Foto: Vicente Zambrano

For months, the world of architecture has been discussing the challenges it faces at a time when, according to the Dean of the COAC, cities are the major instrument of change. Catalonia’s Architecture Congress 2016 has been held twenty years after the previous edition, remembered for its 14,000 visitors, the “Barcelona model” and the “star system”: examples of what not to do.

Foto: Albert Armengol

Memory of a nightmare

David Expósito Jiménez

Joan Brossa made a sculpture “to boo” at Josep Maria de Porcioles, the pro-Franco mayor of Barcelona and one of the main people behind the property speculation of the 1960s. Although it was commissioned by the council of Sant Adrià de Besòs, the work endured censorship and various tribulations before arriving at the city’s Museum of the History of Immigration in Catalonia.

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The skyline of Watusi

Joan Riambau

El día del Watusi [The day of Watusi], the monumental work by Francisco Casavella, can be read as a great novel of the Spanish transition to democracy or as a story of “why we have gone from being a dramatic country to being a stupid country”. Above all, however, it is a novel about the conflict between the individual and himself, and between mortal beings and immortal inventions.

Colita

I refused to be a tourist

Ana María Dávila

The outside world seems to have pigeon-holed Catalans as unsociable people, obsessed with work and somewhat disinclined to offer you their friendship just like that. While I tend to avoid clichés, the differences with Chilean culture – where friendship is cemented before you have even downed your first glass of wine – are notable.

Photos: Katia Repina
The Red Square in Moscow, with historic department store GUM and St. Basil’s Cathedral in the background.

A Russian longing

Arnau Barios

When Russians regretfully invoke Barcelona’s gaudi [‘delight’ in Catalan], they aren’t making an error of pronunciation or talking of capricious buildings; rather, they are making a mistake that reveals a truth. They long for an easier city built on a human scale, with a mild climate.

© Pep Montserrat

The verb ‘to be’ is at the heart of poetry, of identity, of the pleasure of hearing Catalan being spoken. Who are we in a language that was, has been, has become and vibrates, after so many centuries, in the present ambiguity of our iPhones and our melancholic, civic voices

© Elisenda Llonch

Nothing beats the instant research of experience when translating ironic prose writers with a less than heroic vision of their city. The many Catalan fictions now available in English highlight the life and history of the city in prose that is as artful, incisive and original as any Gaudí or Picasso.

© Elisenda Llonch

It is like a network of layered spaces, many of them lost, many of them irrevocably transformed, some of them only accessed through uncertain memories or even less faithful photos.

© Bettmann / Corbis
Una familia de inmigrantes contemplando el panorama urbano de Nueva York desde la isla de Ellis, el 13 de agosto de 1925, tras pasar los rígidos exámenes de las autoridades estadounidenses y mientras esperaban el transbordador que los había de llevar a la ciudad.

Downtown Manhattan is by now a city of props. El Raval is a district in the throes of destruction. After so much beautification, Barcelona is running the same risk as New York. By wanting to be a capital city and a metropolis it may lose its provincial personality.

© Elisenda Llonch

For the Norwegians, Barcelona is an ideal destination: a large European metropolis, a status that Oslo can only dream of. But the Catalan’s heart sinks when he remembers the gerontocracy, the inequalities, the scenes of poverty in the streets, the city disappeared forever.

© Camilla de Maffei
All Italians are deeply envious of Barcelona’s dynamism and the urban redevelopment that has taken place under the democratic city councils.

Venice is a cosmopolitan city with a notable aesthetic aspect to it. Barcelona is a sunny, Mediterranean city which has transformed itself in a very short time through urban development. Hence the Italians’ unanimously enthusiastic reaction whenever they hear the city’s name: “Bellissima!”

© Mireia Zantop

The image of life itself

Jana Balacciu Matei

Coming to Barcelona to study Catalan, two decades ago now, was a turning point in Jana Balacciu’s life. She came from a sad city, still licking the open wounds of the dictatorship and the revolution, to a totally new world,

© Ko Tazawa

Ko Tazawa first came to Barcelona in 1978, when he was sent by his bank to learn Spanish. His contact with Catalan society would lead him to love the country, its culture and language. He has been back twice, most recently in 1993, with his wife and two children, to take his PhD in Catalan philology.

Vistes des del turonet Teufelsberg

Two cities at the forefront of Europe

Martí Estruch Axmacher

Barcelona and Berlin, which often share positions in the rankings of the most attractive or enterprising cities, are what Amsterdam and London used to be in the past. They also share the fact that they are highly advanced cities in

BCN_vist-de_indis_01_x_Eva-Parey

Now and again, someone in India asks me if Barcelona is the capital of Spain. As I don’t want to disappoint them, I always say yes, and they put on that “I knew it” face. The urge to be a