CULTURAL FACILITIES IN METROPOLITAN BARCELONA
by Fčlix Manito
Historian and Journalist
Over the last years, our metropolitan cultural scene has experienced
major alterations in its network of facilities. This is a transformation
which has been forwarded mainly by institutions of the public
sector, more particularly town councils, but with significant
co-operation from the private sector and local social bodies.
All these combined efforts aimed at providing the region with
new infrastructures are altering our cultural consumption map.
The newest data concerning the public use of existing facilities
give us useful information about this process. For instance, in
the case of the libraries, visitors from the metropolitan region
- excluding the city of Barcelona - account for more than fifty
per cent of the total number of visitors from the whole of Catalonia.
Therefore, it is now a question of overcoming partial perspectives
and to transmit the idea of a territory in which, despite the
many shortages that still have to be corrected, major projects
are being carried out and which boasts cultural services of a
standard that is increasingly close to equalling those available
in its metropolis. (...)
Cultural centres - also called civic centres or "casals de
barri" (neighbourhood houses) - are the most numerous facilities
currently available, more particularly in the Vallès Occidental
and Baix Llobregat regional districts. Where cultural facilities
are concerned, these centres are the places in which town councils
have invested most heavily over the last twenty years. There is
an important network of Civic Centres, notably in areas such as
Badalona, Cerdanyola, Mataró, Mollet, Rubí, Sabadell
and Sant Boi. Only ten per cent of the metropolitan Civic Centres
are privately-owned and they are in the majority located in small
towns of less than 5.000 inhabitants. (...)
Libraries are the only obligatory cultural facilities in municipalities
of less than 5.000 inhabitants and the library network has presently
reached a normalized level of coverage within the metropolitan
region. Although the situation has still to improve to actually
meet the standards established by the "Mapa de Lectura Pública"
(Public Reading Map), an important number of municipalities -
Badalona, Cornellà, Granollers, L'Hospitalet, Montcada
i Reixac, Parets, Pineda de Mar, Sabadell, Sant Boi, Santa Coloma
de Gramanet and Terrassa - boast two or more public libraries.
Almost forty different projects (construction of new buildings,
removals, enlargement and remodelling works) have been carried
out within the last last years. The Central Libraries in Santa
Coloma de Gramanet, Cornellà, Matarà and Terrassa
stand out for their large dimensions and special significance.
In the town of Terrassa, the first year of "normalized"
operation of the Central Library after its official opening in
1998 was such a huge success that it recorded the largest number
of visitors in the whole of Catalonia.
The large number of theatres in the metropolitan area is not a
real signal of normalization given that almost two thirds of them
fail to meet officially established standards. On the other hand,
more than half of such theatre facilities belong to Athenaeums
and other long-time local organizations that do not have the resources
necessary to restore or improve them. Among those privately-owned
buildings, only four actually meet official requirements, namely
the "Teatre del Patronat de la Passió", in Esparreguera;
the "Caixa de Granollers" Cultural Centre, in Granollers;
the "Teatre de la Passió", in Olesa; and the
"Casino Prado", in Sitges. We must also say that, in
many cases, the participation of local town councils in the restoration
of those places has not been facilitated by the organizations
that own them. In any event, theatres have never ranked first
among metropolitan town councils' priorities where municipal investment
in cultural facilities is concerned. Only in few exceptional cases
- such as the "Centre Cultural" in Sant Cugat -, special
effort has been focused on this particular type of cultural facilities.
The regular programme of performances presented by the "Centre"
is the most notable one in the whole metropolitan region. The
most recent restoration projects were carried out at the "Zorilla"
and "Segarra" theatres, in Badalona and Santa Coloma
de Gramanet respectively. Apart from traditional-style theatres,
the survey concerning scenographic-arts facilities includes the
so-called "polyvalent houses", which is to say multipurpose
spaces that allow the staging of scenographic works and/or other
types of performances that do not require stable infrastructures.
Such "polyvalent houses" have been created within different
kinds of existing facilities such as athenaeums and local organizations'
buildings, municipal staging spaces or multipurpose rooms in civic
centres. The most singular case in point is the "Capsa"
in El Prat de Llobregat.
In the sphere of plastic arts, the survey draws a distinction
betweeen Exhibition Halls and Art Centres. An Art Centre is described
as a facility specifically designed to foster the creation, production
and public promotion of works related to the different branches
of visual arts. According to that typology, the survey only recognizes
five places as falling into the category of Art Centres: the "Centre
Cultural Tecla Sala", in L'Hospitalet; the "Nau",
in Sabadell; the "Centre d'Art Contemporani la Rectoria",
in Sant Pere de Vilamajor; and the "Centre de Creació
Artística Molinet" and the "Centre de Recursos
Mas Fonollar", both in Santa Coloma de Gramanet. Exhibitions
Halls are the cultural facilities that benefit most outstandingly
from the local Savings Banks' cultural patronage, even though
they also receive significant support from municipal institutions.
The range of educational institutions available to arts students
was made public through an inventory carried out by the Barcelona
County Council in 1998. This inventury revealed that the training
and educational establishments specializing in music, plastic
arts and scenographic arts were, for the most part, concentrated
in the areas surrounding the city of Barcelona and, most clearly,
in three neighbouring regional districts (Barcelonès, Baix
Llobregat and Vallès Occidental) in which seventy per cent
of the listed establishments are concentrated. In comparison with
other artistic subjects, musical education is available in the
largest part of the metropolitan territory and it is part of the
curriculum of the largest number of schools, even though the institutions
that specialize in musical activities are less numerous than those
specializing in plastic arts or scenographic arts. In the metropolitan
region, the private, non-profit-making institutions clearly predominate
over all other types of educational establishments. Among the
plastic arts and design public teaching institutions, the most
important ones are the Badalona, Vilanova i la Geltrú,
Sabadell and Terrassa art schools.
The cinema scene has undergone a significant transformation in
parallel with the introduction of the "multi-room" cinema
model into the large shopping centres recently built in many metropolitan
cities (Badalona, Barberà del Vallès, Cornellà,
L'Hospitalet, Sabadell, Gavà, Terrassa, etc..) and the
area which has changed most radically is the Baix Llobregat district
where the number of cinemas has doubled over the last five years.
In this context, a major point of reference is the "Parc
Vallès" shopping and leisure complex recently built
in Terrassa, which houses 24 cinemas, 35 eating and commercial
establishments, as well as a large night-time leisure centre -
called "La Nit" (The Night) - which is comprised of
some thirty different places within a single building. In these
"multi-room" cinemas, the spectators total two million
people per year and, every week-end, some 80.000 people spend
time in the "Parc Vallès" leisure complex. (...)
The only global approach to analising cultural consumption within
the whole metropolitan region is based on the surveys carried
out by the "Institut d'Estudis Metropolitans" (Institute
of Metropolitan Studies) every five years since 1985. These surveys
are principally aimed at obtaining objective information concerning
the living standards and habits of the population of the metropolitan
region. (...) The results of the 1995 survey were made public
in June 1998. According to the latest survey, the inhabitants
of the metropolitan region prove to have common, very generalized
interests: they essentially watch television and read books when
they stay at home and, when they go out, they mainly like to take
a stroll. Listening to music ranks third among their favorite
leisure activities. Moreover, the situation described in 1995
is not very different from that pictured by the 1990 survey. In
the metropolitan region, not many people go to the cinema, the
theatre, art exhibitions or museums: depending on the cultural
product considered, between half and three-fourths of the adult
population say that they never do. Cinema is the most popular
cultural product, whereas theatre attracts the smallest audience.
However, going to the cinema is a habit that becomes less frequent
as people grow older, while the smaller number of museum-, art
exhibition- and theatre-goers remains fairly steady in all age
A report compiled by the Catalan "Sociedad General d'Autors"
(General Association of Authors) is the most recent document on
people's cultural consumption habits in Spain. This extensive
survey, finished in January 1999, is presently the most important
reference work where cultural consumption tendencies are concerned
and its conclusions have served to build up a more accurate contextual
picture of cultural consumption within Barcelona's metropolitan
The most significant data presented in that report are the following:
- 8,5 per cent of the interviewees said that they have been in
- Where sporadic theatre attendance is concerned, there has been
a significant increase from 15 to 25 per cent. In any event, regular
theatre-goers only account for 3 per cent of the interviewees.
- There has also been a considerable increase in pop-rock concert
audiences: from 10,3 per cent in 1991, the number of people going
to pop-rock concerts has risen to 18,8 per cent.
- The audience for classical music concerts is still very small:
92,3 per cent of the population never go to classical music concerts.
- Where cinema is concerned, the survey shows that there has been
a revival in attendance in terms of numbers as well as frequency.
While, in 1991, 51 per cent of the interviewees said that they
never went to the cinema, nowadays this negative percentage has
been reduced to 49,3 per cent.
- Attendance at cultural centres is still a minority activity
since slightly less than 15 per cent of the population go to such
centres. However, a distinguishing trait is that attendance at
cultural centres increases as people grow older and is particularly
high among elderly people over retirement age.
- The number of museum-goers has increased. Approximately 10 percent
of the interviewees said that they had isited at least one museum.
However, this is an activity closely related to tourist practices.