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New Award for Barcelona’s Garcia Marquez Library, the Best in the World


Garcia Marquez Library Barcelona
The Garcia Marquez library in Barcelona, the best public library in the world, was awarded the Mies van der Rohe architecture prize – Credit: / @Bcn_SantMarti

The Gabriel Garcia Marquez Library in Barcelona, Spain, recognized last August as the best library in the world at the Rotterdam Public Libraries Congress, received a new award this week. The cultural facility was honored with the Mies van der Rohe Foundation’s Emerging Architecture Award for its contribution “to the transformation of the neighborhood” and “meticulous attention to detail” from the European Union.

Located in a popular sector of Barcelona, the modern construction has an important cultural, social and architectural impact on the Sant Marti district of Barcelona, where it opened its doors in May 2022.

Chosen from 362 nominations

The library, by the Madrid firm SUMA Arquitectura, founded by Elena Orte and Guillermo Sevillano, has been chosen from among 362 works nominated for this award. The award will be presented at the Mies van der Rohe Pavilion in Barcelona on May 14, on a day that will kick off the Architecture Weeks.

On that day there will be several conferences by the authors of the winning and finalist works, debates with architects, clients, politicians and members of the jury, and an exhibition of some forty candidate works at the Victoria Eugenia Palace in Barcelona. After Barcelona, the exhibition of the works, which will include models, sketches and drawings, will begin a European tour.

In addition to the Emerging Architecture Prize, the foundation and the European Commission have awarded the 2024 Architecture Prize to the campus pavilion of the Technical University of Braunschweig (Germany), by architects Gustav Dusing and Max Hacke. Apart from the German building, the finalists for the Architecture 2024 Prize were the Plato contemporary art gallery (Czech Republic), the Reggio school in Madrid, the renovation of the Saint-François convention in Sainte-Lucie-de Tallano (Corsica), and the Hage building in Lund (Sweden).

Garcia Marquez Library Barcelona
Wood dominates the interior of the library – Credit: El Mono Español / CC BY-SA 4.0

Garcia Marquez in Barcelona

The Colombian writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez, winner of the Nobel Prize for literature in 1982, lived in Barcelona between 1967 and 1974. It was the city of his publisher, Carme Balcells. After publishing “One Hundred Years of Solitude” in Buenos Aires, Gabriel Garcia Marquez moved to Barcelona, on the advice of Balcells and seduced by the mythical aura conferred on the city by Ramon Vinyes, the “Catalan sage” of his youthful gathering of Barranquilla’s writing enthusiasts.

He landed at Barajas airport on November 4, 1967 and, after spending a few days in the Spanish capital Madrid, he headed for Barcelona with his wife, Mercedes Barcha, and his sons Rodrigo and Gonzalo, in a rented car.

In the European city, the renowned author wrote “The Autumn of the Patriarch”, published a year after his departure from Spain. Those were the final times of the dictatorship in the European country and, according to scholars, in the pages of the book some aspects are discovered that were inspired by the old Spanish dictator who was living his last days.

The transformation of a working class neighborhood

The library contributes to the transformation of the neighborhood of La Verneda, in the district of Sant Marti, and opens as a new outdoor and indoor public space, its wooden structure dominated by monumental spaces with welcoming and comfortable environments for learning and teamwork.

The current neighborhood originated in the 1950s, as a result of a great demand for housing generated by the massive arrival of immigrants from other Spanish regions, as a result of the dictatorship and the civil war. It had a high density of buildings and population and, at that time, a total lack of facilities and services. Thanks to the continuous demands of the residents, the neighborhood improved and the current facilities were built.

The neighborhood struggles have been historical, and the public investments for cultural, educational, associative and leisure infrastructures, a social conquest for the improvement of the sector. Today, approximately 30,000 people live in La Verneda, a neighborhood that began to receive new waves of immigration, in this case foreign, from the first years of the century. African and Latin American populations are the new residents of a neighborhood that, since last year, enjoys the most awarded public library in the world.

For the jury of the Mies van der Rohe Awards, both this library and the other finalist works form an inseparable whole to better understand the paths taken by contemporary architecture to address sustainability, social equity, technological advances, cultural preservation and globalization.

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