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Can Balaguer

Can Balaguer

In 2009, Palma City Council embarked on the refurbishment of Casal Balaguer: a mansion that had fallen into neglect after long being one of the city's most emblematic buildings.

In addition to the building's undeniable architectural interest, with noteworthy features ranging from medieval times to the first half of the 20th century, it is important to remember that Palma City Council came to own the building following its donation by the family of Josep Balaguer Vallès.

Josep Balaguer (Inca 1869 - Palma 1951) was a musician, businessman, collector and patron of the arts. He played a key role in promoting the city's cultural activities during the first half of the 20th century. Nephew of the famous opera singer Francesc Mateu Nicolau (Uetam), Josep Balaguer was the music director of the Balearic Regional Infantry Regiment from 1897 to 1920, and he played a key role in the creation of the Balearic Symphony Orchestra in 1947.

In 1927, Balaguer bought Casal Balaguer from the Blanes family. Soon he had a chamber organ fitted there, presented at the 1929 Barcelona International Exposition. The organ, which was restored as part of the refurbishment project, is no doubt one of the building's star attractions.

The Josep Balaguer collection bears witness to his keen enthusiasm for all the arts. It is thus understandable that, on his death, the building was donated to Palma City Council by the family on the condition that it would act as the headquarters of the Palma Fine Arts Circle and that the house's original structure would be left intact The donation took effect in 1965.

The Building's History

The last city block in the Parish of Sant Jaume, where the Casal Balaguer stands, was enclosed by Sant Jaume Street, the bed of La Riera torrent, Can Serinyà Street, formerly known as Palmer Street, and a side street that ran from the corner of Can Serinyà Street to Sant Jaume Street, currently visible through the railings on this corner.

The entrances of two of the main houses were in Sant Jaume Street, and the other was in Palmer Street. The area close to La Riera, which tended to be dirty and was prone to flooding, was occupied by a kitchen garden described, in documents, as having the shape of a Latin sail, together with some small unimportant houses.

The Santjohan family, who had started out in 1450 by buying some big houses in Sant Jaume Street (which are today the headquarters of a cultural foundation), extended their ownership of the block. By the 15th and 16th centuries, they had come to own virtually all of it, except for one house on the corner of Sant Jaume Street and what is today Unió Street, which later came to be known as Can Puig del Rellotge and is now a department store.

Ownership of the Property as from the 17th Century

Joan Sanglada Gual (-1637) was a young nobleman in 1629 and 1630, by which time the course of La Riera torrent had been diverted and Cap del Born Square had been built. He was able to purchase the properties because the Santjohan family had no direct heir to inherit them. His branch of the Sanglada family set up their richly furnished main residences here, as aristocratic Mallorcan families tended to do.

Joan's son, Mateu Gual-Sanglada i Sureda (-1669), a young nobleman and knight of the Order of Alcántara, kept the kitchen garden but he transformed the small houses into two adjacent coach houses with a gateway onto Cap del Born Square, as can be seen on the plan by Antoni Garau.

In the 1685 Land Registry, the block was known as that of "Monseigneur Gabriel Fuster of Cap del Born", and only two owners figured in the records: Monseigneur Gabriel Fuster, who owned houses, coach houses and a kitchen garden, and Joan Sanglada i Sureda (-1693), who owned houses both worth 2,000 pounds.

The Current Building

Mateu Sanglada i Truyols had the current building made. It was built onto his big old houses so that he had two entrances: the original one in Sant Jaume Street and another opening onto El Born Square and the market.

On his death (-1730), after a big lawsuit over the fiduciary rights, the houses became the property of his grandson, Josep Amar de Montaner i Gual Sanglada.

Later, they passed into the hands of Isabel de Montaner, the wife of Lluís de San Simón i Orlandis, followed by their son Jordi, who sold the houses that overlooked El Born on March 13th 1872 to Antoni Blanes Juan, establishing the conditions under which both properties had to be divided. This building had already undergone some changes: part of the courtyard had been covered over and two shops and studios on the mezzanine floor had been built, as can be seen in the drawing published in Die Balearen in the section on the city of Palma.

Rafel Blanes Tolosa signed a deed of sale on May 7th 1927, selling it to brothers and sisters Josep, Aina, Catalina and Francisca Balaguer Vallès. Francisca died before her siblings and, on May 16th 1949, Aina and Catalina came to own Josep's part. In keeping with the latter's wishes, they donated the building to Palma City Council on June 15th 1951. Just one month later, on July 11th, Josep Balaguer died.

The Building's Refurbishment (2009-2016)

In 2009, Palma City Council took over the building's management once again after reaching an agreement with Palma Fine Arts Circle. Under this, the Fine Arts Circle would be entitled to use part of the building while Palma Council would be responsible for all costs and for its refurbishment, together with the management of its collections.

Architects Francesc Pizà, M. José Duch, Ricardo Flores and Eva Prats were commissioned with its refurbishment in a valiant, respectful project that took into account the potential of a building in a bad state of neglect.

The refurbishment project was presented at two editions of the Venice Biennial in 2014 and 2016. It was nominated for the 2015 edition of the Mies van der Rohe International Award and it was runner up at the last 2016 edition of the FAD Architecture Award.

The Main Focuses of the Refurbishment Project

1. The building's main structure was conserved. This is typical of a Palma inner-city mansion from the 17th century onward, characteristic of many buildings up until the present day.
2. The first floor was restored, conserving all the features that could be saved, like the woodwork, fireplaces and coffered ceilings. A special mention must be made of the chamber organ in the room parallel to Unió Street.
3. The two areas formerly occupied by shops were reintegrated in the courtyard. This meant that solid foundations had to be laid for the columns, with the structural reinforcement of the courtyard archways.
4. The attics were restored so that they regained their characteristic spatial unity.
5. Almost all the roofs were replaced, with striking architectural results.
6. A stair and lift well were built on one side of the building for public evacuation purposes.
7. A reception area was created on the ground floor, with a separate entrance.
8. A café was created on the mezzanine floor, under the big reception hall on the first floor.
9. Lastly, medieval wall paintings on the mezzanine floor, typical of buildings of this period in Palma, were renovated.

Casal Balaguer's New Uses

With Casal Balaguer's refurbishment, Palma City Council has regained one of the city's emblematic buildings so that it can be used as a new cultural centre for citizens.

Given its characteristics and location, Casal Balaguer is a perfect means of conveying the evolution of Palma's mansions and of uniting, safeguarding, researching and promoting part of the City Council's movable heritage. This is its main function, and the first floor is devoted solely and exclusively to this purpose.

To complement this role, an interpretation centre is located on the ground and mezzanine floors related to the building's history as part of the city's urban fabric, together with a bar and bookstore.

The attic floor houses a heritage documentation centre and educational facilities with pedagogical material, used for coordinating intervention programmes in this field. The Fine Arts Circle will also occupy a large part of this floor, in accordance with the Balaguer family's wishes.

Lastly, on the top floor, there is a classroom for conferences, workshops and other activities also associated with heritage management.

The Creation of a Museum on the First Floor

On Casal Balaguer's first floor, some of the typical communal areas of a mansion are recreated, such as its big reception hall and the rooms surrounding its central courtyard. In them, visitors will find recreations of a baroque bedchamber and antechamber, a music room, a room with French influences, a 19th century dining room, the gallery of an art collector keen on Modernism, and a room evocative of the early 20th century.

To achieve all this, furniture and works of art from the Balaguer collection have been chosen, together with items from other municipal collections like that of Can Morell. Hence, Josep Balaguer's noteworthy art collection, with important paintings by Antoni Gelabert, is rounded off by others built up over the years by Palma City Council in order to offer visitors an insight into the evolution of painting and decorative art in Mallorca. This has been extended by generous loans from private collections and other Mallorcan institutions.

With this initiative, Palma City Council wishes to create one of the fundamental components of what, in the future, will be a network of museum buildings, as an essential tool in the management of the city's historical heritage.

The 'Maybe' Home  -  Permanent exhibition

First floor
Opening hours
    Tuesday to Saturday: 10am. To 7pm
    Sundays and bank holidays: 10am. To 3pm
Free admission


Street  de la Unió, 3

Palma 07001 (Illes Balears)

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Contact details

Telephone: 971225900 - 1727

Further details of interest:

Can Balaguer

Multimedia gallery


Entrance hall Louis XV hall

Date of last modification: 14 of July 2020

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