Design Museum of Barcelona: Everyday Exceptionalism

Marta Burgues

Behind every object, there's a designer who created it... and also, a little history. This museum highlights the beauty of everyday objects.

Design is all around us: in the clothes we wear, the utensils we eat with, and even where we sit. Can you picture a place where all of these objects, dating from the fourth century B.C. to the present, come together? Look no further than the Museu del Disseny de Barcelona – the Design Museum of Barcelona – where the past, present, and future of objets d’art and design live within an avant-garde building in the city’s tech hub, 22@Barcelona.

We’ll show you the powerful architecture, the halls, and permanent and temporary exhibits inside of one of the world’s largest design museums. There’s an irresistible draw here for those who are fascinated by the art and luxury that can be found in everyday objects.

Museo del Diseño de Barcelona
“Caja con cajones” (Barcelona 1525-1550).

Inaugurated in 2014, the Design Museum of Barcelona brings together collections that could previously be found at the city’s Decorative Arts Museum, the Textile and Clothing Museum, and the Graphic Arts Cabinet, respectively. It houses more than 70,000 works of decorative art, as well as unique collections that range from the fourth century to the present, including sixteenth century Catalonian enameled glass, twentieth century fashion, and twenty-first century artistic expressions.

A striking – and sustainable – building

The architecture of a design museum should be anything but plain – and this example does not disappoint. Located within the Disseny Hub Barcelona building at Plaça de les Glòries and right next to the Jean Nouvel-designed Torre Agbar (which is now called Torre Glòries), the museum covers 98,500 square feet and boasts a sustainable and innovative style.

With metal and glass tiles, the exterior is reminiscent of a stapler. Its green carpet is one of its most notable components, comprised of natural and artificial elements that ensure its sustainability. The entire complex complies with the complex conservation standards set out by the European Union’s environmental group, Ecolabel.

Museo del Diseño de Barcelona
Museu del Disseny de Barcelona (Design Museum of Barcelona)  / All photos: © Lourdes Jansana
Museo del Diseño de Barcelona
Crib Number 3, Austria, (1890).

The museum location in the 22@ district is not incidental: this area is also home to a number of startups and established tech companies, like Amazon, HP, Facebook and Microsoft, among many others, and has become part of Barcelona’s skyline.

The Collections

Dresses ranging from 18th century French royal court to Pertegaz, Balenciaga

This permanent exhibit is one of the most impressive in the museum. With its 170 pieces, Dressing the Body: Silhouettes and Fashion (1550-2015) showcases royal courtesan dresses from the sixteenth and seventeen centuries, as well as the work of fifty of the most well-known haute couture designers, including Manuel Pertegaz, Cristóbal Balenciaga, Paco Rabanne, Antonio Miró, Andrés Sardá, Josep Abril and Armand Basi.

Museo del Diseño de Barcelona
Short jumpsuit by Paco Rabanne (left) and royal court dress, France, c. 1760. / © Museu del Disseny de Barcelona

The exhibit details the evolution of shape, and how clothing has outlined the human body across centuries. As thorough as a thesis, and as spectacular as a major stage production, the approach is nonetheless accessible, allowing visitors to delve into the history of couture and the ideas behind every silhouette.

Product Design: Internationally Successful Everyday Objects

The 238 industrial design objects that comprise this collection are among the most important and influential on a global scale. Take, for instance, the drip proof cruet (1968) designed by Rafael Marquina, the most copied piece ever made in Catalonia.

Museo del Diseño de Barcelona
Pedrera chair, 1955 (left) y BKF chair (right), 1938.

Another noteworthy example is the BFK chair, designed by Bonet Castellana, Ferrari-Hardoy and Juan Kurchan, the prototype of which you can admire at the museum. It’s hard to believe it was designed in 1938, given the piece’s widespread international reach which has made it a symbol of modernity.

That’s not all: there’s also Pedrera Chair (1955), which was designed by Barba Corsini for the attic apartments of Gaudí’s Casa Milà. There’s also André Ricard’s torch for the 1992 Olympic Games, the silverware from Feran Adrià’s El Bulli restaurant, and a spectacular polyester pop-style chair designed by Jordi Galí. This is only to name a few of the items on display in this exhibit.

Museo del Diseño de Barcelona
© Photo LaFotografica

Decorative Arts Collections From the 3rd to the 20th Centuries

This collection allows us to take a dazzling tour of the beautiful single pieces etched in the history of culture and urban life. Among the highlights, you’ll find a carriage-shaped bed manufactured in Barcelona in the 1800’s, an extraordinary bronze marquetry that depicts scenes from the Peninsular War, ceramic and glass works by Picasso and Miró, and a collection that documents the formidable transformation of jewelry over the last hundred years

The Myth of David Bowie

Until September 25 of this year, the museum will showcase a tribute exhibit to David Bowie. The brainchild of London’s Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A), the collection features more than 300 pieces from the late musician’s personal and artistic universes: handwritten lyrics, original suits and fashion, photographs, films, and music videos.

After visiting the Design Museum of Barcelona, you’ll better understand why good design is essential for the body and soul.

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St. Regis Singapore: a hotel for art
De Jonckheere Gallery: the subtlety of Flemish art 

© | 2019