A rainy afternoon seems like a good time to write about the House of Umbrellas in Barcelona.
The House of Umbrellas (Casa dels Paraigües) is located on Las Ramblas, the busy major thoroughfare and pedestrian walkway in the center of the city.
The building is close to the popular market La Boqueria and just a few steps away from one of Joan Miro’s Pla de l’Os mosaics, a circular mosaic embedded in the walkway.
If you’re busy looking at the flower vendors and cafes along the walkway or the crowds of pedestrians, you might miss the House of Umbrellas.
But if you glance up at the House of Umbrellas, you’ll be surprised by the appearance of an imposing dragon seemingly flying alongside a building, holding a bamboo lantern and flying above a large umbrella. The building is decorated with umbrellas and Asian and Egyptian art. The building definitely is distinctive.
Bruno Cuadros opened his umbrella shop on the ground floor of this building in 1854. Business was so successful that four years later, he bought the building. The ground floor continued to be the umbrella shop. The second floor was his family’s home, and he rented out the third floor.
In 1883, he hired modernist Catalan architect Josep Vilaseca to refurbish Casa de Burno Cuadros in preparation for the 1888 Universal Exposition in Barcelona. Cuadros wanted Vilaseca to add Asian and Egyptian designs, which were popular at the time.
Vilaseca created the arrangements of cast iron umbrellas and fans that decorate the exterior walls and added a fourth floor to the building.
The most dramatic art feature is the 550-pound dragon sculpture.
The dragon is a symbol of Barcelona, and the dragon at House of Umbrellas is one of the city’s most notable dragons. Based on photographer Josep Martinez’s book ‘Drakcelona,’ about 400 dragons are part of the art and architecture of Barcelona.
The House of Umbrellas dragon is a Chinese Dilong dragon. According to Eastern legends, the Dilong dragon watches the skies and brings rain, making the dragon an appropriate decoration for the umbrella shop.
For his design of Casa de Bruno Cuadros, Vilaseca won First Prize in Decoration from the Barcelona City Council. One of Vilaseca’s best known architectural creations was Barcelona’s Arc de Triomf, created for the 1888 Universal Exposition.
But if the rain starts when you are walking on Las Ramblas, don’t rush to The House of Umbrellas to purchase an umbrella. The House of Umbrellas is now occupied by a bank.