The 1992 Olympics were Barcelona's opportunity to reveal itself to the world. And the city did not let the opportunity slip. Barcelona presented itself as a vital, modern city with ample organisational capacity and great international renown. The Games were a resounding success. But all the work on infrastructures, on opening the city to the sea and of urban remodelling did not end in 1992. The rewards of that major event are still being reaped in the great number of people who visit Barcelona year after year and who have converted it into one of the world's best tourist cities and business centres. And this provides funds with which to maintain the urban, architectural and service improvements.

The Great Culture Containers

The years immediately after the Olympics saw the fostering of great architectural works by authors of renown, some linked to the world of art, on the one hand, while on the other the little things of everyday reality tended to be ignored. Outstanding among the monumental projects are Richard Meier's Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA) - accompanied by the Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona (CCCB) -; the Teatre Nacional de Catalunya, the work of Ricardo Bofill (1996); the Auditori by Rafeal Moneo; and the reconstruction of the Gran Teatre del Liceu, directed by Ignasi de Solà-Morales. Other interventions on a grand scale include the gigantic shopping centres such as the Illa Diagonal by Rafael Moneo and Manuel de Solà-Morales, the Plaça de les Glòries centre by Cristian Cirici and the Maremagnum complex by Viaplana-Piñón-Mercadé.

A New Opportunity for the City?

Barcelona faces the challenges of the new era with the same vitality that has characterised the city at its great historical moments. While we are living once again with the phenomenon of immigration, the city is preparing for the Fòrum de les Cultures, which will take place in 2004. Another opportunity to show itself to the world as an open, modern, tolerant and welcoming city, and the ideal moment to remodel the area where Avinguda Diagonal meets the sea. This avenue now stretches uninterruptedly from the now Portal del Coneixement (the entrance to the city through the Zona Universitària and Pedralbes) to the Mediterranean.

On the other hand, the brand-new 22@ district rises above the old warehouses of Poblenou. What was once a pillar of Barcelona's manufacturing industry is now becoming the Mecca for new information and communication technology firms. And Ciutat Vella, a district that attracts both tourists and new residents recently arrived in the city, is opening generous spaces like the Rambla del Raval and sharing the multi-cultural vitality of its inhabitants with the spectacle of art and culture offered by museums such as the MACBA, the Centre de Cultura Contemporània and several faculties of Barcelona University and the Universitat Ramon Llull.

A Soupçon of Everything in Sculptures

  Dona que es banya (Woman Bathing)
Rafael Bartolozzi, 1993

After the fervour of the Olympics, Barcelona's capacity to astonish us by embellishing its streets and squares with sculptural works of art has diminished. Perhaps we should be resigned to the fact that in general the fine arts are forced to admit defeat at the hands of culture of the masses, television in particular. Even so, a stroll among the new pieces that are still being placed reveals a determination to continue: artists both local (Bartolozzi, Alfaro, Oteiza, Llimós) and from abroad (Weiner, Finlay); interventions in large public places (Parc de la Trinitat, Rambla de Guipúscoa) and in small orners of the city (Oteiza in Plaça dels Àngels); and sculpture as a supplementary contribution to redevelopment (Weiner on Avinguda de Mistral).

And commemorative sculpture still persists, the finest examples of which are the works dedicated to the three late presidents of the Generalitat and the president of the Mancomunitat. The monuments to Prat de la Riba (Andreu Alfaro), to Lluís Companys (Francisco López Hernández), and to Josep Tarradellas (Xavier Corberó) accompany Subirachs's work dedicated to Francesc Macià. At the same time, excellent earlier sculptures are still being retrieved for the city, such as Josep Clarà's Monòlit de Pompeu Fabra (La lectura) in the Jardinets de Gràcia.