The Barcelona episode of Hong Kong TV’s Design Cities series airs on Boxing Day (Dec 26) – a rare opportunity to hear me proffer yet more words of wisdom, in Chinese! (Dubbed, of course). An English version DVD is in the works… I’ll keep you posted.
The new web of Parc de Belloch has been launched, with a whole set of great video interviews about design, Barcelona, urban landscaping and the city. Each interview comes with a downloadable pdf transcript in both the original Spanish and a translated English version.
I’ve posted a link to my own contribution above, and you can access further words of wisdom by the likes of Miguel Mila, Antoni Arola, Beth Gali, Nina Maso or Javier Nieto on Belloch’s site.
I’ve added a new page to this blog – it’s called ‘The work’. It lives on the right-hand sidebar, alongside ‘the author’, ‘the blog’ and ‘the book’.
It has a selection of links to some of my writing, as well as a few downloadable PDF files. There’s writing on Barcelona, including a full chapter of my book La Barcelona del diseño. Many of you have been asking if it was available in English – not as yet, but here’s a taster.
There’s also links to online excerpts of other things I’ve written about: old American cars in contemporary Cuba, TV makeover shows and domestic interiors, the challenges of historical research in archive-averse environments, or the relationship between footnotes, chairs, and cities.
Go have a look – the goods are in The Work. There are texts in English, Spanish and Catalan, so there’s something for everyone!
Design collective REDImei are putting together a great online guide to Barcelona graffiti, with photos linked to Google map tags.
UNFORTUNATELY (yes, this is me shouting) I can’t post any of the great pictures here, because all the images on their flickr photostream have an ‘All rights reserved’ Creative Commons licence. Come on, guys. This is street art we’re talking about, our shared urban culture, that laughs at private property and writes on walls.
So the picture above comes not from their otherwise wonderful project, but from my own modest collection. And as all my other stuff on this blog, you are welcome to make good use of it should you so wish, under an ‘Attribution – Share Alike’ CC licence.
At least I can give you the link to their Google Maps page.
01 July – 01 November 2009
The first UK retrospective of Spanish designer and artist Javier Mariscal will open on July 1 at the Design Museum, London. Regarded as one of the world’s most innovative and original designers of our time, Mariscal’s rich and diverse body of work spans kooky cartoon characters to stunning interiors, from furniture to graphic design and corporate identities.
Mariscal’s intense relationship with drawing and illustration is central to his career and is the basis for his designs over the last 30 years. He gave Barcelona its graphic identity as it emerged from the Franco era and in 1992 he introduced the world to Cobi, the official Olympic mascot of the Barcelona games. Sketches, designs, films and photographs will be on display alongside furniture and textiles. Mariscal will also design and paint an elaborate mural for the exterior of the museum showcasing his unique vision and signature design style.
DESIGN MUSEUM, SHAD THAMES, LONDON SE1 2YD
TICKETS: Adults £8.50; Concessions £6.50;
Students £5.00; Under 12s free
OPENING: 10.00 -17.45 Daily. Last Admission: 17.15
PUBLIC INFORMATION T: 020 7940 8790
W: designmuseum.org ADVANCE BOOKING T: 020 7940
One of the few annoying features of my iPhone is the question it asks every time I want to use its camera: “Camera would like to use your current location. ‘Don’t allow’ / ‘Ok’”. Being a bit of a surveillance paranoid I routinely ‘Don’t allow’, but thanks to the hundreds of thousands of people who do, and mostly, thanks to those who upload their pictures to Flickr and tag them, the researchers at MIT SENSEable City Lab have come up with a fantastic piece of data visualisation. In collaboration with Universitat Pompeu Fabra and the Barcelona Disseny Hub, they have developed Los Ojos del Mundo, with two projects based on pictures taken by both tourists and locals in Barcelona: Spaces of Diversity maps Britons weaving their path in Barcelona; and Spaces of Activity tracks photos from Barcelona with tags related to ‘partying’.
So, what do tourists go for? No surprises there:
Britons who visited Barcelona in Fall 2007 stayed on the beaten paths delimited by the city’s main elements such as Parc Guell and Sagrada Familia, with Passeig de Gracia and Rambla acting as artery. The photos also confirm their pleasure for football (Camp Nou) parties (Forum) and the mediteranean sea (Barceloneta).
And what about partying?
tags related to “partying” in Summer 2007 shows that Barcelona confines its fun to the old town (Ciutat Vella) known for its high density of tourists, the bohemian distric of Gracia and the Forum area and its music festivals.
It’s Good Friday and it’s raining in Barcelona. I’ve finished re-reading Zola’s Au Bonheur des Dames, and in a vain attempt to overcome the blues that I always get when I come to the end of a great book, I briefly turned on the TV, only to be bombarded by images of all the Holy Week processions taking place around Spain – which felt as a rather creepy mix of the Spanish Inquisition and Disney World.
So I took refuge in YouTube, and I now offer you a chronological selection of idiosyncratic Barcelona goodies for your entertainment.
These first two are the earliest Barcelona films I’ve been able to find on YT – the first one is truly charming, one gets a wonderful sense of the city as a Mediterranean port, and I love the images of a deserted, brand-new Park Guell patrolled by sabre-wielding policemen.
The Spanish Civil War in thirteen minutes and a half:
The Seat 600 was the poster boy of the Spanish economic miracle of the 1960s. It was launched in 1957, manufactured in Barcelona, and easy enough for a woman to drive!
The 60s were the decade of massive migration into Barcelona from the South of Spain, and with the influx of immigrants came the shantytowns. And the music: la Rumba Catalana was born. Peret sang Catalan rumba in the 60s, and Manu Chao a different kind of fusion rumba many decades later.
In November 1975, Franco dies. The city -the country- lived on the razor’s edge.
The newly democratic Barcelona of the early 80′s still carried the dusty weight of almost four decades of dictatorship on its shoulders. Loquillo, one of the best Spanish rockers of the decade, sang of his city with perfect pitch, with just enough rage and anomie to capture the spirit of a youth culture about to explode in an extasy of pre-olympic urban transformation.
Here’s the transformation itself, in a scary stop-motion video that was produced by HOLSA, the Barcelona Olympic public-private body that coordinated the urban renovation works. And no, the disappearance of the old farmer and his artichoke fields under a sea of cement isn’t meant as an ironic twist.
In 2004, the City Council tried to pull another urban regeneration coup like the one in ’92 and invented the Universal Forum of Cultures, to take over a whole new chunk of city, build it up, prettify it, redesign it and hand it over to people other than those that were there to begin with. This time round, the Barcelonese were not too happy with the process and the Council lost the popularity contest. But got away with it anyway.
And then came the tourists, among them Woody, Vicky and Cristina. Watch the movie trailer first, then the Barcelona City Council’s tourism promotion video, and try to spot the differences. (Answer: it’s the dolphins).
Some tourists actually stay on for a while and compete for jobs with the immigrants from Africa and Eastern Europe
And last but not least, Barça.
Fundación Signes is promoting a campaign to save old shop signs that are at risk of disappearing. They are encouraging people to send pictures and note the exact locations, and have started building an online collection which already has some beautiful examples. It’s a great initiative and a particularly urgent one in cities like Barcelona, whose obsession with urban face-lifts and modernisation is creating an increasingly sterile environment. My recurrent nightmare, after a few months back in Barcelona, is that very soon there won’t even be a stretch of pavement left that is older than a decade or so. What this city needs is a Campaign for the Preservation of Grime and Urban Patina.
Another wonderful ongoing online project is José Antonio Millán’s Abecedario Industrial y del Comercio, which showcases hundreds of images of letters taken from commercial signs around Spain (mostly in Catalunya). Millán’s selection showcases the best – and worst!- of anonymous design’s creative drive, highlighting letters that try to represent the objects and services advertised. A fantastic overview of outsider typography.
It can’t be the weather. I don’t think it’s the nightlife, either. The food? I doubt that Batman and The Wheelman will be able to spare any time for tapas while they chase the bad guys down the dark alleys of the Gothic Quarter. But come March, they’ll both be in Barcelona doing their stuff, joining Vicky and Cristina in the latest trend of celebrity tourism: that of film, comic book and video game characters.
This recent spate as a leading city of pop-cultural narrative imagination marks a turning point in Barcelona’s steady climb towards global recognition. In the case of Batman and The Wheelman, these latest representations of Barcelona will reach an audience that might not care much about architecture, design and molecular gastronomy. And as the image of the city slips away from the tight controlling grip of its institutional and high-cultural minders, we might all be able to reclaim a more open, more complex version of our city – or drown in the endless rehash of half-baked Barcelonese stereotypes.
I told you about the video game The Wheelman in an earlier post. It’s the one where Vin Diesel trashes everything and everyone in sight in “exotic” Barcelona. It’s due out anytime soon, we’re being told, and while we wait with bated breath we’re being teased with a new trailer. What I’m really liking about this game, is that for once a global product that commercialises the “Barcelona Brand” shows us something other than the usual suspects. There are plenty of those (Sagrada Familia, Plaza Real, waterfront and palm trees), but thanks to the exacting requirements of the script, bursting with car chases and criminal behaviour, we are paradoxically offered a more realistic version of the city, which includes nail-biting ring-road action, dreary mass-housing neighbourhoods, dusty parking lots and abandoned construction sites. Now there’s a Barcelona I can recognise!