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  • Writer's pictureFrancesca Ramsay, MA

A Brief History of the CCCB in Barcelona

What is the Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona?

The Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona (CCCB) is an innovative cultural centre that opened in 1994 in the building of an early 19th-century charitable institution.

Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona

Fred Romero, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

CCCB History

Here in the northern part of the city’s vibrant and colourful Raval neighbourhood is a firm fixture in Barcelona’s art scene: the Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona. This multi-disciplinary, cultural institution, which cuts breezily across artificial separations of cultural high and low, hosts a lively and thought-provoking exhibition and event schedule. It’s home to the fantastic World Press photography exhibition and Poetry Slam Barcelona, as well as a plentiful store of comedy, theatre and debate. Innovative contemporary art exhibitions have included high-profile appearances: in 2017, musician Björk used virtual reality to drop exhibition visitors onto a deserted Icelandic beach, where she appeared to sing individually to each viewer!

Film aficionados will enjoy the Xcèntric Archive, a charming and tiny theatre (ten seats only) whose repertoire of films exceeds more than 1,000 experimental works by prominent directors. Every summer, the courtyard becomes an event space, with open-air cinema screenings and concerts. And for anyone fancying a party, dance music festival Sónar holds some of its daytime events here every year. It’s a testament to the restless spirit of the centre that there are no permanent exhibitions.

In addition, the centre is quite something to look at. Remodelled in the early 1990s by award-winning architects Helio Piñón and Albert Viaplana, the complex achieves a striking mix of the traditional and the modern. The venue began life in the early 19th century as the Casa de Caritat, an alms-house built on the site of a medieval church. The alms-house provided shelter for the most vulnerable members of Barcelonan society, serving this vital role for over a 150 years. Today the centre, which opened in 1994, occupies three of the original wings of the alms-house. These surround the central courtyard, the Pati de les Dones. You’ll notice the exterior walls have been beautifully decorated using the sgraffito technique – a form of ornamentation made by scratching through a painted surface to reveal a lower layer of contrasting colour. Spot the majolica tiling too, also dating from the late 1920s.

Making for a dramatic juxtaposition, the north wing has been replaced by an enormous glass façade. At 30 metres high, it tilts over the courtyard, dwarfing the original buildings and mirroring the city. You’ll notice that the two sides are very slightly offset, and composed of darker and lighter tinted glass. Romanian cartoonist Dan Perjovschi once penned a mural exploring gender inequality and discrimination all across the glass exterior. Although it’s not always open to the public, if you manage to visit the Sala Mirador on the 5th floor of the glass and steel structure you’ll discover spectacular panoramic views of the entire Raval neighbourhood and beyond.

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