Photographing Sant Pau Hospital


Barcelona’s Sant Pau Hospital has been completely renovated to preserve and reveal its minutest architectural and decorative detail and to currently be Europe’s largest Art Nouveau site.

A few blocks away from Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, Sant Pau Hospital is one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites since 1997 now completely renovated and accessible to the general public. The hospital, designed by Catalan architect Lluís Domènech i Montaner –an architect contemporary to Antoni Gaudí and also author of the Palau de la Música Catalana in Barcelona– was projected as a city within the city like a sum up of widely spaced colorful pavilions, well ventilated and oriented and surrounded by gardens intended to help the sick to get better sooner. 

Photographing Sant Pau Hospital meant giving a very special attention to a daring but also accurate representation of the colors of the buildings, rich and saturated under the bright and crisp autumn and winter sunlight. As you may know, the Art Nouveau architecture in Catalonia –also known as Modernist– finds its main inspiration in Nature as opposed to the industrial architecture of the mid XIXth century, thus resulting in buildings with such organic shapes and fantastic colored materials and decorative details.

Maybe the most difficult part of taking these photographs of this superb piece of civil architecture has been to stop and look at the building by leaving behind all the strong sentiments and feelings it awakens in me as a person.

This hospital –still in use up to year 2009– is actually the hospital in my neighborhood, where some of the members of my family have been cured from severe illness and were some of them have also died, the place also where my sister studied Medicine ... 

I should maybe confess that I have a special consideration for this building for the close relationship that links it to me and my family history, but I should also had to admit that these kind of feelings have worked also as a strong motivation in going more than a hundred extra miles in giving the best of me as an architectural photographer to portray Sant pau Hospital in all the glory that this World Heritage Site deserves.

As Humberto Rivas, one of my photography teachers once told me: “Photographers have a soul”, an assessment that I now understand in all its deepest meaning.


David Cardelús