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  • Writer's pictureLucy Walker

A Brief History of the Museu del Disseny de Barcelona

What is the Museu del Disseny de Barcelona?

The Museu del Disseny de Barcelona, or Design Museum of Barcelona in English, is a museum exploring the history of design with a varied collection of decorative arts, textiles, ceramics and graphics.

Museu del Disseny de Barcelona

Thomas Ledl, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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Museu del Disseny de Barcelona History

Barcelona’s Design Museum opened its doors in 2014 and houses more than 80,000 objects dating from the Middle Ages to the present day. It’s an amalgamation of four former museums that showcased Spanish and Catalan decorative arts, textiles, ceramics and graphic design. These collections are now permanently on display in their new home and the galleries will be updated every five years, so that when you return to Barcelona there will be more to see.

The museum’s solid grey exterior is almost Brutalist in appearance, and by locals it’s known as La Grapadora (or ‘The Stapler’). It’s fashioned from zinc plates and glass, an industrial look that references the Poblenou neighbourhood’s past. In the early 19th century, manufacturers were drawn to this area because of its cheap land and proximity to the sea – water being essential for textile production. Numerous other industries were also established here, including flour mills and chemicals factories. Due to this industrial output, Poblenou was known as ‘the Manchester of Catalonia’ for over a century, until Franco’s regime led Spain into an economic downturn and many industries folded. The textiles mills were scaled down to almost a cottage industry, and by the 1970s had failed completely.

Museu del Disseny Exhibit

Jorge Franganillo, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Museu del Disseny is at the heart of an urban renewal project in the Plaça de les Glòries Catalanes, which until recently was a forgotten corner of the city, overshadowed by a loud and traffic-polluted roundabout. From a heritage perspective, the area was managed badly up to this point; many historic industrial buildings were demolished, so there’s little visual connection between past and present. Despite this loss, the aim of the Glòries project is to recreate the community spirit that characterised this area before its industries folded, through the creation of a new ‘green lung’, common social spaces and shared cultural sites for local people to enjoy. Only time will tell if this redevelopment is successful. Hopefully it will emulate London's South Bank, another industrial heartland turned thriving cultural quarter. In this spirit, the museum houses a public library and workshop spaces.

Appropriately for a design museum, this new building leads the way in cutting-edge, sustainable architecture. Solar panels have been installed on the roof, which can generate up to 125 kilowatt hours in the summer months. There’s a rainwater-recycling system, and energy efficiency has been incorporated into every aspect of the building.

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