The Water Tower building was designed in 1874 by master of works Josep Fontserè, who took charge of the whole of the old military garrison area. A then young student of architecture, Antoni Gaudí i Cornet, did the static calculation of the tower and support elements. It was conceived as a traditional structure and the modern technique –at those times– of iron pillars was ruled out, given the huge loads that the tower had to bear together with its great height. The building dates from 1876, but it wasn’t until 1880 that it was inaugurated as a water tower, with the purpose of regulating the flow of water of Ciutadella park’s waterfall and watering its gardens.
The construction is a copy of a Roman prototype comprising a labyrinth of parallel arches of 14 metres in height, which cross over in a barrel vault and extend as if by mirror effect along its 65 metres of depth. After over a hundred years of different uses –as a municipal asylum, fire service store, changing room and garage of the Municipal Police force, justice archive…–it became UPF property in 1992.
The works to renovate the Water Tower, which was joined by subway with the Jaume I building, were begun in 1993. However, it wasn’t until 1999 that it started to work as the University Central Library. Today, three quarters of the building is in working order.
The surface area of the plot is 4,558 m2, 4,320 m2 of which are occupied and a renovated surface area of 14,850 m2. The architects who undertook the work of renovating were Lluís Clotet and Ignacio Paricio.
The documentation centre of the Central Library includes, among others, the collections of the Haas Library, of the Barcelona Chamber of Commerce and of the Jaume Vicens i Vives University Institute of History, whose headquarters are located in this building.