Historically, El Born was always the site of a market, first in the square and later inside the cast-iron building. The building was designed as a local retail market, before going on to become the wholesale market for an expanding city. 45 years after the closure of the market, this exhibition aims to bring it back to life in the collective memory.
THE OLD EL BORN: THE SQUARE
“We’re going to the square”: throughout our history, square and market were the same thing. From the late Middle Ages, El Born was the nerve centre of the city’s most densely populated and active neighbourhood. Despite the demolitions to make way for the Ciutadella [citadel], urban changes and liberal renovation of the city’s network of markets, the square was still an open-air market until 1876.
THE NEW EL BORN
The construction of Ciutadella Park as of 1871 brought with it a new neighbourhood and a new market. The three projects had their sights fixed on modernity: a park like those in Paris, a neighbourhood of ordered façades and a cast-iron and glass market. The new neighbourhood market became the benchmark for Barcelona’s network of markets.
THE WHOLESALE EL BORN MARKET
The unstoppable growth of wholesale trade created serious congestion problems around La Boqueria and it was
decided to move the fruit and vegetable wholesalers to El Born. It was intended to be a temporary solution, but they stayed there from 1921 to 1971 – a period of rapid growth for Barcelona, which went from having 700,000 to 1,700,000 inhabitants.
THE MEMORY OF THE CENTRAL MARKET
As Barcelona’s central market, it had a surprising vitality that formed an essential part of city life, drawing people from all around and leaving a strong impression on the collective memory. Records which have been widely shared and a huge collection of photographs have turned it into one of Barcelona’s most singular memorial centres.
THE ARCHITECTURE OF EL BORN
The market of Fontserè, Cornet i Mas and La Maquinista drew its inspiration from the first European achievements with cast iron buildings (1871–76). One hundred years later, an initial period of restoration work managed to save it (1977–82), but the city had to wait until it was turned into a cultural centre to see its definitive restoration (2002–13).
EL BORN AT THE HEART OF THE LOCALS’ DEBATE
In 1971, when the central market was moved to Mercabarna, the plan was to demolish El Born. However, opposition
from local residents managed to save it. While it waited to be assigned a use, it played host to a wide range of events. Finally, after heated debate, the market was allowed to remain standing, giving shelter to a valuable archaeological site and becoming a centre for collective memory.
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