The theme for today seems to be postmodernism. Its not a favorite period of mine – the 80’s and 90’s resulted in a lot of banal ugliness and a lot of interesting but somewhat offputting steel and glass grid work and strange geometric pediments but I happened across two very nice examples today. The first is the Palau de la Música Catalana, the historic concert hall originally built in 1909 and renovated in the early 80’s by architects Oscar Tusquets and Carles Díaz. It was (later) declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site and you can bet your boots that if those things hand happened in a different order, the renovation would have been handled differently.
The second example is the MNAC, the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya, or National Museum of Catalonian Art. This original building, the Palau Nacional, was the “flagship” building for the 1929 World Exhibition and is a stunning work of Neoclassicism – a conservative counter-reaction to the then-recent avant garde buildings of Gaudi. It was renovated in the early 90’s by architects Gae Aulenti and Enric Steegmann, who were later joined in the undertaking by Josep Benedito, in preparation for the 1992 Olympic games and the museum proper was opened in 2004.
As a museum it is really lovely. Well curated with an amazing collection spanning from stunning roman murals all the way to modern art. And a big medieval collection which is one of my favorite periods. There was also a temporary exhibit on art restoration and research which demonstrated how experts use x-ray and infra red technology, analysis of paints and other techniques to detect fakes, modifications and changes in the pieces over time. I enjoyed the building almost as much as the collection however. They had done a really nice job of converting the building into a museum with complementary or contrasting white plaster and marble interventions, stairs, walls and new arches. I spent the whole afternoon enjoying the combination of new and old.
I also came across this today. Every era creates interventions that are “modern” on the historic buildings around them and eventually that new construction itself becomes old. I wonder if postmodernism will ever be a treasured architectural period.