La Manzana de la Discordia

The Block Of Discord

The Manzana de la Discordia or Block of Discord is the name given to a section Passeig de Gràcia in the Eixample district of Barcelona.

The Block of Discord is so named because in less than 100 metres we find a major building by each of Barcelona's trio of star Modernist architects. 

Casa Lleó Morera by Lluís Domènech i Montaner, Casa Amatller by Josep Puig i Cadafalch and Casa Batlló by Antoni Gaudí are not only in very contrasting styles but are also considered signature pieces by each of the architects, so the name also hints at the rivalry between the three men.

The Block of Discord is located on Passeig de Gràcia between Carrer Consell de Cent and Carrer Aragó and also houses the very fine Casa Mulleras by Enric Sagnier and the unspectacular Casa Bonet by Marcel·lià Coquillat.

Look out for it on your left, if you take one of the Barcelona Sightseeing Bus routes that goes up Passeig de Gràcia.

The picture above shows the roofs of the five buildings - Casa Batlló is in the foreground, followed by Casa Amatller and the turret on the roof of Casa Lleó Morera is at the far end.

The picture below shows a contempoary postcard with Casa Lleó Morera in the foreground.


The Significance of the Name

The name Manzana de la Discordia is in Castilian Spanish, and is a play on words.

Una manzana can be translated as both 'a block of buildings' and 'an apple'.

The architectural meaning of 'Block of Discord' is very clear and refers to the contrasting architectural styles of and rivalry between the Modernist architects Lluís Domènech i Montaner, Josep Puig i Cadafalch and Antoni Gaudí i Cornet.

'The Apple of Discord' was used in the satirical press at the time and also refers to an incident in Greek mythology - the wedding of Peleus and Thetis.

The picture shows 'The Golden Apple of Discord' by Jacob Jordaens, and this is the myth it portrays.

All the Greek Gods had been invited to the wedding except Eris - the Goddess of Discord - who turned up anyway and placed a golden apple amongst the wedding presents.

The apple had the word Kallisti - the most beautiful - written on it and immediately became a bone of contention between Athena, Hera and Aphrodite.

To avoid argument Zeus designated the decision to Paris, who chose Aphrodite because she promised him Helen of Troy in return and so the incident sparked of the War of Troy.

Consequently, the two meanings of 'Manzana de la Discordia' definitely refer to the the rivalry between the three architects and their desire to create the most beautiful building in Barcelona if not the world.

Catalan or Spanish?

It's worth pointing out that the word play doesn't work in Catalan as the words for block and apple are illa and poma respectively.

This section of Passeig de Gràcia is generally referred to in Catalan as L'Illa de la Discordia - The Isle of Discord, which despite my passion for the Catalan language loses something in translation.

The Buildings of Discord

To be perfectly honest, the basis of the rivalry may have been more between the owners of the buildings rather than between the architects themselves.

At the turn of the century, prominent Barcelona industrialists wanted to show off their wealth and power by commissioning ever more opulent buildings so each building was created with the idea of outdoing the previous ones.

In fact, when the Milà family employed Gaudí to build La Pedrera a little further up Passeig de Gràcia, part of the brief was that it had to be bigger and more impressive than Casa Batlló.

Casa Amatller

Casa Amatller was the first of the major buildings on the Manzana de la Discordia and was completed by Josep Puig i Cadafalch in 1900.

It is located at Passeig de Gràcia 41 so it is in the middle of the block next to Gaudí's Casa Batlló and is described in guidebooks as an urban Gothic palace.

The building mixes Catalan Gothic with elements of a Flemish townhouse and the sculptures by Eusebi Arnau are an important feature.

The Amatller house is now home to the Institut d'Art Hispànic and is a monument of artistic/historical importance since 1976.

Casa Lleó Morera

Casa Lleó Morera was built by Lluís Domènech i Montaner between 1902 and 1905 and is located at Passeig de Gràcia, 35 on the corner with Consell de Cent just down the hill from the other two buildings.

Domènech i Montaner put together a superb team of craftsmen and artists for the job, including sculptor Eusebi Arnau again and interior designer Gaspar Homar.

The building was considered a masterpiece and won the Barcelona artistic building prize in 1906.

In the 1940s, Casa Lleó Morera was brutally vandalised by handbag outlet Loewe, who still have a shop on the ground floor.

Casa Batlló

Antoni Gaudí's Casa Batlló was finished in 1906 and completes the trio of magnificent buildings.

It is located Passeig de Gràcia 43 next door to Puig i Cadafalch's Casa Amatller, which it slightly overshadows.

The popular name for Casa Batlló is Casa dels Ossos - House of Bones - as the building is an extraordinary metaphor of Saint George's slaying of the Dragon and the lower floors represent the skulls and skeletons of the dragon's victims.

The house shows Gaudí at the height of his creative powers and is a work of genius, which must have been frustrating for his two brilliant rivals.

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