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Art nouveau in the valley of Soller

The location of the town of Sóller in a deep valley isolated from the rest of the island, together with its wealth of water and good land for cultivation, were key to its important economic development in the early 19th century. The only door to the outside was the sea, so the coasts of southern Europe and America were Sóller inhabitants’ main destination.

Detalle ventana modernista Can Prunera
Detail art nouveau window from Can Prunera

From 1820 to 1870 there was a significant economic growth in Sóller. It was caused by a major agricultural and commercial development based on the cultivation of olives and oranges as well as the cotton industry, products which were exported by sea to Europe and America. Unfortunately, in the late 19th century there was an important economic crisis in the valley of Sóller caused by the phylloxera plague, the trade crisis of the orange and the loss of the last American colonies. This situation led to the emigration of more than 20% of the valley’s population (approx. 2,000 people) in the early 20th century in search of fortune to countries such as France, Switzerland, Belgium, America or Germany. These emigrants were able to make contact with new thoughts and intellectual currents circulating in Europe. With the return of the first emigrants from 1920 to 1950 new ideas like the “Art Nouveau” known as modernism came to the area.

Sóller is undoubtedly the urban centre in all the Balearic Islands where one can find more examples of Modern Style. With the return home of those many ‘Sollerics’ who were now wealthy and influenced by the new European trends, a large number of Art Nouveau, historicist and regionalist residential buildings were built. They wanted to show their new social status to the rest of their fellow citizens. They built new and luxurious villas, and many facades were renovated following these new trends – depending on the economic possibilities of each owner. This renewing fervour meant that within 20 years the town of Sóller had changed its medieval appearance for a totally modern and innovative one. We must bear in mind that these new rich people were concerned about their town and invested a lot of money to turn Sóller into a real Modern Style city, to such a degree that within Catalan intellectual circles, Sóller had become the model of ideal city of modernity. Their own bank (1912) and the first train and tram of the Balearic Islands (1911-1912) were constructed, the streets and squares were embellished with fountains and trees, the church was remodelled by a project by Joan Rubio, disciple of Gaudí, theatres and cinemas were opened, etc..

Banco de Sóller
Sóller Bank

If one strolls through the centre of this beautiful town and looks at the forged wrought iron balconies, the wood marquetry of doors and windows, etc… we can see that in every little detail of the town there is some reference to the Art Nouveau which led to the moment of greatest wealth of Sóller.

Iglesia de Sóller
Sóller Church

If one wants to see in full the most magnificent example of civilian Modern Style architecture in the Balearic Islands, then a visit to the Museum Can Prunera in Sóller is a must. This exceptional and unique example retains all the original features inside (furniture, tiles, forged wrought iron work, inlaid woodwork, etc…) Therefore this is undoubtedly a must-see if you visit the “modernist” town of Sóller.

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