La Rambla is an endless box of surprises. A box that opens and allows us to glimpse jewels, including this allegory to Orientalism, the Casa Bruno Cuadros, which used to be an umbrella shop of Barcelona in its time. Its style, similar to modernisme with its use of colour and the delicacy of its decorations, have made the Casa Bruno Cuadros a worthy addition to the photograph albums of many of Barcelona’s visitors.
It was 1883 when the architect Josep Vilaseca undertook the refurbishment of the Casa Bruno Cuadros and the umbrella shop on the ground floor. It was just a few years before the 1888 Universal Exhibition and Barcelona was in the throes of expansion, with interesting buildings being built all over the city. The Catalan home-grown art-nouveau movement, modernisme, was gaining momentum and, with it, the taste for Oriental decorations. The Casa Bruno Cuadros of Barcelona, known by locals as the Casa dels Paraigües (House of Umbrellas) is an example.
Vilaseca combined the prior style of modernisme with all kinds of architectural elements inspired by other cultures in an eclectic building which amazes everyone who walks along La Rambla. The Casa Bruno Cuadros’s balconies and the top-floor gallery are replete with Egyptian imagery. The façade features elaborate sgraffito work and stained-glass windows as well as reliefs of umbrellas and fans made of cast-iron. Orientalist motifs impregnate the outer walls which features intricate carpentry, enamelled glass and paintings of people taken from Japanese prints. The Casa Bruno Cuadros’s most opulent decorative element is the ornate Chinese dragon on the corner of the façade. It was used to advertise the shop, together with the umbrella below it. The building was refurbished in 1980, and a bank now has its premises in the stunning umbrella shop of Barcelona.
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