Hermitage museum in Barcelona closer to reality, but pending council approval

Port greenlights project to create seafront cultural hub with participation of Liceu opera hall

Image of the Hermitage museum project in Barcelona (by Hermitage)
Image of the Hermitage museum project in Barcelona (by Hermitage) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

May 27, 2021 02:16 PM

Barcelona is closer to having a Hermitage museum in the future as the Catalan capital's Port has approved the construction of the cultural venue in the Nova Bocana area, at the new port's mouth. Yet, the project is still not certain to go ahead since final approval from the city council is still pending and local authorities have been reluctant to provide it for years.

In the past few weeks, the situation has changed somewhat since the Hermitage and the iconic Liceu opera hall, located on La Rambla boulevard, have launched talks to create an alliance allowing them both to use the museum as a cultural hub.

The new venue would host several activities and leading cultural institutions of the city.

And although the Port has greenlighted the plan, the council asked for more time to review their stance.

Since 2012, the city council has failed to embrace the idea of opening a branch of the Hermitage in the port area, expressing doubts as to its private funding and the possibility of drawing yet more people to an area that it already considers to be overcrowded.

In January 2020, the Barcelona city council rejected planning permission to build a branch of the famous Russian museum in the Nova Bocana area of the city's port (next to the luxury W hotel), arguing that the project did not meet the necessary technical requirements.

Last July, the Port of Barcelona's president, Mercè Conesa, already revealed that the project had turned into a "center for art promotion" in an effort to meet the council's demands. 

Yet, the mayor of the city, Ada Colau, has maintained her stance to block the project – this week, her deputy mayor for urbanism, Janet Sanz, said it was "positive" that a local institution such as the Liceu joined the project, and requested more time before making a decision. However, the Port rejected further delays and approved the project this week with the council representative voting against it.

What's next

Following the approval, the council has said that it will pass the issue on to their legal services "to protect the municipal interests." According to Sanz, the go-ahead must also have a signed agreement between the local government and the Port to be valid.

She also complained that what was voted on previously was prior to the Liceu's possible involvement. "We will not sign an agreement with the Port over the approved project. If there was a different one, we could talk about it, which is what we wanted to do, but they have not waited," she said.

Sanz is a member of the Barcelona en Comú party, like Mayor Ada Colau, but they share the local government with the Socialists, who support the project.

Indeed, deputy mayor Jaume Collboni said on Thursday that the initiative could be a "wake-up call for culture" and compared the plans to the Lincoln Center, in New York, or the Sydney Opera House.

In an interview with the Spanish public broadcaster TVE, he said that Hermitage and Liceu have to provide the council with more details of the project within the next two months.

As for Barcelona En Comú's plans to boost economic activity as a whole in the area rather than only tourism to avoid more crowding, Collboni said that the nearby old post office building will house a tech and mobility hub, while Via Laietana avenue will have a biomedical research center and Plaça Catalunya square will become the HQ of a number of large companies.