b-guided > Barcelona

Pop Arch

By Brian Gallagher 01.08.12

One of the more positive legacies of the last decade is the number of quality public buildings that have been constructed in Spain despite some notable exceptions of course. In the main however these structures have provided much needed community facilities and helped forge the fabric of the communities that they serve as well as showcasing what thoughtful and well designed architecture can achieve.

In contrast to the private speculative property bubble that got completely out of control and which was one of the principal contributing causes for the current recession, a series of recently completed projects that may just mark the end of an era as far as investment in public infrastructure is concerned (at least for the foreseeable future) stand testament to the our belief in the public realm. Facilities and institutions providing communities with leisure and social resources that support the day to day encounters that forge a sense of identity within the these communities. Libraries, auditoria, theatres, leisure and day care centres and exhibition spaces; public amenities that in many cases are available free of charge and are financed by government funds. While much of the economic activity of the last decade remains intangible apparently vanishing into the ether, these buildings at least provide evidence of a more optimistic time and are an endorsement of the idea of community as opposed to the mere individualism of consumer society.

At a time when the very survival of many of the planks of our contemporary western democracies are under threat; the welfare state, public health, organised labour these projects take on another significance providing as they do evidence of another way that society can behave in a more collective sense. Culture and the arts are common to all they reflect our concerns and help define us as a collective. While the sale of national assets and state companies (as demanded by the EU) seems inexorable in all European states the Cultural Centre or Casa de Cultura acts a repository for the things we share, something that goes far beyond mere monetary value but is nonetheless essential to any understanding of ourselves. Whether it be a venue for performance, visual arts exhibitions, providing access to the daily newspapers, or historical archive the Casa de Cultura fulfils an fundamental role at the heart of our communities, providing local artists and citizens a medium for expression and communication. Or just a place where people and encounter one another on common ground.   

In the true sense of the term Popular Culture the following projects located in Barcelona and its surrounding hinterland as well one particularly spectacular project located in Teruel are all public buildings designed to provide venues for local people. They are interesting because they also happen to be cultural expressions in their own right, from the fractured volumes of the Casa de Cultura in Lloret del Mar to the science fiction setting of the youth club and leisure centre Teruel-zilla, the architects contribution to the urban realm has been as much a concern as the accommodated programme. All of these building are in dialogue with their settings the very places which they are celebrating in a cultural sense.