New Angels
A photographic frieze for Plaça de la Gardunya, by Jorge Ribalta

 


The exhibition New Angels. Scenes from the redevelopment of the Plaça de la Gardunya, Barcelona (2005-2018) was presented at La Virreina between July and October 2019.

INTRODUCTION

The exhibition New Angels. Scenes from the redevelopment of the Plaça de la Gardunya, Barcelona (2005-2018) was presented at the Virreina between July and October 2019.

This exhibition offered a photographic chronicle of the transformation of the square over thirteen years, from the first demolitions in 2005, prior to the redevelopment, until the inhabitants occupied the subsidized apartments in June 2018. It also presented aspects of the history of the square, including the former monastery of Santa Maria de Jerusalem and the changes that the site underwent after the monastery was demolished in the late 19th century. These changes were governed by the fact that the site was at the back of the Boqueria market and the Hospital de la Santa Creu.

The exhibition was particularly well received by the community of residents of the subsidized apartments, who had formed an association or platform in favour of improving the area around the square. The images and materials in the exhibition provided them with material that allowed them to understand the square’s history. It also helped them to better position themselves on their arrival in a new place that was incorporated into the city after being uninhabited for more than 150 years.

This proposal arose from the residents’ request to install the photographs of the exhibition in the common spaces of halls and stairways of the apartments. In their new location, the photographs add historical density to a new architecture, helping to make the space legible and habitable.

THE PROPOSED INTERVENTION

The proposal to exhibit photographs on the history of the square began with the hanging of photographic wallpaper on the walls of the three entrances to the apartments, combining a decorative function with a narrative and historical document.

However, the intervention was not limited to the apartments. The remodelling was understood as an organic set of elements, so the exhibition extended to the various spaces around the square. The apartments, the market and the art school make up an environment of dissimilar elements that are destined to coexist and were given formal coherence through the remodelling designed by the firm of Carme Pinós. The intervention provides a common historical thread for these elements with different functions. The photographs show different episodes in the square’s history. At the formal level, they create a dialogue between photography and architecture that aims to adapt to the different functions and uses of the architectural elements.

Because the remodelling of the square still has unfinished parts that will be completed in the coming years, such as the access to the courtyard of the former hospital and the remodelling of Jardins del Doctor Fleming, the proposal is also revisable and can be extended in the future to the spaces at the side of the former hospital as they are developed.

ITINERARY

The murals in each of the spaces are fragments (documents/monuments/ruins). Throughout the entire itinerary around the square, they form a large photographic frieze that represents aspects of the history of the square as a mise en abyme. The different moments of the remodelling between 2005 and 2018 reveal the historical strata.

The itinerary begins at stairway 1 of the apartments, at Carrer Floristes de la Rambla number 10, opposite Jardins del Doctor Fleming and next to the entrance to the underground car park. The mural is a synthesis of the history of the former car park of Plaça de la Gardunya and the construction of the new underground car park. It begins with the archaeological excavations of a Neolithic necropolis on this site in 2009 and ends as repaving commences after the underground car park was completed in 2013. On the back wall, the marked bricks allude to the entrance to the adjoining stairway 2, where they are placed. Superimposed on them is a sequence that represents the history of the Corralet, the former cemetery of the Hospital de la Santa Creu and the Academy of Medicine, which was located on the present-day site of Jardins del Doctor Fleming.

The mural of stairway 2, at Plaça de la Gardunya number 5, combines images of archaeological excavation and construction of the apartments. They cover the first excavations in 2006, the celebration of the start of construction and the marking of the bricks in the summer of 2016 and the inauguration in the summer of 2018.

Stairway 3, at Carrer de Jerusalem number 9, is dedicated to the history of the former Monastery of Santa Maria de Jerusalem. The mural at the entrance combines the images of a researcher studying the history of the monastery in situ and a young woman disguised as a nun at the 2018 Carnival. Elements that have survived from the monastery are represented at the back, including the cloister (now in a school in the Eixample) and an image of the monastery’s current location in Vallvidrera.

At the top of several of the food kiosks at the back of the Boqueria market there is a time sequence that corresponds to the years 2005 and 2006. In a reverse chronology (going from the apartments to the Massana School), this sequence represents the demolition of the last market stalls in the square at the corner of Carrer de Jerusalem and the appearance of the remains of the monastery.

In the back hall of the Massana School, adjacent to Carrer de Jerusalem, the mural is dedicated to the “Lady of the Gardunya”. This is the oldest archaeological find in the area: a Neolithic burial site of a young woman with her grave goods, which was discovered there in 2011.

Finally, at the exit to the Gardunya underground car park on Carrer de l’Hospital, which is at the back of Massana School, a mural represents the excavation of the Neolithic necropolis opposite Jardins del Doctor Fleming. This image is the same one that starts the frieze around the square on stairway 1, thus closing the circle. Under this image, a sequence represents the transformation of the site at the corner of Carrer de l’Hospital and Plaça del Canonge Colom due to building work on the new Massana School. The sequence goes from before the first demolitions in 2009 to the mounting of an exhibition on the Raval district in the school’s exhibition hall in the summer of 2018.