Although there is no part of Mataró that can properly be called Neo-Classical, the town nevertheless conserves a number of extremely interesting buildings from that period designed by one of the best Catalan architects of the time, Miquel Garriga i Roca (Alella, 1804 - Barcelona, 1888).
As Francesc Costa put it, during the first half of the nineteenth century, Mataró was a town of bourgeois and proletarians. Joaquim Llovet has also pointed out that the early part of the century was not at all conducive to urban and demographic growth. The Napoleonic war, the loss of the American markets and a series of periodical economic crises undoubtedly acted as a brake on the town's expansion. However, shortly after 1840, steam-powered cotton mills were introduced and, as the coal which was indispensable for such technological progress was easily transported by sea, spinning and weaving mills and factories sprung up in and around Mataró, attracting large numbers of workers to work in them. From then on the factory chimneys gave Mataró a decidedly industrial appearance. In 1848 the Mataró-Barcelona railway, the first in the Iberian peninsula, built with the backing of local industrialist Miquel Biada i Bunyol, was opened.
As a result of these developments, Mataró has several public buildings, factories, large houses built for the new bourgeoisie and smaller houses for the popular classes (cases de cós) dating from this period.
Special mention must also be made in this context of local sculptor Damià Campeny i Estrany (Mataró, 1771 - Barcelona, 1855). Marià Ribas i Bertran has written of him that he adhered strictly to Neo-Classical principles in practically all his work and through him Catalan art rejoined the European artistic vanguard. He became a member of the San Fernando Academy in Madrid and the Academy of Fine Arts in Barcelona. His most important works are the Font de Neptú (1832) in Igualada, a set of statues on mythological themes in the Llotja, the Porxos d'en Xifré (1836) and the statue on the monument to Admiral Galceran Marquet (1851) all in Barcelona.
Mataró conserves two pieces by Campeny sculpted in 1796. These are the Saint James over the high altar in the Hospital church, and the Saint Vincent de Paul in the church of Sant Josep.
1. Casa Vilallonga. Built in 1846 by Mataró master builder Jeroni Boada for Gaietà de Villalonga. A Latin inscription on the façade tells us when it was constructed. It dominates the eastern side of Plaça Gran. For a time it was used as the courthouse.
2. La Peixateria. This was one of the town's most emblematic buildings at the time.
It was constructed in 1841, on the site of the old city walls, by the architect Garriga i Roca, to house the fishmongers' stalls.
3. Can Ximenes. Constructed by the master builder Gregori Arch on a site previously occupied by part of the city walls and the Portal de Barcelona.
On the corner of Carrer de Barcelona and Baixada de Santa Anna. The original building was demolished, as it had fallen into ruin, but it was later reconstructed by the architect Miquel Brullet i Monmany.
4. Can Rifà. In La Riera, number 37-39. It was built in 1856 for Joaquim Llovet.
5. Casa de la Ciutat. Characterised by the austerity and formal harmony of its exterior, the Town Hall building as it stands today is he result of numerous extensions and reforms over several centuries of history.
This site was originally occupied by the Hospital de Santa Magdalena, but from the 16th century onwards it had to share the space with the Consell de la Universitat, an old institution of municipal government that no longer exists. The coats-of-arms of Mataró and Barcelona have been conserved from that time, although they were later moved to the façade that gives onto La Riera. In the 17th century, taking advantage of the fact that the Hospital moved elsewhere, the Universitat had major alterations made to the building according to a project by Jaume Vendrell (1635): a rectangular building with a colonnaded central courtyard, access from La Riera and Carrer d'En Palau and a fortified-looking exterior with two side towers.
However the work that shaped the structure of the building as we know it today was done by Miquel Garriga i Roca, an architect from nearby Alella who worked for the Town Council in the mid-19th century. The project drawn up by Garriga in 1867 addressed the issue of adapting the building to the new needs of the institution in accordance with the latest aesthetic currents and replacing the roof, which had fallen badly into disrepair with the passage of time. This was a thoroughgoing overhaul that also changed the Neo-Classical style of the outside of the building with vaulted niches, lintels and sculptures. These include allegorical representations of Justice and Prudence flanking the entrance by J. Anicet Santigosa and busts of three illustrious citizens of Mataró, Jaume Creus, Damià Campeny and Antoni Puig Blanch, symbols of religious virtue, the arts and literature.
Subsequent alterations, such as those carried out by Josep Puig i Cadafalch in 1893, have helped to decorate and dignify certain parts of the building.
6. Casa Torrellas. On the corner of La Riera and El Carreró. The middle storeys are in neo-classical style.
7. Casa Oliveras. The former Casa Comas, at number 83 in La Riera, was built by the architect Josep Oriol Mestres i Esplugues in 1853. It boasts some magnificent sculptures over the entrance.
8. Col·legi de Valldemia. This building of Neo-Classical inspiration was designed by Jeroni Boada.
This school, originally set up in 1855 under the name of Col×legi de Catalunya, was later renamed Valldemia in honour of its founder, Ermengol Coll de Valldemia.
The building has a rectangular ground plan and faces east. It consists of a colonnaded ground floor and a first floor with large arched windows. The only feature that stands out in this austere school edifice is that the end and central sections, or wings, have been brought forward to give the façade a certain volume. The central section, where the church used to be, was distinguished from the others by having a triangular pediment over the windows. The ends were finished off with triangular cornices. Above the church there rose a solid bell tower on a square ground plan with a large window like those in the façade.
In 1926, the architect Josep Goday constructed an extension, adding a second floor to the school. Goday kept the same structure at the front of the building, but introduced significant elements characteristic of the artistic current known as Noucentisme, such as decorative sgraffiti and Corinthian-inspired colonnades which he erected in the different wings. He also raised the height of the bell tower, going well beyond the previous proportions and helping it to gain in elegance.
9. Cementiri. The cemetery is the most interesting example of Neo-Classical architecture in the town.
Built on the site previously occupied by the Convent dels Caputxins (Capuchin Convent), it contains work by three major architects. The overall plan was drawn up by Miquel Garriga i Roca, the chapel (1851) is probably by Martí Sureda and it seems likely that the porches were built by Antoni Rovira i Trias. The portico was designed later, probably by the Mataró master builder Ignasi Caballol.
10. Fàbrica Martorell, Batlle i Cia. This factory, in Plaça de l'Havana, at number 93, Camí Ral, was built in 1851 and still conserves the Neo-Classical style of the middle stories, although they are in a very poor state.
11. Fàbrica de can Colomer. As you go up Carrer del Prat past the Civil Guard barracks on the left, you can see the buildings of what was once a single complex, but has now been broken up into a series of small industrial workshops. It includes the original Jaume Baladia (1840-1844) and Xarau (1834) factory buildings. Although they are in a state of disrepair, they still show the typical features of the industrial architecture of the time, heavily influenced by British models. On the other side of the street you can see some cases de cós which are representative of house-building of the same period.
12. Fàbrica Gordils i Dalmau. In 1838 Can Gordils became the first steam-powered factory in Mataró, although it was later taken over by Filatures Viñas SA, which started building on this site in 1839. Inside the grounds, at the end of Carrer Sant Agustí, number 66, the old chimney is still standing.
13. Vapor Nou. These industrial buildings at number 2, Carrer Lepanto, very near La Rambla, were built in 1856 by a company called Arenas i Rosal, but now belong to Fills d'Antoni Fàbregas S.A. The chimney that served the original steam-powered factory remains standing.
14. Cases de cós in Carrer de Montserrat. Several cases de cós, houses occupying five-metre-wide sites, can still be seen in their original form at numbers 32 to 40 in Carrer Montserrat.
15. Cases de cós in Carrer de Sant Josep Oriol. Numbers 15, 17 and 21 in Carrer Sant Josep Oriol are some of the earliest examples of cases de cós built as maisonettes containing two dwellings, one on the ground floor, the other, with its own separate staircase, on the first floor. The traditional casa de cós also has two storeys, but these are part of the same dwelling for a single family.
16. Xemeneia de Ca l'Ymbern. In Carrer Biada. Unlike most of the chimneys of the steam-powered factories in Mataró, which were round, this one is square. It has been conserved amid the new buildings inside the grounds of the old Ca l'Ymbern factory.