A City Within A City: The Santa Caterina Market

Nov 20, 2020

The Santa Caterina Market by architect studio EMBT is a colorful city center that stands out among the surrounding urban architecture in Ciutat Vella, a district of Barcelona, Spain. 

Ciutat Vella, unlike other quarters of Barcelona, is a city in itself and has become home to many historical sites including the Santa Caterina Market. Originally built in 1848, the market originally served as a local shopping plaza for the community. Over the years as the city began to grow and evolve, new commercial complexes were erected to support the expanding economy and the market was left abandoned.

In 1997, the Ciutat Vella’s city council proposed a plan to revitalize the neighborhood and the restoration of the Santa Caterina market was an integral part of the project. 

Architect Enric Miralles and the team at EMBT began the renovation by preserving parts of the existing internal structure and superimposed a new framework to support the exterior of the building. Inside the market was reorganized to allow room for new shops and simplify the flow of visitor foot traffic.

The restoration on the market represents more than an urban regeneration, it breathes new life and color into this small city, thanks to its most notable architectural element, the roof.

Comprised of over 325,000 hand glazed hexagonal ceramic, the new roof acts as a vibrant canopy covering the new town center. The mosaic pieces are made of white clay that allowed the manufacturers to apply a unique transparent glaze. This design element was important in the development of the roof and allowed the structure to be encased in 67 vivid hues.

Today, the Santa Caterina Market is a busting hub of activity that pays homage to the building’s origins. It has boosted the economy, brought in new housing developments, promoted local agriculture  and has become a fitting tribute for this cosmopolitan city.

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