The eye motif of Francesc Macia 10 in Barcelona

Francesc Macià 10 Barcelona
Francesc Macià 10 Barcelona

The Swiss architect of Francesc Macia 10 in Barcelona had a bit of fun with an eye motif that also adds value to the building.

It’s not often you come across a building with a motif running through its design that adds value to the function and form of the building whilst also making you smile. Swiss architect Marc J. Saugey pulled this off with his design of Francesc Macià 10 in Barcelona, which was built as an office block in the 1960s, and converted into super-prime housing in recent years.

Saugey was best known as a hard modernist (Edwin Heathcote, the architecture and design critic of the Financial Times describes Saugey as “a quite severe modernist fond of simple lines and rigorously geometrical blocks”) but in Francesc Macià 10 he expressed a more romantic side with long flowing curves and sultry details. The motif running through Saugey’s design is the theme of vision and perception, which he explored in several ways.

Marc J. Saugey’s Mont-Blanc Centre in Geneva, reflecting his usual style. Credit: Cinema le Plaza Geneva

Most obviously, the building is eye-shaped, which means it sticks its convexed modernist façade outwards against the grain of the other buildings surrounding the Plaza Francesc Macià. This shape was controversial when it was first built, and the architect would had to defend his design in the face of considerable local hostility, so an eye-shaped design was not the path of least resistance at the time (in its way, that was visionary).

Francesc Macià 10 Barcelona
Francesc Macià 10 as the Winterthur office in Barcelona, not long after it was built

The second obvious way he plays with the theme is with the curved canopies over the windows along the entire length of the façade on both the north and south side of the building, which look like eyelids or eyebrows, and led to the building earning the local moniker of the Casa de las Cejas, or eyebrows building. The canopies give the building a distinctive look, and also serve as sun shades that come in handy in the summer, when the south side of the building gets sun from midday to sunset. 

Francesc Macia 10 Barcelona eye motif
Francesc Macià 10’s ‘eyebrows’ are a sultry detail

Less obvious was the architect’s intention to ensure the best possible light and views from the inside of the building, with the entire façade of the building made of glass. It’s fitting that an eye-shaped building is full of light, and enjoys such great views of the surrounding city, which is, no doubt, what Saugey intended as he played with the motif.

The views from Francesc Macià 10 Barcelona
The view from the south side of Francesc Macià 10 Barcelona

Finally, the least obvious way in which Saugey found to interpret the motif, and the one that makes you smile, can only be seen from a birds-eye view. From above, the building clearly looks like the retina of an eyeball.