Casa Convalescència

Stop 4: The life of the patients. The upper floors

The main rooms on the first floor were the chapel – today the great lecture hall – in the middle of the building and, one on each side, the women's dormitories (to the north) and the men's dormitories (to the south), which were accessed separately by staircases placed at each end of the building. The first‑floor dormitories gave direct access to the balconies and terraces through French doors and windows. The second‑floor dormitories had no outside exits.

The building's perfect East-West alignment was ideal for exploiting natural light to the maximum, with its rooms and terraces enjoying the full benefits of sunshine and ventilation. Domènech i Montaner, following in the footsteps of Ildefons Cerdà (1815‑1876), adopted hygiene measures to improve the living conditions of citizens and patients.

The following can be seen from the top of the stairway, on the first floor:

  • The chapel entrance, with its Neo-Baroque decoration and the coat of arms of Pau Ferran, the principal benefactor of the old Casa de Convalescència. The surname Ferran, deriving from the word "ferro" (iron), was represented on the emblem by three horseshoes, each with six holes. This coat of arms appears in different forms all over the building: on floors, lintels, capitals, stained-glass windows, mosaic panels, and more.
  • A glass balcony surrounding the staircase, with Alfonso XIII-style woodwork and glass panes with ornamental motifs, including, from left to right, the coats of arms of Lucrècia Gualba, Pau Ferran, the city of Barcelona, the Carmelites and Elena Soler. Originally, the windows were close up to the staircase, and movement around the staircase was done from the outside, under a porch.
  • The metallic staircase made of weathering (or Corten) steel. Proposed during the restoration of the building carried out by Tusquets, Díaz & Associates between 1995 and 2000, it improves access to the upper floors and facilitates the building's new functions. The office of the architect Òscar Tusquets was responsible too for restoring the Palau de la Música Catalana, also by Domènech i Montaner.
  • The hospital pavilions closest to the Casa de Convalescència: on the left, the Saint Victoria Pavilion and, beyond this, the hospital's Central Pavilion: residence and workplace of the community of Sisters Hospitaller, who ran the hospital.

As we exit the Casa de Convalescència from this level, we can appreciate the rear façade of the building, which offers a remarkable interplay of volumes, achieved through the combination of openings of differing sizes and shapes, the pinnacles, and three types of domes: the principal dome, which is hemispherical, the four domes surrounding this, which are pointed, and the one that covers the stairwell, which is a flat dome on pendentives. Seen as a whole, the mix has a Turkish feel to it, bringing to mind structures like the old basilica of Saint Sophia or the Ortaköy Mosque in Istanbul, which Domènech i Roura knew well, as his own sketches show. In one of the initial drawings for the project, a monumental fence was placed behind the building, together with a great avenue that would connect the Casa de Convalescència to the buildings beyond it.