuments in Spain. After the conquest of Toledo in 1085, the building was still known as Bab-al-Mardum. It wasn’t until 1186 that the mosque was converted to a chapel, when it was given by King Alfonso VIII to the Knights of St. John and named Ermita de la Santa Cruz (Chapel of the Holy Cross). A transept was later added, along with a Mudejar apse decorated with blind arches. The church portion of the structure is thought to be the first product of the Mudejar style. Read more here.
Other projects in Toledo: La Escalera Mecánica (Elías Torres and José Antonio Martínez), Conserjería de Agricultura (Manuel de las Casas), Catedral de Santa María de Toledo (Petrus Petri/Covarrubias/Berruguete) and Hospital Tavera (Covarrubias)
Hotel Relais Château y Restaurante Atrio
Location: Plaza de San Mateo n°1 E-10003 (Cáceres)
Architect: Luis Moreno Mansilla and Emilio Tuñón Álvarez
Brief Description: This project did an outstanding job in setting a dialoguebetween the original and new structures. The skin of the concrete pillars facade coexists with the facades of the other buildings being extremely rrespectful with the scale of the surrounding historical buildings. Read more here.
Other projects in Cáceres: Concatedral de Santa María, Palacio Episcopal de Cáceres and the ancient fortified wall.
Palacio de Congresos
Location: Ronda de Pilar, 0, 06002 (Badajoz)
Architect: José Selgas and Lucía Cano
Brief Description: Located inside a pentagonal shaped fortress, part of the 17th century city walls. There used to be an old bullring in the site, dating back to 1859. The project uses the bullring’s excavated footprint as a starting point, building the congress hall in the space where the arena used to be, and enveloping it with a semi-transparent skin made from fibreglass rings, that recreates the outer volume of the stands, thus creating a play of solid and void where the main volume is actually enclosing a void within which sits the solid of the congress hall. Read more here.
Other projects in Badajoz: Ancient wall restoration, Caja Badajoz (Antonio Lamela), Museo Nacional de Arte Romano (Rafael Moneo) and Giralda de Badajoz.
Location: Calle Antonio Machado s/n, 21730 (Huelva)
Architect: Donaire Arquitectos
Brief Description: The building is located on the grounds of an old winery. The challenge of integrating existing old buildings, declared as cultural interest, and being part of a cultural complex with a total of three buildings and a common space, resulted in a project full of contrasts. Contrast between interior and exterior, between old and new, including a monumental scale and human scale. Read more here.
Other projects in Huelva: Catedral de Huelva, Nueva Sede del SPEE (UNIA Arquitectos) and Museo y Parque Arqueológico “Cabezo de la Almagra” (Cerrejón Arquitectos)
Location: Plaza de la Encarnación 41003 (Sevilla)
Architect: J. Mayer Arquitectos + Arup
Brief Description: The destruction of the Mercado de la Encarnacion in Seville left a huge void in the urban character of the city center which remained unfilled for over thirty years. The massive timber structure (which is one of the largest timber structures built in the world) draws residents and visitors back to the city center as its striking aesthetic provides a variety of markets and restaurants bounded by the dynamic shape of the parasols. Read more here.
Other projects in Sevilla: Archivo General de Indias, Catedral de Sevilla (Alonso Martínez), Monasterio de la Cartuja (Aurelio del Pozo y José Ramón Sierra) and Puente del Alamillo (Calatrava)
Casa Pinillos + Museo
Location: Plaza de Mina, 6, 11004 (Cádiz)
Architect: Francisco Reina Fernández-Trujillo
Brief Description: The property, a donation by Mrs. Martinez de Pinillos, was built in the last quarter of the XVII century in the backyard of the Franciscan “Nuestra Señora de los Remedios” convent. The house had the typical bourgeois layout, arranged within a patio and was respected along with its facade and main stair for the museum expansion. Read more here.
Other projects in Cádiz: Entrecatedrales (Campo Baeza), Casa Sotogrande (Legorreta+Legorreta), Casa Guerrero (Campo Baeza) and Casa Gaspar (Campo Baeza)
Rehabilitación paisajística de los accesos a la Alcazaba
Location: Calle Alcazabilla, 29015 (Málaga)
Brief Description: The Alcazaba, an 11th century Muslim fortress, is located on the slopes of Mount Gibralfaro, next to the Roman Theatre ruins, with stunning views over the city and the Mediterranean Sea. The intervention aims to overcome the problems resulting from the degradation of the environment, enriching the historical importance by small-scale actions such as Corten steel pathways and ladders. Read more here.
Other projects in Málaga: Tajo de Ronda, Museo de Málaga (Palacio de la Aduana), Mercado de Atarazanas (Aranguren & Gallegos Arquitectos) and Picasso Museum.
Mezquita-catedral de Córdoba
Location: Calle del Cardenal Herrero, 1, 14003 (Córdoba)
Architect: Unknown, Hernán Ruíz (1523), Ricardo Velázquez Bosco (1913)
Brief Description: The Great Mosque of Cordoba is one of the oldest structures still standing from the time Muslims ruled Al-Andalus. Historians believe that there had first been a temple to the Roman god, Janus, on this site. The temple was converted into a church by invading Visigoths who seized Cordoba in 572. Next, the church was converted into a mosque and then completely rebuilt. The building itself was expanded over two hundred years. It is composed of a large hypostyle prayer hall, a courtyard with a fountain in the middle, an orange grove, a covered walkway circling the courtyard, and a minaret. Read more here.
Other projects in Córdoba: Espacio Andaluz de Creación Contemporánea (Nieto Sobejano Arquitectos), Iglesia Parroquial (Vicens + Ramos) and Rehabilitación del Teatro Góngora (Rafael de la-Hoz)
Raudal Fuente De La Magdalena
Location: Plaza de la Magdalena, 23004 (Jaén)
Architect: CUAC Arquitectura
Brief Description: Originally, La Fuente de la Magdalena supplied water to the Roman settlements, later it was used by the Arabs until the arrival of the Christians. This natural emanating water taps not only used to supply Jaen’s inhabitants, it was also used for the five public baths that existed in the city and a large number of irrigated orchards. However, this fountain is known for the Lizard Legend. Read more here.
Other projects in Jaén: CETICOM (ER Arquitectos + non Arquitectura), Museo Activo del Aceite de Oliva y la Sostenibilidad (Antonio Sánchez del Pino) and Catedral de la Asunción
Location: Calle Real de la Alhambra, s/n, 18009 (Granada)
Architect: Pedro Machuca (1529)
Brief Description: The Alhambra, the palace complex of the Nasrid dynasty in Granada, can perhaps be considered as one of the most famous examples of Islamic art overall, but is certainly the culmination and grand finale of medieval Islamic culture on the Iberian Peninsula. Some of the surviving buildings have retained their original appearance totally or partially intact. Read more here.
Other projects in Granada: Caja Granada (Alberto Campo Baeza), Auditorio Manuel de Falla (García Paredes), Edificio Zaida (Álvaro Siza), Palacio de Congresos y Exposiciones (Juan Daniel Fullaondo), Museo de la Memoria de Andalucía (Alberto Campo Baeza) and Museo del Agua de Lanjarón (Juan Domingo Santos)
Restauración de Torre Nazarí
Location: [37º 23′ 12.84″ N, 1º 56′ 7.26″ W] Huércal Overa, 04600 (Almería)
Architect: Castillo Miras Arquitectos
Brief Description: The “Torre de Huercal Overa” dates back to the 13th century: it was built by the Arabs when the Nazari kingdom reigned in the south of the Iberian Peninsula. Located on the edge of a cliff, the existing remains were part of a bigger fortress now disappeared. This raised enclave was part of a defensive belt since ancient times: in the surroundings there are archeological remains dating back to the bronze age. During the Spanish civil war it was used as a bunker and several openings were made to fire machine guns. The main aim of the project was to make the tower accessible, and encompassed the repair and restoration of the original building. The criteria followed were to preserve as much as possible of the original materials, removing modern elements and resurfacing the original mud wall and brick fabric. Read more here.
Other projects in Almería: Museo Almería (Juan Alberto Morillas Martín + Francisco Salvador Granados + José María García Ramírez), Teatro de Vicar (Gabriel Verd Arquitectos), Iglesia de Santa Ana and San Joaquín (RGRM Arquitectos), Castillo de Vélez-Blanco and Alcazaba y Murallas del Cerro de San Cristóbal
Museo del Teatro Romano de Cartagena
Location: Plaza del Ayuntamiento, 9, 30201 (Murcia)
Architect: Rafael Moneo
Brief Description: The Roman theater, built between the years 5. BC and 1 BC in the city of Carthago Nova, Current Cartagena, has been integrated in a big regeneration project which links the monument with a new museum converting the Roman Theatre into its ultimately great hall. The museum, created to exhibit artefacts uncovered during successive excavations, comprises two buildings, joined by a corridor: the first one permits access from the Riquelme Palace and surrounds a yard or impluvium. Read more here.
Other projects in Murcia: El Batel (Selgas-Cano), Palacio consistorial de Cartagena (Tomás Rico Valarino), Casa Consistorial (Rafael Moneo) and Palacio Pedreño (Carlos Mancha)
Renovación Estación Benalúa
Location: Antigua Estación de Benalúa, 03008 (Alicante)
Architect: Manuel Ocaña del Valle
Brief Description: Casa Mediterráneo new headquarters are to be established in the old Benalúa railway station. The most valuable element of the old building is the awesome space above the railway tracks: a 20 m. span covered by slender iron work almost impossible to achieve nowadays. The project focuses on the sophistication of that simple, linear space for trains and thus on turning it into an experience space for people. Read more here.
Other projects in Alicante: Parada de Tranvía (SUBARQUITECTURA), Mercado de Abastos (Enrique Sánchez Sedeño y Juan Vidal Ramos), Café del Puerto (Javier García-Solera Vera) and Castillo de Santa Bárbara
Sant Josep Library
Location: Avenida Manuel Sanchis Guarner, s/n. 46870 (Valencia)
Architect: Ramon Esteve
Brief Description: The library is an isolated building in a green area surrounded by trees that penetrate into the openings of the building. It is a square prism where the inner planes from the distribution define the library space. Between the two cracks, the building opens to the outside and allows the interior spaces to reach the vegetation surrounding the building. Thanks to the winding plan of the interior, each area of the library is an intimate and reserved component. Read more here.
Other projects in Valencia: Ciudad de las Ciencias y de las Artes (Calatrava), Plaza de Toros de Valencia (Peñín Arquitectos), 32 America’s Cup Building (David Chipperfield), El Musical (Eduardo de Miguel Arbonés), Estación del Norte (Demetrio Ribes) and La Finca Roja (Enrique Viedma)
Auditorio y Palacio de congresos
Location: Avd. de la Mare de Déu del Lledó, 50, 12003 (Castellón)
Architect: Carlos Ferrater
Brief Description: The building is conceived as a container of cultural activities and is characterized by the asymmetrical design of its volume. Due to its high position in the city, the building captures sunlight, which becomes the protagonist of the design. The interior of the building is expressed through extremely refined and elegant lexicon while abroad sobriety becomes the key message of this project. Read more here.
Other projects in Castellón: Museo de Arte Contemporáneo (Tuñón y Mansilla), UJI Bridge (Calatrava) and Concatedral de Santa María.
21. Islas Baleares
Catedral de Santa María de Palma de Mallorca
Location: Plaza Almoina, s/n, 07001 Palma de Mallorca (Islas Baleares)
Architect: Jaume Matas, Llorenç Sosquela, Berenguer de Montagut and Miquel Verger
Brief Description: The Seo was built on the site of an existing Arab mosque. The legend has it that one night in 1229, as Jaime I was on his way to recapture Majorca, his fleet was struck by a terrible storm. He vowed to the Virgin Mary that if he survived the storm, he would erect a church in her honor. And after the storm had blown over, finding himself safe and sound, he immediately undertook the project. Designed in the French Gothic style, the cathedral is 121 meter long and 55 meter wide. The vast, airy interior is striking for its large-scale harmonious proportions. Read more here.
Other projects in Islas Baleares: Ibiza Congress Center (Ulargui-Pesquera Arquitectos), Museu d’Art Contemporani (Víctor Beltrán Roca), Consulado del Mar (Pere Compte), Gran Hotel (Lluís Domènech i Montaner) and Catedral de Santa María de Ciudadela
Iglesia del Santísimo Redentor
Location: Calle Volcán Pico Viejo, 38108 (Santa Cruz de Tenerife)
Architect: Menis Arquitectos
Brief Description: Located in La Laguna on the Island of Tenerife, a place that encourages reflection, a meditation space was needed. The building exists as a large piece of concrete split and cut into four large volumes, at these separations movement occurs. This space creates light, allowing to enter and penetrating into the space, they exist as if to signify a higher meaning inspiring a spiritual presence and sense of tranquility. Read more here.
Other projects in Santa Cruz de Tenerife: Tenerife Espacio de las Artes (Herzog & de Meuron), Centro Atlántico de Arte Moderno (Francisco J. Sáenz de Oiza), Catedral de San Cristóbal de La Laguna, COAC (Vicente Saavedra y Javier Díaz Llanos) and Auditorio de Tenerife (Calatrava)
23. Las Palmas
Location: Calle Albareda, 38 (Plaza Woermann), 35008 (Las Palmas)
Architect: Ábalos & Herreros
Brief Description: The Woermann Tower is a virtual forest from which to enjoy the utopia of living immersed in a hybrid landscape. It is part of a complex that includes a public plaza, built stone by the Portuguese artist Albert Oehlen and a seven-story building next to the tower, containing shops and offices. It also has a tropical resort, designed to create a comfortable outdoor enclosure. Read more here.
Other projects in Las Palmas: Auditorio Alfredo Kraus (Óscar Tusquets), Casa Ruíz (Magüi González), Cabildo Insular (Miguel Martín Fernández de la Torre), Catedral de Canarias, Casa de Colón, Gabinete Literario, Museo Castillo De La Luz (Nieto Sobejano Arquitectos) and Museo Internacional de Arte Contemporáneo (César Manrique)
Check Part II of this post
50+ Architectural Reasons to Visit Every Province in Spain (2/2)