Barcelona’s Modernist past is covered in hydraulic cement tiles. Inside many of the more well-preserved 19th Century apartments- especially in the city’s Eixample District- the floors are carpeted in colorful tiles that often formed complicated patterns of shapes or flowers.
Encaustic cement tiles (AKA hydraulic cement tiles, baldosas hidráulicas, hidráulicas de cemento, mosaico hidraulicos) were popular in the later 19th century and early 20th century all over the Mediterranean and in the former Spanish, French and Portuguese colonies. They are created without glaze or a kiln, but instead the colorful material- ground marble, Portland cement or natural earth pigment- is set with a hydraulic press and the tiles are left to dry like regular cement.
Barcelona resident Bénédicte Bodard sees these tiles as an important part of the city’s past and when she began to notice quantities of them in the trash- victims of remodels or an aging floor- she invented a method to rescue what she could. She began to create tables out of the antique tiles, at first for her home, and later to sell under the name Mesa Bonita.
In this video, Bodard shows us her workshop filled with hundreds of rescued tiles and the tables, plant stands, consoles and trivets that she’s created from Barcelona’s vintage floors.