Photographing heritage. The Palace of the Generalitat


I have had the immense honor to photograph on assignment from the Office of the President of Catalonia the Palace of the Generalitat on the occasion of the 600th anniversary of the building. 

This singular heritage gothic palace located at center of the city of Barcelona is the seat of the President and the Government of Catalonia: the building is a remarkable piece of civil architecture that now houses the 130th President of the Generalitat of Catalonia, an institution created in 1359 which, since the first presidency of Berenguer de Cruïlles, has reflected over the course of nearly seven centuries the Catalan people’s desire for self-government.

This is one of my most challenging assignments, my first gothic and medieval architecture one and sure completely different to the contemporary architecture that I am used to but I have to admit that there isn’t any difference in photographing contemporary or heritage buildings in terms on how you look at architecture and translate it to images, however.

As you may know from many others posts that you will find on this site, my intent as an architectural photographer is never a documentary,  it is an interpretive one. 

If I may be immodest to quote myself, “documenting architecture definitely has to do with portraying a building nowhere beyond the present while interpreting that very same building in photographs means placing it completely out of time.

The gothic and medieval architecture that I confronted on this occasion of photographing the Palace of the Generalitat of Catalonia raised the enormous difficulty of translating all the historical, artistic, and religious content that the building has accumulated over the centuries integrating all this relevant information without making it obvious but never invisible.

The major obstacle for me then was to exceed the figurative appeal of the many decorative pieces, gargoyles and applied sculptures with thousands of intricate ornamental details, to look for the simple appearance of the elements that supported them in stairs, windows, arches and courtyards to create the essential continuity of mere shapes and adding therefore the fascinating plastic quality of the color changing stone as the different lights of the day passed.”

It is by consciously capturing these bare essential and abstract qualities how you portray an heritage building, how you represent its historical continuity and how you place it out of time.  

An architectural photographer like me rarely has the quite uncommon opportunity to photograph one of the seats of the sovereignty of his nation, so I do hope to have not disappointed all the expectations of the people who have trusted in me and my work.

David Cardelús