Barcelona Cultura

"Casa Bloc was intended to address social injustice in the 1930s"


Rossend Casanova, curator of the museum project of the Casa Bloc apartment-museum and head of the museum's product design collection

The restoration of the Casa Bloc apartment-museum was carried out between 2010 and 2011, and opened in 2012. What has been the outcome after five years of being open to the public?

Very satisfying. The joint work between INCASÒL (the owner) and ICUB (Barcelona Institute of Culture) through the Museum, has allowed us to bring to the public the great innovation in architecture and society of the 1930s that gave rise to this building which, even today, is a paradigm of social housing.

What challenges were involved in restoring this heritage site for Barcelona and the Sant Andreu neighbourhood?

As the intention was to restore the interior of Dwelling 1/11 as its creators had left it, the main obstacle was finding those missing elements and which, fortunately, we managed to get from the block itself. It was an intense process which included the involvement of residents and the help of several consultants.

Catalan rationalist architecture was inspired by European rationalist architecture. Were you also inspired by other models of museum houses?

We had contact with various rationalist architecture museum spaces in order to share experiences and problems but, because they had previously opened the Dormitoris Reials al Palau de Pedralbes (Rooms of the Royal Palace of Pedralbes) to the public, the Museum team were already very knowledgeable.

Casa Bloc first saw the light of day in the nineteen thirties. What was the context in which it was built?

In a very creative moment, within the framework of the Second Spanish Republic. But also of great social hardship, with many incomers who, eager for a better future, had created pockets of poverty on the outskirts of the city where the factories were located, and the places they had settled were in a precarious and unhealthy state. Casa Bloc, promoted by the government of the Generalitat of Catalonia, was intended to correct this social injustice.

Do the characteristics of the Casa Bloc compare badly to the standards of the flats in Barcelona today?

It is rather the reverse. The modern apartments of Barcelona today are based on that rationalism which avoids unnecessary spaces, is committed to natural light, promotes good ventilation, etc. Unfortunately, what property speculation has done today is to build flats with dark rooms and small sizes: in Casa Bloc, the smallest apartment is 60 square metres and the largest 90.

Casa Bloc is affiliated to the Iconic Houses international network. Apart from the Casa Bloc, what do you think is the most iconic building in the history of architecture?

Undoubtedly one by Antoni Gaudí, an architect ahead of his time and admired by rationalists such as Le Corbusier. If we talk about houses, La Pedrera is a good example; if we talk about buildings in general, then the Expiatory Temple of the Sagrada Família.


Ajuntament de Barcelona