Although most of Barcelona’s stories take place at street level, new symbols continue to mold the city’s skyline.
The curved glass tower of the W Hotel, dominating the waterfront by the cruise port, is shaped like a vast, billowing sail. Although designed by a local architect, Ricardo Bofill, it is reminiscent of Dubai’s Burj Al Arab, the self-styled, seven-star hotel that epitomizes excess; like the W, a concept that seems strangely out of place in Barcelona, a city of working class roots.
A more fitting symbol is the Torre Agbar, towering over the [email protected] district in Sant Marti, an area north of the center hoping to reinvent itself as Europe’s answer to Silicon Valley. The pinecone-shaped skyscraper is supposed to resemble a geyser, a nod to Aguas de Barcelona, the municipal water company whose parent company owns the building.
Drenched in colored light after sunset, it is also inspired by the wind-smoothed rocks of the nearby mountains of Montserrat, embracing nature in an open nod to Gaudí and the organic forms of his Sagrada Família cathedral.
As I stand in Sant Marti, I gaze up at the shimmering glass. The tower “has many names, not all of them polite,” says my friend Marc, but I love it; its symbolic connection between the past and whatever the future may bring.
Take me to Sant Marti, Barcelona's Silicon Valley!