Monthly Archives: April 2009

Graphic design in 1930s Spain

Starved of funds and resources in the 1930s, Spain’s printers found their own, ingenious way to respond to the avant-garde. The Art Of Necessity, an interesting piece by Mery Cuesta and Jordi Duró.

Via CR Blog.

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Of cars, footballers, fascists and rockers

It’s Good Friday and it’s raining in Barcelona. I’ve finished re-reading Zola’s Au Bonheur des Dames, and in a vain attempt to overcome the blues that I always get when I come to the end of a great book, I briefly turned on the TV, only to be bombarded by images of all the Holy Week processions taking place around Spain – which felt as a rather creepy mix of the Spanish Inquisition and Disney World.

So I took refuge in YouTube, and I now offer you a chronological selection of idiosyncratic Barcelona goodies for your entertainment.

These first two are the earliest Barcelona films I’ve been able to find on YT – the first one is truly charming, one gets a wonderful sense of the city as a Mediterranean port, and I love the images of a deserted, brand-new Park Guell patrolled by sabre-wielding policemen.

Barcelona 1900 – La perla del mediterráneo

Barcelona 1908

The Spanish Civil War in thirteen minutes and a half:

Barcelona 19 July 1936 partA

Guerra Civil Española -Bombardeos sobre Barcelona

Entrada de los fascistas en Barcelona 1/2

The Seat 600 was the poster boy of the Spanish economic miracle of the 1960s. It was launched in 1957, manufactured in Barcelona, and easy enough for a woman to drive!

BARCELONA 1950

Lanzamiento del Seat 600

Seat 600

The 60s were the decade of massive migration into Barcelona from the South of Spain, and with the influx of immigrants came the shantytowns. And the music: la Rumba Catalana was born. Peret sang Catalan rumba in the 60s, and Manu Chao a different kind of fusion rumba many decades later.

Campo de la bota

peret – el mig amic (galas del sábado)

Manu Chao – La rumba de Barcelona

In November 1975, Franco dies. The city -the country- lived on the razor’s edge.

Barcelona. Manifestacions anifranquistes 1976

The newly democratic Barcelona of the early 80’s still carried the dusty weight of almost four decades of dictatorship on its shoulders. Loquillo, one of the best Spanish rockers of the decade, sang of his city with perfect pitch, with just enough rage and anomie to capture the spirit of a youth culture about to explode in an extasy of pre-olympic urban transformation.

Loquillo y los Trogloditas – Barcelona Ciudad

Loquillo y Los Trogloditas – Avenida de la luz

Here’s the transformation itself, in a scary stop-motion video that was produced by HOLSA, the Barcelona Olympic public-private body that coordinated the urban renovation works. And no, the disappearance of the old farmer and his artichoke fields under a sea of cement isn’t meant as an ironic twist.

Barcelona 1992 La Transformación

In 2004, the City Council tried to pull another urban regeneration coup like the one in ’92 and invented the Universal Forum of Cultures, to take over a whole new chunk of city, build it up, prettify it, redesign it and hand it over to people other than those that were there to begin with. This time round, the Barcelonese were not too happy with the process and the Council lost the popularity contest. But got away with it anyway.

FORUM Barcelona 2004

Coop City 1 – Barcelona Post Forum 2004

And then came the tourists, among them Woody, Vicky and Cristina. Watch the movie trailer first, then the Barcelona City Council’s tourism promotion video, and try to spot the differences. (Answer: it’s the dolphins).

Landing at Barcelona’s El Prat

Vicky Cristina Barcelona Trailer

Barcelona Turisme Promo Video

Some tourists actually stay on for a while and compete for jobs with the immigrants from Africa and Eastern Europe

Under the Table in Barcelona – Lonely Planet Travel Video

El Raval de Barcelona: un barrio que ya no es lo que era

And last but not least, Barça.

Barcelona: The Inside Story (Storyville BBC) part 1

Saving the Signs

Fundación Signes is promoting a campaign to save old shop signs that are at risk of disappearing. They are encouraging people to send pictures and note the exact locations, and have started building an online collection which already has some beautiful examples. It’s a great initiative and a particularly urgent one in cities like Barcelona, whose obsession with urban face-lifts and modernisation is creating an increasingly sterile environment. My recurrent nightmare, after a few months back in Barcelona, is that very soon there won’t even be a stretch of pavement left that is older than a decade or so. What this city needs is a Campaign for the Preservation of Grime and Urban Patina.

Another wonderful ongoing online project is José Antonio Millán’s Abecedario Industrial y del Comercio, which showcases hundreds of images of letters taken from commercial signs around Spain (mostly in Catalunya). Millán’s selection showcases the best – and worst!- of anonymous design’s creative drive, highlighting letters that try to represent the objects and services advertised. A fantastic overview of outsider typography.