Barcelona on/off Film

Barcelona–the city with (as scholar Joan Ramon Resina titles his 2008 book) the “vocation of modernity”–has been the star of a number of films. Perhaps none are as visually stunning and recent as Biutiful (2010, starring Javier Bardem but featuring an incredible, numerous cast, directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu).

Substantially changed by planner Ildefons Cerdà’s nineteenth-century geometrical vision for the city (above, the plan dates from 1859), Barcelona experienced subsequent changes in 1888, in 1929, and in preparation for the Olympic Games in 1992.

The more recent changes are also analyzed in depth as part of Donald McNeill’s 1999 book Urban Change and the European Left, and the areas at the center of these new late XXth-century changes have a predominant role (even if they appear only infrequently) in the film Biutiful–where the triumphant, international vision of Barcelona as a model for contemporary urban planning is splendidly juxtaposed to the underworld of sweatshop labor and exploitation upon which many of Barcelona’s successes rely.

Definitely a must-see film for students of urban cultural studies.

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Will Self’s review of Owen Hatherley’s work in the latest London Review of Books asks some good questions. Hatherley’s architectural criticism is everywhere from the Guardian to BD, and he has achieved the impossible feat of making a post-crash career as an architectural critic. On top of this, he’s published a couple of books, and completed a PhD. All this effort in the name of architecture deserves some sort of medal. But it’s worth asking what Hatherley wants.

This is particularly the case in relation to Brutalism, a much-maligned and misunderstood tendency that has lately come back into fashion. Like Hatherley’s writing, it’s everywhere: everyone (if we believe the Sunday supplements) wants a flat in Erno Goldfinger’s 1968 Trellick Tower. The developer Urban Splash have taken a major punt on Wilson and Womersley’s Park Hill. No trip to Brazil is now complete without a look at the bracing Paulista Brutalism…

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