Santa Caterina Market, Barcelona, Spain

Enric Miralles & Benedetta Tagliabue
Date Built
Av de Francesc Cambo
Jonathon Glancy writing in the Guardian on August 8, 2005, described the renovated Santa Catarina Market as, "... a glorious thing. Here is a retail food market, utterly unlike a morgue-like British supermarket, glistening with fresh fish and seafood, bloody with skinned rabbits and poultry, gleaming with fruit and vegetables, set under a suitably theatrical roof. Appropriate, not just because the newly re-opened market is a the kind of vivid public space dreamed of by soulful city planners and big-spirited architects, but also because this is the city of Gaudi, the saintly patron of a much-admired urban culture that thrives on surrealism in architecture. The hundred or so market stalls housed in this three-level structure, close to the city's medieval cathedral, dedicated to Saint Eulalia, the Lusitanian martyr, are covered with a great, wave-like roof adorned with a magic carpet of 325,000 colourful ceramic tiles lifted on writhing, and intertwining, steel columns."  Unfortunately, to fully appreciate these waves of vibrant colours you need to be a pigeon or to be looking down from the top of the cathedral.

As you can gather from the outside walls, this is not a new market.  The Santa Caterina Market was actually built in 1845 to serve the local "blue-collar" community.  It occupied the site of the former Convent of Santa Caterina. 

The journey from brief to completion for this building was a long one as Johnathon Glancy explained, "... The architects were asked to squeeze together the revived market, the plan of which was constantly changing, a museum, two blocks of 59 low-rent social housing for senior citizens, an ambitious underground car park for articulated lorries serving the market and 250 cars together with an "organic waste depository" for the Santa Caterina and La Ribera districts of the city centre. All of which is rather like being asked to erect a circus Big Top in the kitchen while builders are busy working on the rest of your house. And the garden shed, too.

Somehow, all these disparate elements fit together happily, as these things do in Barcelona; but, to make life more difficult, and interesting, for everyone involved, building works on the market uncovered the foundations of a substantial Dominican monastery that had been torched by anti-clerical Catalan revolutionaries in 1835.

Alongside these were the remains of what is thought to be the first wholly Gothic church in the city, dating from 1241, and, to keep the archaeologists digging, ruins of a late Roman necropolis. The market nailing a lid on these ghosts of the city's past was built between 1844 and 1848. A century and a half later, this building was creaking like some antique ship well past her sail-by date, which is where EMBT came to the stuttering, halting rescue.

The answer was to house the whole market under an ambitious and eye-catching roof, to provide both generous and uninterrupted shelter and a colourful sense of identity and place."