My last piece dealt with sidewalks in Barcelona, something which many people do not notice as they are hurrying past. Now let’s move on to something a bit more obvious, if often ignored: street lights. As with its sidewalks, Barcelona puts a lot of thought into the look of how it illuminates the neighborhood. Although there are many interesting new lighting designs around the city, I want to concentrate on what I would consider some of the classic 19th and 20th century urban light fixtures.
What one might call the “classic” cast-iron Barcelona streetlight comes in a variety of forms: single, multi-branched, and even fountain-based. These elegant Victorian lamps feature slender posts and tapered, almost conical glass shades, surmounted by open crowns:
A few of these ornate 19th century lamps sit atop of public drinking fountains, which themselves can hold one or more spigots. The most famous of all is the Font de Canaletes, located at the top of the Ramblas, where Barça fans usually gather to celebrate. Local legend, as is well known, is that if you drink from the Canaletes fountain you will be certain to return to Barcelona someday.
A variation on this classic design was made by Gaudí himself, on his first public commission for the city of Barcelona. He came up with a somewhat unusual, if a bit clunky, variation on this style – complete with Mercury’s helmet – for the Plaça Reial just off the Ramblas:
Also along the Ramblas, one finds an incongruous Chinese Dragon lamp above the former Casa Bruno Quadras umbrella shop, built in 1891:
Nearby, the unusual triple globe pendants of the Carrer Feran almost resemble fishermen’s glass buoys suspended in nets, as one sees along the Costa Brava.
Ferran is one of the few (comparatively) wide streets to cut into the heart of the medieval city and these lights make the most of their space. They are attached to the facades of buildings so as to free up space on the sidewalk, but take full advantage of the additional height and width available to them. More typical of the cramped and twisting corners of the old city, which make full street lighting virtually impossible, is the simple sconce shown below:
Just as the Passeig de Gracia features perhaps the most unusual sidewalk surface in Barcelona, visitors cannot help to notice the equally unusual combination of sinuous broken tile bench and cantilevered street lamp that appears all along Barcelona’s most fashionable street:
Surprisingly enough, this is not the work of Gaudí, but rather of Catalan architect Pere Falqués i Urpí. These unusual pieces of street furniture were installed in 1906. Falqués also designed the overwhelmingly monumental, massive streetlamps that form the spine of the Avinguda de Gaudí, though these were moved here from their original location on a square some distance away:
There are other street lights in Barcelona that catch the stroller’s fancy. Some of them are not even, at present, working lights – for example the ancient torchieres one sometimes finds on very ancient buildings, like the parish church of Sant Vincenç in Sarrià, or the Monastery Church at Pedralbes. Then there are the bizarre, white-painted spiderweb lamps around the Arc de Triomf at the Parc de la Ciutadella. Just as when considering its sidewalk surfaces, there are multiple ways that Barcelona has considered and addressed the question of how to light the way for its residents.