Authorship and funding

In 1764, the Barcelona Board of Trade commissioned a complete study of the Llotja with the aim of carrying out a total reform project. The study was conducted by two architects, Joan Soler i Faneca and Esteve Bosch i Pardines. Remodelling began in 1772, but a year later the original project was replaced by that of the French architect Pere Branlij, which in turn was also rejected eight months later, following the indications of the intendent, José Felipe Castaños, who then played a leading role in the restoration process. He approved all the plans and participated in the purchase of marble, iron and paintings in Rome, Genoa and Marseilles.

Joan Soler i Faneca resumed management of the project and demolished the work commenced by Branlij. The Board of Trade accepted Soler i Faneca’s project precisely because it conserved the nucleus of the old medieval Llotja. The architect wanted to do away with “Gothicism, that cruel enemy of true Greek and Roman architecture,” but preserving the original Gothic building signified a considerable saving.

The remodelling of the Llotja ran into a number of obstacles. The Barcelona City Council and the army disputed with the Board of Trade the ownership of the plot of land in the Pla del Palau where it was planned to build the portico. The war with England also paralysed the works from time to time.

Joan Soler i Faneca died in 1794 and the Board of Trade named as co-directors of the works Tomàs Soler i Ferrer, the son of the deceased, and Joan Fàbregas. The latter died two years later and Tomàs Soler i Ferrer took sole charge of the construction of the portico and the repair of the columns of the Contracting Hall.

The works for the Neoclassical remodelling of the Llotja were completed in 1802. Barcelona again had a solemn building at the service of the economic and mercantile world. All that remained was to culminate the decoration of the building, which was done during the summer and autumn of that same year in preparation for the visit of King Charles IV and his wife Maria Luisa de Parma.

In 1775, the English traveller and scholar Henry Swinburne singled out the Llotja as one of the principal buildings of the city, along with the cathedral, the church of Santa Maria del Mar and the Palau de la Generalitat.