Museum of Contemporary Art

El Raval
Barcelona, Spain

Submitted by: Seleneah More

The musuem's plaza pulsates with energy.

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Why It Works

Unlike most cultural institutions around the world, MACBA invites all kinds of people to play in its space. The building is placed at the rear of a large plaza that is entered from many narrow streets of El Raval.

What Makes Museum of Contemporary Art a Great Place?

MACBA is accessible from all directions via narrow streets that hinder cars but attract foot, bike and skate traffic. These streets are paved with cafes, galleries and independent shops on the ground floor. The approach to MACBA creates a sense of discovery. The narrow streets are contrasted with an open square that leads to the white building.

MACBA is pulsing with energy. This comes from people using the space outside the Museum. It is safe as there are always people around. There is no formal seating. But people use the long granite benches to sit, wait , hang out and skate on. Yes that is right, there are no metal/rubber objects on the edges. So you can grindnose! There is a large wall adjacent to the building that is covered in world class graffiti.

The neighbourhood is made up of many migrants and students. Although skaters and graff artist are predominantly young males, a diverse range of people use the space. Skateboarding is the dominant activity. Many young children play soccer in the square. Women of all ages meet on the steps. Teenage girls hang out watching the fellas skate and graff. Hopefully they will join in soon. I never saw an accident or tension between all these different groups.

MACBA does attract tourists and locals for its exhibitions, skating facilities and graffiti. However, there are more locals using it for recreation or social engagements. The institution has welcomed the public (even skaters). This sets a tone for the space and all that interact with it.

History & Background

I don't know if Richard Meier intended for his building to be used and loved by skateboarders. But he must be pleased with energy created in this space. It is such a contrast to the TATE Modern in London that welds rubber and metal to edges of seats to prevent skateboarding. It obviously prevents sitting also.

Unfortunately many public spaces make this anti-social design aimed at skaters and the homeless. Many public institutions should follow MACBAs example to fulfill their responsibility to society.

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