Opened in 1876, El Born market was, in fact, the first large-scale cast-iron building to be erected in Barcelona. For centuries, an open-air public market was held in the neighbouring Plaça del Born. As part of the global renovation project for Barcelona’s market network that started in 1868, a new building that would house the stalls was designed in 1871 by Josep Fontserè, while the engineer Josep M. Cornet was responsible for the structure. The construction works, entrusted to the Maquinista Terrestre i Marítima began in 1874.
Initially serving as the local market for the neighbourhood of La Ribera, in 1921 it became Barcelona’s main wholesale market for fruits and vegetables. As in other large European cities, the growth in population and trade made it necessary to regulate and control the wholesale activity, which was hitherto spread between several markets and caused severe congestion in the Boqueria market. After ruling out the construction of a new building, El Born became the city’s new wholesale fruit and vegetable market.
However, in August 1971, as the first six pavilions of the Les Halles market in Paris were being pulled down, the Barcelona fruits and vegetables wholesale market was moved to a new location and El Born market was closed. In spite of spite of its iconic character as one of Barcelona’s earliest and finest examples of cast-iron and glass architecture, a development plan for the old town proposing the market’s demolition was put forward. Only the strong opposition from the emerging local residents’ associations saved the building from being teared down. Nevertheless, the old market would be left without any specific permanent use for over 40 years.
In 2002, a remarkable archaeological site was found in the market’s subsoil, revealing traces of the demarcations of streets and houses from the 18th century. They provide considerable insight into life in Barcelona before the siege of 1714, as well as into the consequences of the fall of the city.
- 1994-2002 first interventions related to projects that were finally not carried out.
- 1994 archeaeological surveys of the subsoil to evaluate the viability of turning the building into the central building of the Pompeu Fabra University
- 1998-2002 archaeological excavations of the subsoil for the construction of a basement for the library and to reinforce the market’s foundations.
- 2001-2002 excavation of the entire interior surface. It was decided to preserve the archaeological site in its integrity, turn the building in a cultural centre open to the public, discarding the the library project.
- 2004 Sòria and Cáceres are hired to carry out the studies to create the cultural centre at El Born.
- 2003-2008 study and restoration of the archaeological remains, historical documentation, technical studies of the building.
- 2005-2007 covering the archaeological remains with a provisional deck.
- 2005-2009 construction of the annex building, where the management offices are located, together with technical elements such as the refrigeration and heating systems.
- 2008-2009 the cleaning process of the façade begins, as new structural pathologies unknown until then appear, thus making it necessary to reorient the project. Archaeological works to reinforce the foundations with micropiles.
- 2009-2013 renovation works and new construction works inside the market. Adaptation works in the surrounding area, musealisation of the archaeological site, facilities and internal equipment.
- Sept. 2013 inauguration of the new cultural centre and its permanent exhibit of the 18th century archaeological remains, together with the temporary exhibits and a varied cultural programme.
- 2016 construction of an office space inside the market.