A medieval country house which has become a music school

21 July, 2017 | Barcelona People, Unknown City

On the way up Passeig de Maragall, in the direction of Horta, just before C/ Lisboa there is an imposing country house surrounded by a large garden and a fence consisting of tall cypress bushes and trees. It’s Can Fargues, the property around which the neighbourhood grew and which gave it its name. The building is now the home of the Horta-Guinardó music school.

The origins of the masia of Can Fargues are to be found in a watchtower built in the 11th century, a rather turbulent era around the entire Barcelona plain due to confrontations between the Counts of Barcelona and local nobles. Other constructions from the same period include the so-called Torre Jussana, which is inside the Palau del Marquès d’Alfarràs at the entrance to the Parc del Laberint d’Horta; and another, known as the Torre dels Senyors d’Horta, which is inside Can Cortada, also still intact in Av. de l’Estatut de Catalunya, by the Ronda de Dalt ring road. These two towers are round, while the one which would become part of Can Fargues is square.

In the 8th century the Romanesque defensive tower grew and became a fortified masia, like many others from the same period which sprung up around the Barcelona plain over time and ended up as second homes for well-to-do Barcelona folk. The property was also like other Barcelona masies which had their land divided up and developed, turning old woodlands, fields and agricultural land into streets and blocks of flats.

Can Fargues, formerly known as Can Pujol, gave its name to the Font d’en Fargues neighbourhood, due to one of the two sources of water on the property, which at the end of the 19th century ran from the current Hospital de Sant Pau to the Torrent de Carabassa. This section can still be seen just a few steps away from Can Fargues, crossing Passeig de Maragall between C/ Peris Mencheta and C/ Pitàgores.

Paulina Almerich, Carlota Giménez and Teresa Morros, authors of the book Font d’en Fargues, gènesi, història i records d’un barri en 100 anys, make the following description of the masia: “A country house with a ground floor, first floor and roof space, with a chapel, threshing yard, hay store, pond and two springs providing water: one at the top of the mountain and the other in the house. The most eye-catching thing about the house is the gallery of old archways along the sun-facing side of the first floor. The square tower is the most significant feature of the central building, the authentic genesis for the masia in the early middle ages, with Catalan roof tiles, three arched windows in the middle of the upper section, and which other successive constructions were built onto”.

As was the case with many masies, often fairly isolated, Can Fargues had its own chapel, which appears to have been quite large. According to the photos kept at the Horta-Guinardó district archive, the inside had an altarpiece with paintings and images of saints and religious motifs. According to Desideri Díez, author of the book Les masies d’Horta, the chapel disappeared in 1914 and some of the stone was used to build the Sant Antoni de Pàdua church.

The same author explains what Can Fargues was like up until the end of the 20th century, when it was still lived in: “The masia was well-maintained. Going in, the farmers’ house is on the right and is where they still live. This is the oldest part of the entire complex. On the left there are spaces set aside for work in the field: the stables, the cellar from the year 1774, the storage cellars etc.” Later on he describes part of the inside: “On the first floor, among other rooms, is the main room for entertaining society, surrounded by a large gallery of arches, giving onto a garden”.

The property was formerly known as Can Pujol, based on the surname of the owner in the 18th century. Josep Pujol i Móra was the first of a wealthy family of spice and pharmaceutical traders. Over the years various members of the family married members of other families some of whom are remembered by local street names in the area, such as the Casanovas and Bacardi families, and finally the Fargas family, which would end up providing the name for the masia and the neighbourhood. The last owner to live there was Ofélia Rosselló Wall, stepdaughter of Santiago Fargas de Casanovas.

In the middle of the 1990s, the owner still allowed visits to the house, but fell ill and, as explained by Paulina Almerich, Carlota Giménez and Teresa Morros “Ofèlia’s illness was used by her legal agent to sell the house to a private company”. The house was acquired by Unicompta in 1997 and it was then that a long process started, with local residents fighting to save Can Fargues from speculation. Finally, the property was bought by the City Council in 2009 and a historical and architectural study was carried out before renovating the building. In 2016, it re-opened as the Can Fargues Municipal Music School.

The work carried out on the building, classified as a Site of National Cultural Interest, has respected various elements such as the walls of the tower, with arrow slits and windows which these days open onto rooms and corridors. One of the walls includes a mural made with hydraulic tiles from the 17th century, recovered during the renovation process. One of the tiles is dated 1670 and others depict a child’s foot, a hand and some geometric drawings. The renovation work also provided a chance to document painted murals from the 8th century and recover a cold storage chamber dug into the ground, as well as the access stairs which can be seen through a glass panel in the reception at the new music school.

Some open days were held once the work was finished and it is likely that the building will be able to be visited as part of the 48H Open House Barcelona. Before the end of 2017, renovation work is due to start in the gardens surrounding the house with the aim of opening them up to the public as soon as possible.

Photo captions: Can Fargues in 1918. Author: Sebastià Ribó-AMDHG. | Can Fargues today. Author: Districte d’Horta-Guinardó. | Walls of the Romanesque tower, today part of the interior of the house. Author JAF. | Can Fargues chapel, demolished in 1914. Author: Matas-AMDHG. | Gallery and gardens at Can Fargues half way through the 20th century. Author: Pere Olivé-AMDHG. | Fragment of the wall featuring hydraulic tiles from 1670. Author: JAF. | Gallery at Can Fargues in 1913. Author: Unknown-AMDHG. | The gardens at Can Fargues in 1973. Author: Felip Capdevila-AMDHG.