Have you ever seen a chair with ears, a rubber desk or a carpet sofa? These and other intricate items are on display in the Museum of Design of Barcelona. When you look at them, you suddenly realize what it truly means to be a designer. You actually design things: you conceive, envisage, enchant, entertain, surprise, and then, of course, prompt people to buy
Museo del Diseño de Barcelona
Plaa de les Glòries Catalanes, 37, m. Glories
Opening hours: Tue-Sun from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Sun from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Entrance: €5, Sundays after 3 p.m. free
However, here you will not have a chance to buy anything. The Museum belongs to the state, and all of its content, about 70 thousand exhibits in total belong to the Government of Catalonia. Most of them were granted to the Museum by people and organizations, some were purchased. Coming here is already worthwhile even if you merely want to see the changes that have occurred after the reconstruction of the Glories Square. For two years, from 2012 to 2014 during which the Museum was closed a remarkable transformation was gradually taking place.
Everything that relates to HUB is concealed in the underground, while the Museum itself occupies four floors above the ground.
First of all, the exhibits from four museums of Barcelona, namely, the Museum of Decorative Arts, Ceramics Museum, Museum of Textile and Clothing and the Museum of Fine Arts step by step, load by load changed their residence. Secondly, 3500 square metre area was designated for a newly organized Disseny HUB Barcelona Cultural Centre that currently incorporates a spacious two-storey library with free access to books and Internet, most extensive document archive, halls for temporary exhibitions and various events, workshops, classes for children and adults alike and much more. Thirdly, if you pass the main entrance off the Glories Square, and enter at the opposite side you will see the newly made artificial lakes that seem to flow through the building itself and create a funny feeling that you are not in the city but in nature. The design is very smart, simple and practical. Everything that relates to HUB is concealed in the underground, while the Museum itself occupies four floors above the ground. Each floor is dedicated to its own subject matter: industrial design, applied art, fashion and graphics.
For centuries, Catalonia has been renowned for its accomplishments in the field of decorative-applied art, and there is nothing surprising in the fact therefore that its capital Barcelona today is considered to be a centre of modern design, where industrial design, fashion and 3-D technology are booming and flourishing. To show the coherence of eras and times through samples of everyday objects is the task which the Museum curators are undertaking with this exhibition. Take, for example, a graceful carriage of carved lacquered wood which in the XIX century served as a vehicle for a marquis from Majorca. How can one possibly get past it? I want to sit inside, feel like the heroine of Rita Hayworth from the “Lady from Shanghai” and most certainly take a picture! Apparently, that is what many visitors have already done, so the vehicle had to be rounded with a protective fence. And here is a dresser from Pedro Almodovar’s film “All About My Mother”, a chair that used to belong to Pablo Neruda, a collection of pottery of Pablo Picasso and Joan Miro. Vases and ceramic, glass and metal sets, textiles of the most incredible colours, original decorations, furniture — where else, if not here, one should come for inspiration?
The floor dedicated to fashion is more like a Museum of History of Costume. Each era is represented with its distinctive gents’ and ladies’ garments. Next to the dresses on display are mannequins that reflect graphically what painful restraint women had to endure in the name of fashion, whether it is tightening of waist with a corset or extension of hip line with special structures that were installed between skirts. All of them illustrate how the silhouette was changing with times, starting from the XVI through to the XX century. “These ones here, we call them “inflatable women,” says my guide with laughter. Javier Roig looks after public relations here. He points to the mannequins with disproportionately huge hands: at that time, it was considered fashionable for a lady to appear to have rather overstated shoulders and forearms. To achieve that the sleeves had to be filled with a special material in order to create volume. “I guess children do not come here really? Nothing can be touched and you cannot play with anything”. Javier disagrees: “We plan to make an interactive section for children in the future, but for the moment we organize tours for kids from schools and kindergartens”. I look at him mistrustfully: how could that possibly be interesting to kids? As if to deliberately disperse my doubts, a horde of four-year-olds storms the hall. All seated on the floor opposite the displays, where, among other items there are works of Adolfo Dominguez, Paco Rabanne and Balenciaga. You hear a curious child’s voice: “Why are all the mannequins headless?” The rest of the children and employees of the Museum are filled with cheerful laughter. The guide explains: “Because with a dress it is not the head that matters but what the dress actually dresses”. Perhaps, great couturiers would not disagree.
Pilar Beles. Director of Museum of Design, Barcelona
“Good or bad, but we are used to living in a busy world these days where you are always heading somewhere in haste. Museum exhibitions must comply with the current realities. They should be able to convey information not only to professionals but to any visitor who has free and easy access these days to the constantly growing volume of Internet sources and specialist software. That is why we have created a comprehensive collection and made it accessible to all. We try to illustrate the exhibited objects with media support, but still the centre of attention remains the object itself, it is the basis of the collection. Simply put, to come to the Museum and to see the exhibits with your own eyes is more important than to study the subject while immersing into the virtual world. We must not fall into a trap when we mistake a learning tool for a subject of a research. There is a variety of methods, tools and achievements to assist in one’s work that are available from anywhere in the world. However, only direct contact with an exhibit, ancient or modern, signature or impersonal, handmade or industrial, allows by being close to them to truly appreciate their significance and meaning”.