Poblenou – Rough with the smooth

Street art in Poblenou
Street art in Poblenou

The New Village

When walking the streets of Poblenou you come across strong contrasts, interrupted vertical symmetry and a mixture of rough and smooth in relation to textures, structures and colours. The New Village, as the name of this area can be translated from Catalan, was once a town completely separate from Barcelona but as the city started to expand it became another neighbourhood bordering with the sea.

I have discovered Poblenou in my first days since I moved to Barcelona. I decided to avoid the crowds in Barceloneta and venture out a bit further than the Port Olimpic and the Bogatell beach. The Rambla del Poblenou with its small cafes and bars, tall trees providing a cooling shade and the decorative Modernista facades charmed me straight away. As soon as I left the lively Rambla and started walking down the wide streets of Poblenou it was clear to me that this area has much more to offer than great spots for a coffee or a bite to eat. It was the urban landscape filled with warehouses, factories and their chimneys that won over my heart.

Old factory in Poblenou

Old factory in Poblenou

The Promised Land

During the Industrial Revolution of the 19th century, Poblenou was the heart of Catalan and Iberian industry. The close proximity to the sea ensured the ease of transportation and water supply so the factories were built, the jobs created and the machines went on and on manufacturing whatever was in demand back then. However, in the 60s, industrial production relocated to other countries and regions of the world as global economy developed. Many factories were abandoned and the area slid into dereliction.

Ah… the Promised Land I thought when looking around for the first time and in mind I had one Polish film set in the industrial city of Łódź. It is the place, which shares some of Poblenou’s experiences and man-made scenery that inspired different artists including David Lynch, who photographed and captured it on camera.

New visual connections and strong contrasts

After a period of decay many of derelict office buildings, warehouses and factories are now restored and new property development started few years ago. Modern architecture introduced a new symmetry, the order of a straight line and smooth textures. The Agbar Tower with its phallic shape, Hotel ME designed by Dominique Perrault and the Forum Building designed by Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron, the Swiss architects behind Tate Modern and the Beijing National Stadium, represent some of the most iconic examples. This urban transformation brings up some of Poblenou’s contrasts even more though. For example if you peek inside vast industrial garages you might spot people fixing supermarket trolleys so they can keep their belongings while living rough in the streets of Barcelona – no fancy hotels there.

What excites me the most about Poblenou is its cultural offering, entrepreneurial and community spirit. So far I have seen few exhibitions at La Plataforma, attended a very unusual performance at The Sala Beckett and even joined local residents for an outdoors Zumba class one Saturday morning. I know that I only scratched the surface. I have more to discover and as I continue to visit Poblenou it will be interesting to observe how it develops and shapes its identity.

Weronika Czekaj
Photography enthusiast with a great interest in culture and travelling. Curious by nature. When breaking free, not at her desk.

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  1. Thank you for taking me on a walk around Poble Nou. It is really a special area of Barcelona, for sure not so fancy and not so touristic as La Rambla but still worth to see and taste. I like the way how your pictures reflect the loneliness of this place. Definitely waiting for more posts and more photos from Poble Nou!

  2. I am glad you enjoyed it! I also like Poble-sec so who knows maybe I will start my own alternative guide to Barcelona?

  3. Fantastic post showing how there is always a lot of life and much more to explore beside what tourists can see. Your guide to Barcelona will be much appreciated as I have yet to visit the city. :)

    1. Thank you Fabio! I will keep that in mind.

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