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  • La Pedrera, Mirror of a Century

    The author believes that the "La Pedrera, mirall d'un segle" ("La Pedrera, Mirror of a Century") program is an unnecessary act of aggression against a monument qualified by UNESCO as part of the World Heritage

    In the first phase, the sidewalk in front of the facade of La Pedrera was occupied for several days with a growing and changing quantity of industrial materials: beams, cables, props, hooks, chains, turnbuckles, screws; in summary, various and sundry hardware, on a large scale and in wholesale numbers . . . Were they preparing a new restoration of the extraordinary gaudian building, the pride of the city?

    Later, an army of operators armed with powerful cranes-which seriously obstructed traffic-began to distribute, nailing and screwing, the greater part of the material several floors up, until they left a series of large metal supports-with a rather sister appearance-installed along the entire length of the cornice. Were they preparing to film a movie with a mass hanging as the climactic scene?

    Later it was shown that no-ugh! That is, that the nooses only existed as a support structure for an immense whitish cloth that began to ascend, until it covered the entire facade.

    Later, other artisans shaved the leafy trees along the corner in front of the building down to nothing: their branches visually covered part of the cloth/screen.

    Later there appeared some enormous wrinkled colored pieces of plastic, hanging impudently from windows and balconies, as if the nice giant that last year camped on the roof had left the rooms filled with condoms. Was it a new and imaginative attack against AIDS?

    No. A generous advertising campaign announced that La Pedrera was being covered in order that it might be better uncovered. And for that, one of the greatest spectacles in the world had been prepared, in homage to the noble building and its creator. And they advised us, the citizenry, that we should not miss faithfully attending a celebration of this size.

    The day of the event, they cut all traffic at the intersection of Paseo de Gracia and Provenza Street, and adjacent streets, with the corresponding effect on traffic in a good part of the Eixample. A new motorized battalion, composed of mechanics, electricians, audiovisual operators, stage managers, municipal police, firemen, and nurses, along with their corresponding trucks, carts, electrical generators, ambulances, ladders, towers and spotlights, sound equipment, more cranes, and diverse and abundant backdrops and scaffolds, invaded the side streets and the sidewalks, transforming the elegant Paseo into an impassable film set.

    Until the show finally began, before the curiosity of thousands of people. Public lighting in the area was deactivated and, for 15 minutes, a perfectly insubstantial promotional film about the building's history was projected onto the central part of the curtain/screen which covered La Pedrera. Later, the colossal and now useless screen was slowly lowered, revealing not La Pedrera, but the caricature of a caricature; in other words, a plastified version of a comic published in L'Esquella de la Torratxa at the turn of the century, while the building was under construction. Conveniently inflated, the gigantic colored condoms which the evening before hung flaccid from the windows had now been transformed into sad beachgoing imitations of blimps, incrusted into the orifices of the facade.

    The program then proceeded to society debut of the "gigantes" of La Pedrera, figures with a characteristically gaudian air-more caricatures-and which, according to some voices, the managers of the event threaten to leave permanently installed in the entry patio of the noble edifice. Later, an orchestra closed the evening with a delicate repertoire of danceable music from the fifties, at which time the immense majority of the audience had had enough and began to disperse with a grimace of disappointment on their faces. They had not even lynched those who were responsible for the event!

    I do not know from whom the peculiar idea originated. I imagine that some smart-ass who was new to these lands and to this occupation, because I doubt that anybody with a minimum experience and sensibility could have thought of, and on top of that perpetrated, such a great collection of urban, ethical and aesthetic outrages. I also do not know how much the event may have cost, but according to the cost-of-living, I am sure it was no less than 100 kilos (100 million pesetas, or around 700,000 US Dollars). If, as I fear, the money came from the fund which savings banks are obligated to dedicate to activities of social and cultural interest, then they should return my portion of the money to me, as account-holder at the Caixa de Catalunya, the entity which owns the building and financed the event.

    In any case, apart from the anything-but-scarce annoyances to the citizenry, and the insane waste of resources for a festival of poor taste, the experience may be of some utility to make us reflect on the use of historical-artistic patrimony.

    Is any supposedly entertaining and festive use of a monument of the category of La Pedrera permissible, as unsubstantial as it may be? Should public or semi-public resources, such as those of the savings banks, not be especially cared for, to avoid falling to the temptation of manipulating and utilizing great artistic creations at any price, for advertising purposes?

    In summary, what is left from all that? A few mutilated trees, whose stumps will remind us for a long time of not only of an infamous act of foolishness, but an act of unwarranted aggression against a monument qualified by UNESCO as part of the World Heritage: one more step in the trivialization of everything of value.

    Pep Subirós
    El Periódico

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