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  • Writer's pictureFrancesca Ramsay, MA

A Brief History of the L’Estel Ferit in Barcelona

What is L’Estel Ferit?

L’Estel Ferit, or The Wounded Star’ is a commemorative sculpture by German visual artist Rebecca Horn located in the Barceloneta neighbourhood.

L’Estel Ferit

Canaan, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

L’Estel Ferit History

This precariously stacked sculpture of four iron and glass cubes is L’Estel Ferit, The Wounded Star (or Los Cubos if you want to sound like a local). The haphazard, gracefully rusting tower, commissioned for the 1992 Olympic Games, is the work of German visual artist Rebecca Horn. Her sculpture has become one of the Barceloneta neighbourhood’s most iconic landmarks.

With the arrival of factories and shipbuilding yards in the 19th century, Barceloneta soon became overcrowded with the workers, sailors and fishermen who made their living on the coast. In order to accommodate the population, the workers’ houses were first split in half and later in quarters. As a result, their tiny dwellings measured no more than 30 square metres and often held large families of ten or more people. Chiringuitos, the bars, seafood kiosks and humble restaurants that served the workers, used to line the Barceloneta coastline. A century later many of these small shacks had long since fallen into disrepair, but remained well-loved by both locals and tourists. But in the run-up to the Olympics, this old and shabby fishing district underwent huge changes. Its factories were closed and beaches completely renovated. The whole area was refurbished and gentrified.

Horn’s sculpture pays sincere tribute to a lost community. Its empty windows give it the appearance of an abandoned home. Its higgledy-piggledy structure captures a trace of the ramshackle buildings that used to fill the district. Horn’s work is particularly powerful at dawn, with each window of the sculpture dramatically illuminated as the sun rises over the ocean.

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