A charming route through modernist A Coruña

A charming route through modernist A Coruña

A Coruña breathes in history and breathes out culture. Serving as a balcony looking out onto the Atlantic, the Glass City showcases the stunning architectural wealth of its façades and buildings to the sea and locals. Its streets offer visitors a visual route through neoclassicism, historicism, and modernism.

What can you see on a stroll around A Coruña? We will take you on a journey through its history and streets to learn how the break-through modernist style can be seen in some of the city’s main buildings, and can be still admired today.

The origins of modernist architecture in A Coruña

19th century industrialisation was key to the urban expansion of A Coruña and the housing of its workers. The bourgeoisie started to play a key role in local society, and the old city fortresses were knocked down. The old, fortified city made way for urban sprawl, and, with it, the new art trends that came from France and Catalonia at the end of the century, with modernism in the spotlight.

A Coruña, as a symbol of modernity in the Northwest of the Peninsula, constructed buildings following European guidelines. Its designs have broken away from academic architecture and clearly opt for expressive lines. Shapes have come alive. The buildings are like living creatures as opposed to the previous classicism. Façades are decorated with curved lines and floral, marine, and arabesque designs that seem to have a life of their own.

edificio coruña modernista

In the early 20th century, architects Antonio López Hernández, Julio Galán, Rafael González Villar, and Ricardo Boán, among others, imported the ideas of Austrian Otto Wagner and Belgian Víctor Horta, particularly when it came to using wrought iron on façades.

Modernism in A Coruña started at the outskirts of the historical centre and spread out throughout the urban expansion in the 20th century.

A route through the main modernist buildings in A Coruña

The route starts at Puerta Real, a few metres away from Plaza de María Pita, where you will also find some of the best restaurants in the city, which offer innovative dishes based on the riches of the Atlantic.

Casa Rey (1911) combines the new language of Art Noveau with glass balconies overlooking the sea. The movement of the curved façade, adorned with wrought iron and glass ceramics will charm you.

casa rey a coruña

A few metres away, you will find Casa Molina, (1915), with its spectacular façade of vegetable motifs crowned by a French-style hexagonal dome.

casa molina a coruña

Following the Modernist route down calle Real, we reach a jewel of Art Nouveau at number 22 (1902). Here Antonio de Mesa and Julio Galán took inspiration from Víctor Horta to fill a façade that is full of movement and ornamental motifs. Wrought iron is integrated into the windows, and curved shapes intertwine in a dance that turns the sculpture mural into a garden.

calle real 24 coruña

Time to take a break! Sit down on one of the benches in Méndez Núñez gardens and quietly admire Rafael González’s Kiosko Alfonso (1912). Now an exhibition hall displaying art inside and on its façade, this symbol of the Belle Époque was originally designed as a leisure space. 

kiosko alfonso coruña

Plaza de Lugo, a true milestone of A Coruña modernism is very near, atop the gardens. This area also offers travellers a shopping area, particularly for fashion and food.

At number 22 (1911), Julio Galán makes maximum use of wrought iron balconies with flower shapes flanking the main central galley. Next to Galán’s building, on the same square, Antonio Hernández designed Casa Viturro, between calle Compostela and the square. They are both monuments to the Zeigeist of the time when they were built.

casa viturro coruña

A few steps away stands Antonio López’s Casa Arambillet (1912). Modernism reaches its ultimate expression here, with a theatrical façade full of dynamic ornaments leading to a central garland that serves as the axis for the building.

casa arambillet coruña

Casa de los Cisnes is number 11 on the same square. In 1905 Manuel Reboredo designed a modernist façade with tiles inspired by the shawls and fans that were then imported from the Philippines. The house is named after the swan and reed motifs. 

casa de los cisnes coruña

The route goes on to Plaza Pontevedra, where you will find Casa Salorio (1912), built on a triangular plot that Antonio López used to suggest a ship sailing into the centre of the square. A few metres away from the Atlantic, its windows resemble the portholes on an ocean liner.  The doorway is of particular interest, unique in the city due to its modernist coffering.

casa salorio coruña

We continue down calle San Andrés to admire Julio Galán’s Casa Fonte (1911). Spaces were left in the staircases to allow the light to reach the inside of the building, making it lighter. 

casa fonte de san andres

The smell of brine reminds us that the sea is nearby. However, our walk ends further inland, in one of the main streets in A Coruña. Colegio Labaca, a 1912 building by the architect Leoncio Bescansa, stands on calle Juan Flórez. The building is a mix of modernism and the neo-gothic style, with a pink façade that makes it even more unique.

colegio labaca coruña

This is the end of the many architectural routes through A Coruña. Modernism and its influence, still preserved in so many parts of A Coruña, encourage viewers to get lost in its streets and never leave. 

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