The Catalan modernisme style Casa Sayrach occupies the entire corner of Avinguda Diagonal and Carrer Enric Granados. Completed in 1918, Casa Sayrach is the last Barcelona house built in the modernisme architectural tradition. It also happens to be a testament to its young architect’s love of family. Manuel Sayrach designed the house for his father and family, although Gabriel Borrell signed the official paperwork because young Sayrach had not received his certification at the time of construction.
Even if you’ve never seen a Gaudi building before (although is that even possible if you’ve stepped foot in Barcelona), the influence of the grandmaster of modernist Catalan architecture is evident. The space itself is laid out like a temple, with a central nave and two sides that converge on a grand staircase. The undulating shapes on the ceilings, railings, and even door handles easily call to mind the Mediterranean sea. The organic shapes and curves are equivalent to those in any Gaudi masterpiece, but especially La Pedrera.
This isn’t to say that Sayrach lacked originality as an architect. Far from it. He manifested the ocean and its creatures (especially whales and jellyfish) into the rock formations and walls of Casa Sayrach because, as Gaudi, he also believed that stones hold stories. The end result is the disturbing (or awesome, depending on your perspective or mental age) effect of walking out of the hot Mediterranean sun, directly into the inside of a prehistoric whale.
Sayrach created this belly of an oceanic beast as a residential building for his family (and it continues to have residences, so please, shush as you walk around). Whatever you think of his design prowess, his commitment to family remains above reproach. If there’s any doubt, walk around the corner and check out Casa Montserrat, an architectural ode by Sayrach to his wife, who died young at age 26.
Few people can out-emo Sayrach’s wife, Montserrat Fatjó dels Xiprers. She was twenty years younger than her husband and had a flair for the dramatic. Just before she died in 1932, she asked Sayrach to dress her in a wedding gown so that she could receive him in heaven dressed as a bride. She also wanted to be surrounded by candles from the baptisms of their children.
Fortunately, Sra. Fatjó dels Xiprers saw Casa Montserrat, Sayrach’s architectural dedication to her, before she passed away. He set his love and commitment to her in stone, right in the central lobby. There are two Ms for Montserrat and Manuel, plus two five-pointed stars to represent their five children.
Both Casa Sayrach and Casa Montserrat contain much more to be discovered than their exterior facades may indicate. When you’re on A/Diagonal on a hot summer day and walk past the building with a roofline that seems to be melting as much as you are under the Med sun, wander inside and let your eyes adjust slowly to the incredible details and dedication to love and family built in stone.
Address: A/Diagonal, 423
Where to Eat Nearby
La Dama: This swanky, brasserie-inspired restaurant can be found inside Casa Sayrach. (Enter Casa Sayrach and take the stairs on the left up one level for the restaurant entrance.) La Dama feels like you are in the private home of a well-traveled bon vivant. The enticing cocktails and Mediterranean-French food match the romantic vibe of this gorgeously restored modernistic building. Go ahead and break out the LBD, sexy heels, and red lipstick for this date night.
Dry Martini A throwback to the 1950s Madmen years, this so-old-it’s-cool-again bar serves up head-spinningly strong martinis delivered by white-gloved waiters. Banquet seating snakes around the room and the mood is decidedly more fur coats and cigars than espadrilles and tourists.
Green & Berry: Vegan doughnuts don’t sound like they’d bring the boys to the yard, but Green & Berry knows how to make them delicious. They also serve up plenty of vegan, vegetarian, and ominivore lunch plates and bites as well.