Barcelona - Sant Antoni Market - 1882
The Mercat de Sant Antoni was designed by Antoni Rovira i Trias in 1882. Welcoming us inside, above the main entrance, is the Barcelona coat of arms, crowned by a bat, and a plaque showing the year the market was built. The metal structure, so typical of the markets built at the time, spans an interior that covers an entire block in Cerdà's Eixample district: an area large enough to contain the stalls that supply the neighbourhood of Sant Antoni.
Sant Antoni actually consists of three markets. As well as a food area with 52 stalls, there are 95 stalls in the Encants (enchantments), the lightly ironic Catalan term for a flea market. In this case it mainly sells cheap clothes. On Sundays, Sant Antoni also hosts one of Europe’s largest open-air book markets, with 78 stalls selling new and secondhand books, comics, stamps and other collectables.
The market’s move to a temporary structure nearby lasted longer than expected as excavations for an underground car park uncovered part of the ancient city wall, as well as a stretch of the Roman Via Augusta that runs from the Pyrenees all the way to Cádiz in southwest. There were inevitable delays after the archaeologists were called in and the architects, Pere Joan Ravetllat and Carme Ribas, were obliged to rethink the design.
All but four of Barcelona’s 39 markets have had a makeover, with Sant Antoni the most expensive. The Mercat de Santa Caterina, which was rebuilt by Enric Miralles, architect of the Scottish parliament building, ran over budget when work unearthed a 12th-century convent and a Roman necropolis.