May 20: Barcelona, 1929

2016/05/20 § Leave a comment

On this day in 1929 the International Exposition opened in Barcelona.

The Expo was one of those great old school extravaganzas that called for the construction of a ton of new buildings as a joint effort of some twenty countries; this one spread across a giant 300-acre lot spilling down from the top of the Montjuïc hill.  Whereas the previous Big Fat Fair in Barcelona (in 1888) was a spark for Modernisme, this one consolidated Noucentisme.  This latter movement was an answer to, or a correction for, what by then was deemed the excess of Modernisme.  The funky forms were evened out, bulbous details smoothed over, images of bats and butterflies and poppies exiled to the realm of poetry and dreams.  Seeking rationalism at best (and Anti-Catalanism at worst, seeing where the country would be shortly headed), its practitioners looked to the Classical heritage of Europe in general and the Iberian peninsula in particular, resulting in some of Barcelona’s most significant and long-lasting monuments: Plaça d’EspanyaPalau Nacional, Teatre GrecPoble Espanyo and the wonderful Font màgica de Montjuïc (above).  Don’t you wish your city had a magic fountain?

In short, the Expo grounds were a vision of Classical traditions, from the canon of ancient Greece to picturesque traditions from across Spain: a symbol of nationalism within the context of Western heritage.  These buildings were designed to last (as they do), and indeed have been preserved since the Expo closed in January, 1930.  So why is it that, instead of these monuments of Noucentisme, everyone knows best a temporary kiosk built by the Germans, for which no tears were shed when it was demolished? 

Image: Font màgica de Montjuïc & Palau Nationale (from this source)

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