Category Archives: design history

50 Years of Design at Barcelona’s Palau Robert

50 Years of Design at Barcelona’s Palau Robert

The exhibition DELTA AWARDS – 50 YEARS OF DESIGN was at the Palau Robert between Oct 2010 and September 2011. This was a truly wonderful show to curate – for the first time ever, some 150 pieces of Spanish industrial design, many of them on loan from private collections, were shown together in a major exhibition that covered the past five decades. With over 197.000 visitors, it was the most successful design exhibitions in Barcelona to date.
The project was commissioned by the Catalan Regional Government and the Industrial Design Association ADI-FAD.

Design and History – Book launch

El próximo viernes 19 de marzo, Editorial Designio y la Fundación Historia del Diseño, presentarán el libro Diseño e historia. Tiempo, lugar y discurso en en el Disseny Hub Barcelona (DHUB). Esta nueva publicación de Editorial Designio, es una recopilación de ensayos escritos por Conxa Bayó, Anna Calvera, Isabel Campi, Mireia Freixa, Guy Julier, Viviana Narotzky, Raquel Pelta y Oscar Salinas.
Editorial designio, en combinación con la  Fundación Historia del Diseño, ofrece una notable reflexión de la historia del diseño desde la óptica de reconocidos autores que unen su  conocimiento y experiencia profesional para analizar el desarrollo histórico de las profesiones del diseño moderno y contemporáneo.

Los ensayos que componen este volumen han sido redactados con una notable libertad, al principio del libro el objeto de estudio es la propia historia y su origen mientras que, al final del libro, el objeto es el estudio  de casos de historia local.
Así, se aborda la necesidad que tienen los diseñadores de que se construya un discurso histórico a fin de legitimar, dar contenido y sentido a su disciplina. Por ello, tanto Oscar Salinas en como Raquel Pelta nos ofrecen una panorámica sobre el surgimiento de la historia del diseño en diferentes épocas y contextos. Anna Calvera e Isabel Campi, nos introducen en un temas de creciente interés, como son los orígenes del diseño y el tema de género.

Guy Julier y Viviana Narotzky enfocan su objeto de estudio a la sociedad contemporánea influenciada por la transnacionalización y la globalización y en los nuevos paradigmas del diseño y la cultura material de la mecanización y la seriación que marcan al diseño y la historia en el siglo xx.

Al final, se exponen dos casos de historia local; Mireia Freixa analiza con minuciosidad el paso hacia la conversión de Barcelona en una reconocida capital del diseño internacional, y Concha Bayó presenta una investigación sobre una interesante colección de planchas, auténticas joyas de la tecnología doméstica.
La calidad y variedad de estos ensayos nos entrega un análisis del surgimiento y desarrollo del diseño, que hasta hoy no se había presentado así en el medio iberoamericano.

Design Cities on Hong Kong TV – Barcelona

The Barcelona episode of Hong Kong TV’s Design Cities series airs on Boxing Day (Dec 26) – a rare opportunity to hear me proffer yet more words of wisdom, in Chinese! (Dubbed, of course). An English version DVD is in the works… I’ll keep you posted.

The Goods? In ‘The Work’

I’ve added a new page to this blog – it’s called ‘The work’. It lives on the right-hand sidebar, alongside ‘the author’, ‘the blog’ and ‘the book’.

It has a selection of links to some of my writing, as well as a few downloadable PDF files. There’s writing on Barcelona, including a full chapter of my book La Barcelona del diseño. Many of you have been asking if it was available in English – not as yet, but here’s a taster.

There’s also links to online excerpts of other things I’ve written about: old American cars in contemporary Cuba, TV makeover shows and domestic interiors, the challenges of historical research in archive-averse environments, or the relationship between footnotes, chairs, and cities.

Go have a look – the goods are in The Work. There are texts in English, Spanish and Catalan, so there’s something for everyone!

Art Deco in Barcelona

The Design History Foundation launches its teaching programme with a course on Art Deco, which will offer both an international approach to the style and sessions on its local impact.

The 18-hour course will take place between 30.09.09 and 16.12.09, at the Disseny Hub Barcelona, C/ Montcada, 12, 08003 Barcelona. Sessions will be in Catalan.

More information here.

Techs-Mechs – Steampunk time?

Ulysse Nardin Chairman Mechanical Smartphone

Ulysse Nardin Chairman Mechanical Smartphone

I’ve been following the Steampunk phenomenon with fascination. It’s a stylistical branching out that makes perfect sense to me, bringing as it does the formal exuberance of 19th century excitement at the technological wonders of the industrial revolution, its heavy mechanical seduction, its steam and coaldust manliness, onto the flat, bland and opaque physicality of our own turn of the century electronics: Steampunk is hard at work trying to turn Bill Gates into Isambard Kingdom Brunel.

Until now, Steampunk has been a somewhat tribal affair, developed by cyberpunk geeks intent on beautifying their gear, a labour of love and tinkering. Well, Steampunk is finally crossing over into mainstream consumer electronics – I was wondering when – and with the support of The Long Now Foundation no less… It makes perfect sense. The Ulysse Nardin Chairman hybrid smartphone’s unique selling point? It’s powered by a mechanical thingy that charges its battery through the users’ movements, just like self-winding wristwatches do. And it looks pure Steampunk.

I leave you with a couple of Steampunk beauties, in the hope that I will get a few of you hooked onto the trend.

Laptop by Datamancer

Laptop by Datamancer

Brass USB stick

Brass USB stick

Steampunk'd desktop computer

Steampunk'd desktop computer

And of course the most spectacular of them all, Paul St George’s Telectroscope that linked London and New York, the twin capitals of Steam and Punk, in the summer of 2008.

The Telectroscope, London end.

The Telectroscope, London end.

Spanish Design Goes Online

A few days ago I went to the presentation of, a recently launched online encyclopaedia on Spanish Design. Designpedia is an open project based on the Wiki concept and under a Creative Commons license, which will grow thanks to the contribution of its users. Its remit is Spanish graphic and product design, although it welcomes interdisciplinary links across a variety of design fields, and its focus on Spanish design does not imply a strict territorial delimitation.

During the early stages of the project, an editorial committee will ensure the quality and relevance of the content, and it is hoped that as the project gains momentum, it will move closer to functioning as a wiki system that is self-edited and self-curated.

Spanish design has a considerable historical trajectory, a diverse institutional network and an active, energetic professional and cultural context. It desperately needs projects that can consolidate all that, and the focus provided by Designpedia is very timely, so I’m hoping this one will take off.  It’s been put together by knowledgeable and enthusiastic people. It also has a great interface, is very user-friendly, and google-friendly.  And I’m in it. So what more can I say to convince you? Go have a look, and if you can, contribute. is a project of the Fundación Signes.