Case Study: How the Transformation of Hotel Ohla Played a Key Role in the Revitalization of an Iconic Barcelona District

Jan 3, 2020

Located at the center of one of Barcelona’s most elegant districts sits Ohla Eixample, a hotel that captures the charm and history of its namesake neighborhood. Designed by renowned architect Daniel Isern, a once neglected office building constructed in the 1970’s has now been transformed into a one-of-a-kind boutique hotel that tells the story of the district of Eixample.

The small district of Eixample was founded during the population boom sparked by the Industrial Revolution. It was initially developed as an extension of Barcelona where families could escape the growing city’s overcrowding.

Now one of Barcelona’s most bustling tourist locations, Eixample has undergone its own revolution that attracts nearly 700,000 visitors each year. The aging roads and buildings of the iconic town have been revitalized with luxury shops, museums, restaurants, and bars for those who seek a true Spanish experience.

One of the most famous and drastic transformations within the district continues to be Hotel Ohla Eixample, however the renovation was not an easy task for Isern and his team. The original structure was constructed above unstable railway arches and was completely damaged and full of code violations.

In order to revive the long abandoned building, Isern developed his new construction around three conditional factors:


Seismic shock absorbers were installed into the foundation of the building and were activated by hydraulic jacks. This system divided the building into two horizontal sections, leaving everything at street level separate from the basement. The shock absorbers drastically reduced the vibrations caused by the transit system below, thus achieving the optimal comfort level a hotel requires.


The interior of the project establishes a dialogue between the preexisting structure, and its use as a hotel. Spaces where concrete, metal pillars, ceiling vaults and other structural material had been left exposed were paired with softer elements such as ceramics, wood, and plush furniture, to establish a truly one-of-a-kind interior design aesthetic.

The City

The hotel itself needed to be designed carefully as not to disrupt the existing architecture and ambiance of Eixample. The facade of this building is one of the hotel’s highlights, and is comprised of more than 1,000 pieces of carved ceramic tile. With the help of Cerámica Cumella and the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia, Isern manufactured an algorithm to carve the tile based on a musical influence. He created a model in which a robot engraved a pattern inspired by musician Max Richter’s composition “Vivaldi Recomposed” into the surface of the ceramic during its extrusion. This process allowed Isern to create an infinite number of pieces, each one unique and different but each featuring a similar pattern.

A magnificent combination of harmony and history, Hotel Ohla Eixample takes guests on a journey through the districts past, present and future. It has become a unique destination that that leaves guests with an unforgettable stay.

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