Un triomf inesperat: l’Exposició Universal de Barcelona 1888

Una mirada a través dels fons de l'Arxiu Municipal Contemporani

Joan Molet i Petit

The 1888 Barcelona Universal Exposition is one of the key events in the city’s recent history, and its memory is preserved in the extraordinary documentary collection held at the Contemporary Municipal Archive of Barcelona (AMCB, by its initials in Catalan).

This book aims to spotlight this rich vein of heritage, which plays an essential role in helping us to grasp the complexity of a significant event that constituted a turning point in the city. Illustrated with countless previously unpublished images from the AMCB collection, this publication goes beyond an exhaustive analysis of the architecture involved and proposes an exploration of aspects that are rarely studied, so that we can observe the Exposition from within.

Joan Molet’s work deals with themes that had previously been somewhat overlooked, such as the involvement of different social classes, represented by all kinds of civil associations and entities and the city’s distinguished figures, as well as giving a voice to the most anonymous protagonists: labourers, guards and traders.

We hear from the main participants through thousands of documents written in the form of minutes, rulings and reports, which shed light on everyday life at the Exposition: from its organisation and logistics to the development of the contest, the solemnities and cultural events, and the popular festivities, as well as work accidents, accidental fires and the controversial medal design. This is a study that highlights the important part played by the School of Architecture of Barcelona and especially its director, Elies Rogent, who led the project.

The book explains how the foundations were laid for the introduction of what we would later know as Modernisme, or Catalan Art Nouveau, as well as how creations as different as August Font’s Palau de les Belles Arts and Domènech i Montaner’s café-restaurant coexisted. On these pages, we will discover that, despite all the obstacles, the time limitations, the paltry budgets allocated to the event and the lack of urban planning preparations that accompanied it, the 1888 Universal Exposition was an unexpected triumph, leading to Barcelona being inscribed in gold among the names of the great European capitals.

Urban Planning
Historical Archive
Modern Barcelona

What are them saying

"Sabíeu que l'Arc de Triomf de Barcelona va ser la porta de l'Exposició Universal de 1888? Joan Molet de la Universitat de Barcelona ens ho explica arran de la publicació a Barcelona Llibres d'aquest fantàstic llibre d'accés gratuït. "

Joan Molet i Petit

(Barcelona, 1966) Senior lecturer in the History of Art Department at the University of Barcelona. He regularly collaborates with universities in the south of France, such as the University of Toulouse-Jean Jaurès and the University of Pau and the Adour Region. Since 2018, he has been a guest presenter at the Backsteinbaukunst Kongress, organised annually by the Europäisches Zentrum der Backsteinbaukunst e.V. in Wismar (Germany).

As a researcher, he has specialised in nineteenth-century architecture and urban planning in Catalonia and Europe, and in the study and dissemination of eclectic architecture, as well as writing monographs on some of the main architects he has studied, including Elias Rogent, Josep Vilaseca and Pere Falqués. He has also taken an interest in the architectural typologies of the industrial era and in the architecture of universal expositions. On the latter topic, he has been leading a specialist subject in the History of Art bachelor’s degree since 2007. In addition, he was the curator of the exhibition ‘The 1888 Universal Exposition: Barcelona in the Contest of Nations’, as part of the seventeenth Documents Showcase at the Contemporary Municipal Archive.

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Technical Data

  • Publication language: Catalan
  • Year: 2023
  • Pages: 288
  • Edition: 1
  • Format: PDF
  • ISBN City Council: 978-84-9156-529-1



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