The itinerary of Granite Architecture consists of various stops showing various buildings that belong to this type of architecture, the main feature of which is the use of granite as its main construction element. The stops will show you the features of this architectural current and its importance in Andorra.
This current was developed between the early 1930s and the 1960s; it introduced a change in construction techniques, as the stone house with its wall coverings (only for strong houses) gave way to the house where the stone (granite) became the main element: it is placed in plain sight and becomes a decorative element. Granite architecture in Andorra was influenced by Catalan Noucentisme, and is a key testimony of the economic, social and urban transformation of the country in the mid 20th century.
The main characteristic of this type of architecture is the use of granite blocks in the wall coverings of the façades, by using decorative elements and a formal organisation reminiscent of Noucentisme. This architectural model is applied to hotels, multifamily houses, chalets, industrial facilities, schools, service buildings, institutional buildings (the seats of the quarts, the traditional local administration), fountains, bridges and road walls.
The use of granite architecture would not have been possible without the license by the Consell General to build the hydroelectric plant of FHASA (currently FEDA) and the road network. The construction work, especially for the plant, required the direction of Swiss and German engineers who introduced their own construction models and influenced those who worked in the construction, like Joan Vehils and Àlvar Menéndez. Many workers came to the country as well, like Galician and Andalusian stonecutters, and brought their knowledge on granite cutting. Some of them stayed in Andorra and were followed by many others, due to the urban expansion of the country. Furthermore, many Andorrans also had to emigrate to find work, for example, in the construction sector, and they returned to the country with an extensive knowledge of new techniques, such as Pujol from Sant Julià de Lòria, Jovellà from Sispony and Barbet from la Cortinada.
Although this style is known as granite architecture, the type of rock is technically granodiorite, a magmatic plutonic rock made of quartz (grey grains), alkaline feldspath and plagioclase (white grains) and biotite (black grains). Granodiorite is believed to have formed in Andorra about 305 million years ago, at a temperature of 550 degrees and a pressure of about 2.5 kb. The availability of this rock, among other factors, has determined the development of granite architecture. Many quarries supplied stonecutters with granodiorite, the most important of which was the one in Santa Coloma.
Granite architecture is characterized by the use of granite ashlar. Unlike what was done previously, granite is cut into specific shapes and becomes a decoration for the entire façade or is placed around corners, windows and doors. Granite is cut in the shape of a square, a rectangle, a diamond or a honeycomb (its most characteristic and representative shape).
Granite architecture develops in both sides of the Pyrenees: la Seu d’Urgell, Ax-les-Thermes, Núria and la Molina, but its full splendour takes place in Andorra. This type of architecture reflects the social and economic transformations undergone by the Principality from the 1930s onwards as its rural society transitioned into an urban one.
The socio-political situation in Catalonia from the 1930s onwards led many Catalan architects to work in Andorra, where they left their mark through granite architecture. These architects include Celestí Gusí, Josep Puig i Cadafalch (Casa Lacruz in Escaldes-Engordany), Adolf Florensa and Xavier Pla (he was from Andorra but studied in Catalonia).
Noucentisme becomes rural in Andorra, and granite becomes the main material to create a mountain style, although there is a move away from traditional constructions. In this style, granite is not just a simple construction material but also a decoration. Granite is used to create shapes and decorative elements to confer character to the façade, in a perpetual search for symmetry. Construction is rationalised, the first blueprints are drawn and the old master builder gives way to the architect and the contractor.
A new type of elite tourism is developed in the early 20th century, in love with nature and thermal water springs. The first spa resorts and luxury hotels, designed to suit the exquisite tastes of these 20th-century visitors, were created in Andorra. Among them, there is the Hotel Valira (Escaldes-Engordany), designed by Celestí Gusí, a follower of Puig i Cadafalch, and the majestic Hotel Rosaleda in Encamp, designed by Adolf Florensa. Other buildings are built for other purposes, such as the hydroelectric plant of FHASA (currently FEDA), the Radio Andorra station (Encamp), and schools such as the old Col·legi Meritxell (Escaldes-Engordany).
Elements of the itinerary
This multifamily building, which contains various business premises in its ground floor, is located at the centre of the town of Sant Julià de Lòria. It was built in 1950, as indicated by the keystone in the arch of the entrance door, along with the initials RB, which correspond to the promoter of the building.
The main façade, which faces west, is covered with granite blocks, generally cut in the shape of honeycombs, although this disposition is not so clear in some areas, as the blocks are rather uneven. Nevertheless, the blocks are clean-cut in the angles and around the windows, as is customary. The composition of the façades is rather symmetrical, and they include many windows, among which the ones on the final floor, made with bricks. The lintels are made with voussoirs, and the only semi-circular arch is located atop the entrance door. The contrast between granite and bricks on the main façade is interesting.
Murals de ceràmica i estuc esgrafiat