Architect Oriol Bohigas, 'father of modern Barcelona,' dies at 95

Urban planner was main person in charge of city's transformation before 1992 Olympics, including opening up to the sea

Architect Oriol Bohigas in an event at Barcelona's UPC university in 2017 (by Violeta Gumà)
Architect Oriol Bohigas in an event at Barcelona's UPC university in 2017 (by Violeta Gumà) / Guifré Jordan

Guifré Jordan | Barcelona

December 1, 2021 09:53 AM

The Catalan architect Oriol Bohigas, considered the 'father of modern Barcelona,' has died at 95.

The urban planner passed away on Tuesday, as the culture minister, Natàlia Garriga, informed on Twitter just past midnight on Wednesday.

Bohigas was the man in charge of urban planning in the local council of the Catalan capital in the 1980s – therefore, his legacy includes the radical transformation Barcelona underwent especially from 1986, when it was chosen as the host city of the 1992 Olympics.

Opening Barcelona up to the sea

Before the games, the sea was mostly not accessible to the public in Barcelona, with factories, fences, walls, and train tracks preventing it, as beaches were forgotten and not well taken care of.

A project led by Bohigas, along with other architects Josep Maria Martorell, David Mackay, and Albert Puigdomènech, included constructing an underground railway line to replace the overground one; building a new port, Port Olímpic; a new neighborhood including its park – Vila Olímpica, or Olympic Village; and new roads.

This process was closely linked with the ambition of regenerating the beach so that it could come to life.

Walls, fences, and train tracks disappeared and Barcelona opened itself up to the sea on time for the Olympics 29 years ago.

The brand new striking seafront resulting from Bohigas and his associates' work prompted a radical change in the way residents used the beach, and also prompted a sudden boom of tourism in the 1990s that three decades later still continues.

Part of the main highlights Barcelona is famous for nowadays remain the legacy of Oriol Bohigas.

Other projects in Barcelona include the revamping of the Roger de Llúria building of old military barracks between 1997 and 2000, to transform it into part of the current Campus Ciutadella of the Pompeu Fabra University (UPF).

The Disseny Hub building in the Catalan capital's Plaça de les Glòries (2013) is also part of the late architect's work. The so-called 'stapler' enjoys a very unique shape and is part of Catalonia's Architectural Heritage List.

Both the Roger de Llúria and the Disseny Hub buildings were designed by MBM architectural firm, founded by Bohigas and Martorell in 1951 – David Mackay joined in 1962, and Oriol Capdevila and Francesc Gual in 2000.

Endless list of awards

Bohigas, who was culture councilor in Barcelona from 1991 to 1994, received an endless list of prizes, including the Golden Medal to the Artistic Merit of Barcelona (1986), the Urbanism Medal of the Académie d'Architecture in Paris (1988), the Golden Medal in Architecture given by Spain's superior council of architect associations (1990) and Catalonia's Creu de Sant Jordi (1991).

In 2001, he was awarded the Premi Ciutat de Barcelona in Architecture and Urbanism and, in 2011, Catalonia's National Culture Prize.