The Montjuïc Communications Tower

It’s over 20 years since Antonio Rebollo, the Paralympic archer, fired Barcelona into the 21st Century. Setting in motion a chain of events that would propel the city to European and world exposure. Ultimately transforming the once industrial pre-Olympic city into the thriving cultural, creative melting pot we know today.Close up of the Montjuic Communications Tower by Santiago Calatrava

The year was 1992, Catalan way of life, and the life of Santiago Calatrava, was set to change forever. Calatrava, an up and coming Valenciano architect, won the commission for the Montjuïc Communications Tower, joining a select few architects and artists invited to re-draw the Barcelona landscape.

Looking at the issues and negativity that currently surround his work. It’s easy to forget that Calatrava was once the darling of Spanish and European structural architecture.

From a background in civil engineering, Calatrava rose to prominence with early projects of bridges and railway stations. His career defining moment came in the early nineties, creating the emblem of the games and a symbol of hope for a nation, catapulting him to worldwide prominence.

The Olympics and Barcelona pre-92

It’s impossible to talk about Torre Calatrava without it’s Olympic association and the concept it was emulating. Spain, fresh from 40 years of dictatorship, had embraced a passion for change, freedom and modernity. Combined with a 1982 government election paving the way for democracy.

It’s easy to assume that Barcelona was always a booming cosmopolitan city, leading the way in design, architecture and travel tourism. However, pre-92 the city struggled to compete against the regal capital Madrid. It’s identity and language suppressed for nearly half a century, with Franco attempting to extinguish Barcelona’s flame.

Even on the football pitch the blaugrana were yet to record a European cup win, trailing heavily in Real’s wake. But that was all set to change once the burning arrow hit the Olympic torch.

With the mayor’s orders of ‘take Barcelona to the sea’ the Catalan architects and urban planners revitalised the city, designing a blueprint for the future.

Original Sketches of Torre Montjuic by Santiago Calatrava

Original Sketches of Torre Montjuic by Santiago Calatrava

The Tower

Positioned high up on the Montjuïc mountainside, the tower’s beauty and poise is evident upon approaching Barcelona. Construction began in 1989 and completed in 1992. Standing at 136m, the tower had a simple purpose of transmitting sport telecommunications from the city during the games.

Calatrava combined this functional need with graceful sculpture, encompassing the technology in a sweeping arc. Due to the dynamic nature of his work the interpretation of the tower differs but generally is interpreted as an athlete carrying the Olympic torch.

Detail of the Trencadis on the Torre Calatrava in Barcelona

The Symbolism

The symbolism of the tower shines like a beacon towards the people of Catalunya, raising them from the shadow of oppression. All their hopes, dreams and aspirations portrayed architecturally.

A sculpture that signifies the cusp of a great adventure. A journey that would propel Barcelona from a once forgotten port, to a unique city of culture, design, business and architecture.

A telling homage to Gaudí is apparent in the trencadís mosaic technique at the towers base. A visual bridge between Barcelona pre and post 1992.  Two worlds colliding, with the bright future of Barcelona rising from Montjuïc.

What are your thoughts on Barcelona? Has it changed for the better or sold it’s soul to Gaudílandia? Have your say by leaving a comment.

Read Iconic Barcelona Volume 1 – Mercat de Santa Caterina

Montjuic Telecommunications Tower