A new museum shows Barcelona in 1700 and explains the military and political defeat of 1714
Barcelona has unveiled a new museum located in the Born neighbourhood, next to the Gothic quarter, which explores how life was in the city during the early 18th century, and will exhibit 8,000 objects. The Born Cultural Centre shows the neighbourhood’s ruins dating from 1714, when residents were forced to destroy their own homes and leave without any compensation after Barcelona’s military defeat. Next to the area, the largest urban military citadel in Europe was built, being part of the fierce repression that the Bourbon troops inflicted on Catalan citizens. From that moment onwards, Catalonia lost its self-government institutions, its own laws and freedoms, and Catalan language was banned and persecuted with the aim to homogenise the recently-formed Spain.
Barcelona (ACN).- On Monday evening, Barcelona officially unveiled a new museum built within the renovated iron structure of an Art-Nouveau market from the late 19th century, located in the Born neighbourhood, next to the Gothic quarter. The new facility has been unveiled following many years of renovation work and will enlarge the Catalan capital’s vast number of cultural attractions. It explains how city life was during the early 18th century, with a permanent exhibition of 8,000 objects. In addition, the Born Cultural Centre shows the neighbourhood’s ruins dating from 1714, when residents were obliged to destroy their own homes and leave without any compensation after Barcelona’s military defeat on the 11th September of this year. After this episode, the largest urban military citadel in Europe was built in that area, being part of the fierce repression that the new Bourbon regime inflicted on Catalan citizens. From that moment onwards, Catalonia lost its self-government institutions as well as its own laws and freedoms, and it began to be ruled by the Kingdom of Castile, which from that moment onwards became the rule of Spain. Furthermore, the Catalan language was banned and persecuted with the aim to homogenise the newly-formed Spain (previously Catalonia was part of the Spanish Crown but Spain did not exist as a united state). The new museum pays tribute to those families as well as those who suffered during the Spanish War of Succession, Barcelona’s long siege and the terrible consequences of the defeat. However, the 8,000-square metre new museum goes beyond these episodes of History and it also offers a rich programme of cultural events such as temporary exhibitions, concerts, theatre performances, conferences and cinema projections. On top of this, the Born Cultural Centre has been conceived as a partially-open space, allowing the free circulation of pedestrians crossing the building while being able to contemplate the ruins of the 1714 city from a balcony. On the 12th September, the day after Catalonia’s National Day, the Centre will open its doors for the wider public, after a long and tedious renovation process. On Monday, it was unveiled by the President of the Catalan Government Artur Mas, the Mayor of Barcelona Xavier Trias, as well as other public figures and invited guests.
Barcelona has just solved one of its eternal pending issues: the renovation of the former Born market, which used to be the city’s wholesale fruit and vegetable market until 1971. Since then, the Art-Nouveau iron structure, dating from the 1880s, has been lying idle. Institutional disagreements and the discovery of the ruins have delayed the renovation, transformation and re-opening of the space for 43 years. In the late 1980s and 1990s, there were several proposals on the table for the ageing building, particularly from the moment that the Born neighbourhood became particularly trendy. Two of the projects that were ruled-out were the proposals for it to become a huge FNAC book store or a faculty of the Universitat Pompeu Fabra (UPF), which has other facilities nearby. However, the project that was decided upon was approved in 1997 and was to locate Barcelona’s Provincial Library, which was to become the main library in the area of Barcelona – a cultural facility that the Spanish Government never built. However, while preparing the site, the Medieval town ruins appeared. Studies were carried out to modify the initial project to include both the ruins and the Provincial Library. In the end, however, the whole project was changed and the decision was taken to build the library elsewhere. Then, Barcelona’s City Council started to be in charge of the old market and, in 2003, it took the definitive decision to build a centre around the 1714 ruins, explaining the medieval town and offering parallel cultural activities.
A long construction work
The construction work took much longer that initially expected, since the digging of the ruins was more complex that initially foreseen – something that also happened with the renovation of the iron structure, which was more damaged and had much more architectural features than it was previously thought. On top of this, the economic crisis restricted the funds available and forced the construction works to slow-down. However, a year and a half ago, it was announced that the cultural project would be unveiled around Catalonia’s National Day of 2013, exactly a year before the 300th anniversary of the military defeat of 11th September 1714.
A cultural centre split in 3
The 8,000 square metre Born Cultural Centre is mostly divided into three parts. The first one is located at street level and consists of a free circulation space for pedestrians. It has a balcony overlooking the ruins and gives access to the other parts. It will be open from 9am until 8pm and people will be able to freely walk through it. The second part is formed of the ruins, which are below street level. It is the main and largest area of the centre and it shows the streets, floors and part of the walls of the neighbourhood of 1714. Finally, at street level, at each corner of the market there are four large rooms and an additional fifth room in an adjacent building. Three rooms have 350 square meters and the two others are slightly smaller. One will host the permanent exhibition, which will show how Barcelonans lived during the early 18th century, with many objects on display. Another large room will be devoted to temporary exhibitions. The first one will be on show until 2014 and it will explain the 14-month military siege, Barcelona’s occupation and the repression that followed for several decades. A third room will host the parallel activities, such as concerts, conferences, film projections and theatre performances. It will be able to host almost 300 people. A fourth room will host a book shop and a gastronomic area, which will be run by the Barcelona-based beer company Moritz. Finally, the fifth room, located in an adjacent building (were the offices of the cultural centre are located) will be used to host small side events that cannot coincide with those developed in the multi-purpose space.