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 new web of Parc de Belloch has been launched, with a whole set of great video interviews about design, Barcelona, urban landscaping and the city. Each interview comes with a downloadable pdf transcript in both the original Spanish and a translated English version.
I’ve posted a link to my own contribution above, and you can access further words of wisdom by the likes of Miguel Mila, Antoni Arola, Beth Gali, Nina Maso or Javier Nieto on Belloch’s site.
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.
The Spanish Civil War in thirteen minutes and a half:
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!
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.
In November 1975, Franco dies. The city -the country- lived on the razor’s edge.
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.
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.
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.
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).
Some tourists actually stay on for a while and compete for jobs with the immigrants from Africa and Eastern Europe
And last but not least, Barça.
Will it ever look any better than this?
Update 23 November 2008:
An interview with Plaza Lesseps’ architect Albert Viaplana in EL PAIS of 18.11.08 (in Spanish).
…or, after watching the video above, one might be tempted to swap famous titles and go for ‘How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Barcelona’.
The video is part of an online campaign for the promotion of the book Odio Barcelona (‘I Hate Barcelona’), published by Editorial Melusina. It’s a compilation of pieces by twelve Barcelona-based authors, whose essays address aspects of the city that they dislike, in most cases related to the housing boom speculation and the negative effect of commercial interests on the fabric and spirit of the city, as well as to the growing pressure of Catalan nationalism on everyday life and urban politics.
Authors include Javier Calvo, Agustín Fernández Mallo, Philipp Engel, Robert-Juan Cantavella, Hernán Migoya, Llúcia Ramis, Matías Néspolo, Carol Paris, Oscar Gual, Lucía Lijtmaer, Javier Blánquez and Efrén Álvarez.
There can be no doubt that the extended honeymoon of the Barcelonese with their city is long over, a disenchantment that was probably sealed in the collective urban mind by José Luis Guerín’s 2001 film En Construcción, the understated but moving documentary of the construction of a new building in the inner-city neighbourhood of El Raval.
Another recent addition to the chorus of critical voices is Manuel Delgado’s book La ciudad mentirosa. Fraude y miseria del modelo Barcelona (‘The Liar City. Fraud and Misery of the Barcelona Model’), published by Catarata in 2007. This is an impassioned rant, described by the author as the cry from the heart of a disabused lover. Although the author is an academic at Barcelona University, the work is journalistic in tone (but with useful bibliography in the footnotes). It offers a fairly generic serving of urban studies and public space theories as background to a virulent critique of the evolution and implementation of the Barcelona model of urban regeneration, particularly the wholesale commercialisation of the city both as a ‘brand’ and as a building site.