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CaixaForum Barcelona
© Maria Dias CaixaForum Barcelona

Secrets of the CaixaForum

Discover curiosities of one of Barcelona's favourite museums

By Maria Jose Gómez
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Where does the CaixaForum store the art that's not exhibited? What were the towers originally used for? Who is Casimiro the dragon? It's one of the most emblematic buildings in Barcelona, but the CaixaForum still has plenty of secrets, stories and hidden corners that can surprise even the most frequent visitors. We have a look around, making six stops in the least-known areas of what was once the Casaramona textile factory.

RECOMMENDED: Masterpieces at the CaixaForum

CaixaForum Barcelona
© Maria Dias

1. An exceptional building

The Casaramona textile factory was a benchmark in its day, and was distinguished by the city of Barcelona as the best building of 1912. In addition to being the first factory to use electricity in production, it made the most of sunlight so that employees could work with natural lighting. Architect Josep Puig i Cadafalch also worked incredibly hard to make the construction adapt perfectly to the uneven terrain. And all this while still bearing the importants of the aesthetic in mind.

CaixaForum Barcelona
© Maria Dias

2. Casimiro the dragon

If, instead of taking the escalators to go down to CaixaForum, you go down a few metres to C/ Mèxic, you'll find what used to be the main entrance to the factory. When you get to the door, look up and you'll see a mosaic of a dragon designed by Puig i Cadafalch. The CaixaForum staff call him Casimiro, it honour of Casimir Casaramona, the businessman who commissioned the original project that became the factory. You'll also see a dragon forged in iron that was restored in 2015: the artisans who worked on its restoration were amazed with the quality of ironwork. Be sure to pay Casimiro a visit.

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CaixaForum Barcelona
© Maria Dias

3. Two towers

These two towers are emblems of the building. The taller, the so-called water tower, one culminates in a wonderful conical pinnacle covered in blue mosaic, but if you suffer from a fear of heights, you might want to think twice before making the climb. The other is called the clock tower, although it bears no time-keeping device. In the beautiful ironwork that crowns it you'll see a circular space that indicates where a clock would have gone, but it was never installed. Still, it's a lovely sight.

CaixaForum Barcelona
© Maria Dias

4. Isozaki's secret garden

When you enter the CaixaForum you have to walk through the hall designed by Arata Isozaki, but many visitors might not have noticed that the area designed by the Japanese architect hides a small (and damp) secret. If you go up the stairs opposite the escalators – as if you were going out onto C/ dels Morabos – you'll find a rectangular enclosure that appears to be almost closed, of an unblemished white like the rest of Isozaki's contributions in the building. On the floor a finger of water flows infinitely into a small kind of moat that surrounds the enclosure. This space is also a tribute by Isozaki to the neighbouring Mies van Der Rohe pavilion, which itself is surrounded by water.

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CaixaForum Barcelona
© Maria Dias

5. It's fireproof

Casimir Casaramona commissioned Puig i Cadafalch with the construction of a new factory after the previous one was destroyed in a fire. So he insisted on the need for the new space to be fireproof. The architect complied with his client's wishes, building the two towers and allowing for streets between the naves – where you walk along when you go from one exhibition to another – that act as firebreaks.

CaixaForum Barcelona
© Maria Dias

6. The art you don't see

Who hasn't dreamed of seeing the inner workings of a top museum? That's what a small group of Time Out editors were able to do when we were guided around the warehouse where they store, restore and register many of the foundation's works of art. In the building's basement, with a constant temperature of 21 degrees Celsius and humidity kept between 50 and 51 percent, there are around a thousand works of contemporary art by artists who fill art history books such as Tàpies, Basquiat, Richter – the most sought-after living artist in the world – Baselitz, Sert, Barceló, Julian Schnabel... They've also got a space dedicated to black-and-white photography, and another, more delicate, for colour, where works by the likes of Robin Rhode, Andreas Gursky, Thomas Ruff, Gabriel Orozco are stored. And the graphic art section features more than 4,600 lithographs, prints and engravings. Among the names here are some impressive biggies as well: Christo, Joan Brossa, Joan Miró, Eduardo Chillida, Francis Bacon... And that's just part of the collection. The other part, with the large-format installations, is kept in a different warehouse, and we're not going to tell you where it is, because they didn't tell us! Because clearly we don't know how to keep a secret.

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