For me, the W building is like a sky mirror. Covered with over 15,000 square metres of glass reflecting the sky and the city, it’s like a chameleon changing colours from bright azure to sunset hues or graphite greys on rainy days.
Opened in 2009 and designed by Ricardo Bofill – the architect behind Barcelona El Prat airport’s Terminal 1, the W hotel is known as La Vela (the sail) for its glistening curved shape. It stands at the end of the Sant Sebastià beach, where the Barceloneta promenade turns into a palm-tree-shaded linear park going smoothly up to the hotel.
The 26-storey building stands in the middle of a big plaza raised at eleven metres above the level of the sea: Plaça de la Rosa dels Vents, the square of the wind rose, a panoramic terrace with views over the Mediterranean. From here, a newly built pier offers incredible views of the sunset. Named Nou Passeig del Trencaones, the area was also supposed to be the headquarters of the still controverted Hermitage Museum in Barcelona. The massive breakwater built with 33 million tons of rock and sand, and 1.3 million tons of concrete, replaces what was half a century ago one of the locals’ favourite promenade, El Trencaones, or el passeig de l’Escullera.
With its 99 metres of height, W is way below Barcelona’s skyscrapers. At the moment, the Marina towers, Hotel Arts and Torre Mapfre, are the tallest ones, with 154 metres. Still, due to the position and shape, W is definitely a landmark, and an architecture spectacle at any time of the day.
No matter how far away from it, the shape of W is present all along the shoreline of the city.
A Little Extra. El Trencaones (rompeolas or breakwater)
Place for fishing, walks, clandestine love encounters, musclos a la marinera with the family at the Porta Coeli restaurant… when the new port of Barcelona was designed in 1873, it did not have the structure of today. The long breakwater, following the coastline and built a kilometre away from it, was completed in 1920. El Trencaones became the preferred destination for residents. During weekends, entire families filled the Puerta Coeli restaurant to try their famous musclos a la marinera, grilled sardines or patatas bravas while enjoying the view over the open sea.
Successive reforms allowed the circulation of vehicles until the end of the ride, and the popularity of the pier increased even more.
Paradoxically the global emergence of the city with the Barcelona’92 Olympic Games meant the decline of the place. The reform of the seafront, the creation of the Olympic Port and the Maremàgnum shifted the leisure focus to the north side of Port Vell, relegating the breakwater until 2000 when the Porta Coeli closed its doors, the building was demolished and the jetty disappeared, being replaced the Europa Bridge that would facilitate access by boats to the docks.
Today the pier and the plaza surrounding the W is gaining popularity again, and it’s from here that I enjoy the most taking pics of the entire shoreline of Barcelona starting from Barceloneta and going north to the Marina towers, el Poblenou and up the Forum park with its impressive photovoltaic pergola.