Two residential developments in remarkable landmark properties will offer super-sized apartments at unprecedented luxury levels for the Catalan city
There’s at least another decade to go until what is surely the world’s longest building project, the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, is completed, more than 140 years since Antoni Gaudí began work on it as a fresh-faced architect. But part of Barcelona’s great appeal is its whimsical architecture at every turn and some of it is taking on a new lease of life now as super-sized apartments that offer a level of luxury not seen before in the cutting-edge Catalan city.
On Diagonal – the city’s main east-west artery that has just seen its pavements widened to pedestrian-friendly, Champs Elysees proportions – sits Francesc Macià 10, a former office block that is shaped like an eye, with the canopies over its windows representing eyelids. Designed in the 1960s by Swiss architect Marc J Saugey – a contemporary of Le Corbusier – the building is now being reinvented by Brazilian architect Marcio Kogan as eight apartments of epic proportions.
There is just one apartment per floor, the smallest a palatial 600sq m, the largest – the duplex penthouse – an almost improbably massive 900sq m. Each uses the gentle curvature of the eyeball to great effect (Kogan, incidentally, used to be a film-maker) with a sweeping 300sq m living area framed by a 55-metre expanse of head-to-toe window. The other dimensions are similarly eye-watering, including 90sq m master bedrooms and 80sq m kitchens where you can stand at your Bulthaup island and gaze across the rooftops of Barcelona’s poshest residential suburbs to Tibidabo mountain.
This area known as Turo Park is off the beaten tourist track (it’s too far from the beach), but it’s where the wealthiest locals live. Yet even those with €10m apartments have to stick their car in the nearby NCP and squeeze into old two-man lifts with their neighbours. So with six underground parking spaces per apartment and a whole raft of five-star services including a 24-hour concierge, fitness centre, 20m lap pool and lounge deck, valet service and wine cellar, Francesc Macià 10 is bringing something new to the city’s richest buyers. Prices, by the way, start at around €7.5m and the one-off penthouse is strictly “price on application” (but likely to be in excess of €20m) through Knight Frank.
The duo behind the project – José Caireta and Daniel Castillo, founders of Squircle Capital – have already shaken up Barcelona’s luxury hotel market by developing the Mandarin Oriental on Paseo de Gracia, which has found a willing audience for €1,000-a-night rooms. “We thought we should do the same on the residential front – very high end, serviced by at international standards. This development will have the first 24-hour concierge service in Spain,” says Caireta, who has just hired the Spanish concierge manager of the Mandarin Oriental in London for the job. Also unusual for Barcelona property is the fact that buyers can configure and customise their apartment as they choose – and Caireta and Castillo have paid meticulous attention to the quality of every bit of Italian marble, American walnut and Spanish brass that graces the interiors.
It’s ground-breaking for Barcelona, but there is a new raft of luxury sweeping the city from private members clubs (Soho House is set to open soon) to the cruise liner-sized super-yachts that now park in Port Vell. International property buyers with big budgets are back in the market too, Caireta comments, but his project is also attracting local interest. “Some locals already own this type of property in New York or London and want this experience at home,” he says.
Francesc Macià will offer buyers the chance to live in one of Barcelona’s only Bauhaus-style buildings, but in the genteel Eixample district near Paseo de Gracia, Casa Burés will provide a “once in a lifetime opportunity” to inhabit a modernist landmark designed by one of Gaudi’s old collaborators, Francesc Berenguer i Mestres.
“I don’t think we’ll find a building of this size, substance and history again,” says Marcus Donaldson of development company Bonavista, who are turning the huge and currently somewhat dilapidated Case Burés, built in 1900 as a family home, into about 30 apartments ranging from around €1m to €4.8m through Lucas Fox. Two apartments – or maybe even just one – will inhabit the 600 sq m first floor, which is accessed by a sweeping stone staircase with a stone bear rearing up on the bottom step. Inside, the first floor’s listed interiors include original stained glass ceilings, ornately tiled floors and murals depicting wealthy Catalans at play.
Like Francesc Macià 10, Casa Burés will cater to buyers seeking a level of luxury previously unknown in the city. “Typically, Catalan family-owned development companies have focused on the local market. We’ve seen an opportunity to do a new type of luxury development for international buyers,” says Donaldson, who is talking of putting a pool and gym in the basement.
He is also renovating two modernist buildings in nearby Calle Casp – opposite Gaudi’s Casa Calvet – with apartments up to 180 sq m in size and costing €960,000 to €1.85m through Lucas Fox. There will be a rooftop swimming pool and gym and residents will have the choice of customising their flat with modernist, minimalist or (a mixture of the two) “urban” interior design.
“We’re the first developer to get a luxury development on the market post crisis,” Donaldson claims. “We bought the buildings when we were in the depths of crisis three years ago, but we took the view that the fundamentals are still here and people aren’t finding the luxury product they want.”
Not for much longer, it seems. As this new wave of super-sized flats start to hit the market, perhaps Barcelona is entering a new architectural era – maximalism. More is more, as the super-rich well know.