Unveiling 1,322 Spanish Civil War bomb shelters in Barcelona
New photography exhibition in 'La Model' prison takes visitors underground and over eight decades back in time
Schools, houses, metro stations… it seems there are few places in Barcelona that did not house a bomb shelter during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), as a new photography exhibition in the 'La Model' prison shows.
Historians and experts have discovered 1,322 bomb shelters across the city, some still intact, others already lost underground for good, and some which were not even built in the end, but exist in document form only.
Now, 40 of these bomb shelters have been photographed by Ana Sánchez.
Light and shadow
"A lot of people fear darkness," she says when discussing her pictures that mix light and shadow.
But there are often "humanizing" details, "remnants of everyday life under the bombs," she says.
The exhibition features 170 of Sánchez’s photographs, alongside around 40 objects that help to contextualize the images.
In the eight decades since the shelters provided refuge to the city’s inhabitants, water has seeped into the underground in many of the spaces, something Sánchez put to use in her work.
Water has worked "as an ally", she says, not to show ruin, but to strengthen a "powerful space where you can touch the past."
Sánchez curated the exhibition, entitled '1,322 Barcelona Air Raid Shelters', jointly with historian Xavi Domènech.
"The map of the shelters coincides with the civil fabric of the city, places where there is more collective life," Domènech says.
He describes the shelters as "colossal," and all the more impressive for being mainly the work of ordinary citizens.
As for why more residents and visitors are not aware of the vast underground network beneath their feet, he blames the "40 years of dictatorship," for letting it slip out of the public consciousness.
Organized by Barcelona City Council’s department of democratic memory, the exhibition is arranged in five sections, according to various types of bomb shelters: from community shelters to factories, from shelters at home to institutional shelters and finally existing facilities that were repurposed as shelters.
There are photos of bomb shelters under churches, below the Catalan government headquarters at the Palau de la Generalitat and even at the Estrella Damm brewery.
The exhibition takes place in commemoration of the 85th anniversary of the historic bombing that the Catalan capital suffered on March 16, 17 and 18, 1938.
It is open from March 30 to July 31, 2023 in galleries 3 and 4 of La Model, Carrer d’Entença, Barcelona.
Opening hours are 4pm-7pm on Thursday and Friday, 10am-2pm and 4pm-7pm on Saturday, and 10am-2pm on Sunday.
For more information, visit Barcelona City Council’s website.