The Hospital de la Sant Creu i Sant Pau has always been decisive in the development of medicine, teaching, pharmacy and the internal organisation of caring for the sick as individuals. It was one of the first hospitals welfare and quality of life to the concept of hygiene and it subsequently created a new hospital model with its Lluís Domènech i Montaner building.
The Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau Foundation dates back to 1401, when the Consell de Cent (the old City Council) and the Capítol Catedralici (Cathedral Chapter) commissioned the building of the Hospital de la Santa Creu to care for people without resources living off charity. Thanks to a bequest from the banker Pau Gil at the beginning of the 20th century and contributions from Barcelona City Council, building work on the new hospital was able to start in 1902. It had been designed to meet the health needs of a city with a rapidly growing population. The architect Lluís Domènech i Montaner with the new project and the hospital was officially opened in 1930 as the Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau.
By the end of the 19th century, the Hospital de la Santa Creu could no longer cope with Barcelona's population growth or accommodate the advances taking place in medicine. This new reality meant a new hospital had to be built to meet the city's healthcare needs. It was just at this time that Barcelona was undergoing a major urban redevelopment project: the demolition of the city walls and the creation of the new Eixample district designed by Ildefons Cerdà.
It was also around this time, in 1896, that Pau Gil i Serra died. A wealthy banker from a Catalan bourgeois family who had emigrated to Paris, he bequeathed some of his fortune for the construction of a new hospital in Barcelona, the Hospital de Sant Pau. His will stipulated, among other things, that the building had to be the best hospital from technological, medical and architectural points of view, and that it had to bear his name.
As a result, the Hospital de la Santa Creu Board and the executors of Pau Gil's will joined forces and agreed to build the Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau, a project that solved the healthcare crisis in the city and its environs. The architect commissioned for the job was Lluís Domènech i Montaner (1850-1923), a major figure in the Catalan Art Nouveau movement known as Modernisme.
Building work on the hospital's current site began in 1902.
Domènech i Montaner took his inspiration from the trends set by the best hospitals in Europe (a centralised hospital with one building or a hospital divided up into several pavilions). The architect was a visionary in that respect and, with the latest trends in hygiene and public health applied to urban development, he created a hospital divided up into pavilions connected by underground corridors, making it unique in the world.
Domènech had the hospital complex built following a section of his own urban development plan. This design allowed him to create a separate, independent, closed space, with a life of its own, in Barcelona. He designed a kind of "garden-city" to house a brand new hospital model: human, modern and functional but also aesthetically beautiful. That was an innovation at the time seeing as no one had thought it necessary, until then, to have open spaces for the use and wellbeing of patients.
The twelve pavilions by Domènech i Montaner were conceived in isolation, with different medical specialities assigned to each one, but linked together by underground passageways. Time has shown that this was not only the right solution, but that it was vital for the functioning of the hospital site as a whole. The general criteria followed in building the twelve pavilions was to have a transverse structure with light, ventilation and decoration in the wards.
As a Modernista architect, Domènech i Montaner designed a project that integrated every part of the building, which even took industrial applied arts into account. From his architectural standpoint he tried to solve functional problems relating to hospital hygiene and to ensure good medical practice.
The hospital was officially opened by King Alfonso XIII in 1930