Brutalist Barcelona: a landscape on a metropolitan scale

Barcelona City Council and Àmbit Editorial are publishing 'Barcelona brutalista y tardomoderna. La construcción de un paisaje a escala metropolitana (1953-1967), by Paolo Sustersic, an incisive critique that looks at the creation of the burgeoning new urban landscape that shaped Barcelona in the third quarter of the 20th century and the city's transition towards late modernity, through the medium of architecture.

‘Brutalism’ is a style of architecture that was born in the UK in the 1950s, emerging from the reconstruction projects of the post-war period. Brutalist Barcelona was born in the 1970s, when the city was in a ferment of growth and development, and these international connections were reflected in its buildings.

In the book, Paolo Sustersic links the two phenomena: highlighting the connections between Brutalism and urban development in Barcelona, and his study also aims to show how the language and sculptural expressiveness of Brutalism were in tune with the construction of metropolitan Barcelona.

Barcelona brutalista y tardomoderna [Brutalist and Late Modern Barcelona] takes a close look at the appearance of various types of architecture in Barcelona, like the high-rise housing estates on the outskirts of the city, the new public buildings constructed in the neighbourhoods, such as churches, and others stemming from the logic of metropolitan growth, hospitals and infrastructure related to shipping for example. A diverse range of constructions, all of them with a role to play in the new metropolitan city, would leave the imprint of Brutalist style in all sorts of places on the map of Barcelona,as disconnected in time as they are dispersed in space.

It is an urban landscape that the subsequent wave of renovation, reconstruction and urban renewal projects undertaken under democracy since the 1980s has gradually transformed, in some cases blurring the traces of the past, and in others concealing them. For this reason, in part the value of Paolo Sustersic’s extraordinary work lies not so much in the inventory of a present architecture as in the rescue of a hidden heritage.

Book launch

The launch of Barcelona brutalista y tardomoderna will take place on Friday 4 November, starting at 6.30 pm in the Sala Mirador at the Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona (CCCB), with a round table featuring Laia Grau Balagueró, Urban Planning Manager at Barcelona City Council; Susana Landrove, from DoCoMoMo Ibérico; Marina Cervera, from the International Biennial of Landscape Architecture; Josep Maria Montaner, architect and full professor at ETSAB; Paolo Sustersic, the author of the book, and Francesc Muñoz, editor of the “Paraula i Paisatge” [Words and Landsacpes] collection at the Àmbit publishing house as moderator.