The old Oliva Artés factory on Pere IV Street in Poble Nou has become a point of interest since its renovation into a new museum-cum-laboratory (MUHBA) with the aim of examining contemporary society as well as reflecting on the neighbourhood’s industrial heritage.

At the beginning of the twentieth century the factory was one of the most prolific in the district, producing metalwork, initially in the form of machine parts and later the manufacture of arms during the Civil War.

As MUHBA director Joan Roca and Albert explains “at the time, Poblenou was a highly diversified industrial district and at the centre of Barcelones and Spanish Industry, as such it was the most important industrial hub in the western Mediterranean”.

Layers of reflection

This new Museum of Barcelona has been conceived like an onion skin with different layers. The permanent exhibition contains 12 themed areas where contemporary society is explained through some very diverse objects.

For example, a SEAT car and an unopened bottle of Xibeca Damm represent industrialisation, and a luxury toilet which the Guell family bought in London for Pedralbes Palace is used to talk about changes in waste management.

In other sections, early television adverts for a Land rover are used to show various aspects of society; and a stand from the modernist Mercat de Sant Antoni expresses the creative atmosphere of the 21st century.

The aim according to Albert Roca is to “explain contemporary society, the part Barcelona has played in its growth and its own growth into a great metropolis, major European city and the capital of Catalonia”.

“From Barcelona, you can see how the contemporary world is which is rooted in Poble Nou, due to its manufacturing history,” he concludes.

Rethinking Pere IV

A temporary exhibition called “Interrogate Pere IV Axis” includes initiatives to rethink the identity of Poble Nou. Participating universities, architecture studios and local residents join here to ask questions and provide answers on how together to shape the future of the area.