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  • Writer's pictureSonia Cuesta Maniar, PhD

A Brief History of Casa de les Punxes in Barcelona

What is Casa de les Punxes?

The Casa de les Punxes is a modernist early 20th-century aristocratic residence designed by Catalan architect Josep Puig i Cadafalch and inspired by a Bavarian castle.

Casa de les Punxes

Casa de les Punxes History

This building, also known as the Casa Terradas, confidently flaunts the wealth and power of the Catalan bourgeoisie during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The wealthy families who had made their fortunes in the colonies, and profited from tremendous industrial advances taking place in the second half of the 1800s, gave rise to a new upper-middle class in Barcelona. These new elites became loyal patrons of art and culture. As a result, they didn’t hesitate to co-opt the Modernist movement to build monuments to their success. Many of them hired architects to build their sumptuous residences in the Eixample district amid the city’s urban expansion.

The Terradas family is a clear example of what this arriviste social class represented. Bartomeu Terradas i Mont was a well-known Catalan textile businessman. He married Angela Brutau and had four children: Rosa, Bartomeu, Josefa and Angela. After his death in 1901, his widow bought an irregularly shaped plot of land in the Eixample district. Together with her son Bartomeu (who would become the second president of Barcelona Football Club), they chose to invest the money in building a house for each of the sisters. They commissioned the Catalan architect, Josep Puig i Cadafalch, a close friend of the family.

The result was a fusion of the three houses in one building, reminiscent of a medieval castle situated at an aloof remove from society. The idea was that the sisters would live in separate dwellings, while the remaining premises and areas in the building could be rented out so that each of the sisters would receive an income.

Inspired by Neuschwanstein Castle in southern Germany, the architect built six towers that converged conically and ended in needle-shaped peaks; these give the house its name Casa de les Punxes (or ‘House of Spikes’). Each of the three houses that comprise the building were designed to represent the different characters of the three owners. The façade of Angela Terradas’s house (on the southwest corner) is decorated by a plastic panel depicting an angel. A stone frieze bearing her initials 'ATB' (for Angela Terradas Brutau) decorates the upper part of the main tower. Josefa Terradas’s house (on Avinguda Diagonal) features a ceramic panel with a sundial and a calendar with Roman numerals, where the four signs of the zodiac associated with the four seasons are represented. Most dramatically, on the rear façade of her house (on Carrer del Rosselló), a colourful mosaic represents Sant Jordi (or Saint George) killing the dragon from whom he famously rescued a Libyan king’s daughter. The boldly lettered caption beneath reads ‘Santo Patrón de Cataluña devolvednos la Libertad’ – ‘Patron Saint of Catalonia, give us back our freedom’, which aroused some controversy shortly after it was installed. Finally, the façade of Rosa Terradas’s house (the eastern part of the building) is decorated with floral motifs, including a vase full of roses adorned with her initials.

None of the three daughters ever had children; the building was taken over by their brother Bartomeu. Eventually, in 1975, it was declared a national historical monument and in the following year a site of national interest. To this day, the elegant Casa de les Punxes stands as an imposing example of Modernisme (or Catalan Modernism) and its embrace (rather than rejection) of embellishment.

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