Among the more recent tourist attractions in Barcelona, the Recinte Modernista (Modernist Complex) is set in what was surely one of the most beautiful public projects in the world: the Hospital de Sant Pau. A World Heritage site, the complex is extraordinary in its setting and style, and in the idea that inspired it. Architect Lluis Domènech i Montaner believed that trees and flowers and fresh air were likely to help people recover from what ailed them more than anything doctors could do in emotionally sterile surroundings. The hospital wards were set among gardens, their brick facades topped with polychrome ceramic tile roofs in extravagant shapes and details. Domènech also believed in the therapeutic properties of form and color, and decorated the hospital with Pau Gargallo sculptures and colorful mosaics, replete with motifs of hope and healing and healthy growth. Begun in 1900, this monumental production won Domènech i Montaner his third Barcelona "Best Building" award in 1912.
(His previous two prizes were for the Palau de la Música Catalana and Casa Lleó Morera.)
No longer a functioning hospital (the new Sant Pau—comparatively soulless but fully functional and state-of-the-art—is uphill from the complex), many of the buildings have been taken over for other purposes. The Sant Manuel Pavillion, for example, now houses the Casa Àsia, a comprehensive resource for cultural and business-related research on all the countries of Asia, with library holdings of books, films, and music from each of them. Tours of the Complex are offered in English daily at 10, 11, 12 and 1 pm.