Poblenou, or the ‘new village’, is Barcelona’s work-in-progress. Straddling the Mediterranean and with numerous late-19th century industrial complexes ripe for redevelopment, it has stepped in to accommodate diverse roles for the modern urbanite.
The transformation of the barri started about 20 years ago, when artists collectives took over abandoned factories to work and host parties. Early adopters of Poblenou included the artist Antoni Miralda and Mariscal, creator of the legendary Palo Alto design studio. Although large swathes still retain a gritty nature, the neighbourhood is now dotted with warehouse conversions containing open-plan homes, galleries, coworking spaces and architects’ studios.
In stark contrast to these are the streamlined high-rises at 22@. This high-tech hub within Poblenou is Barcelona’s answer to Silicon Valley. Modern, innovative architecture, such as Enric Ruiz-Geli’s Media-TIC – a futuristic building covered in temperature-regulating transparent bubbles – host hundreds of startups and global companies, including Microsoft and gaming giant, King.
Predictably it wasn’t long before Poblenou became the area of choice for couples and young families, especially those working in tech and creative fields, and many of them from elsewhere in Europe. (Buyers can expect to pay around €2,500 per sqm, up to €10,000 per sqm for old industrial premises, which are highly sought after).
‘Poblenou struck me as Barcelona’s primary creative hub,’ says Niels Jansen, the Dutch owner of the vintage furniture warehouse Brutus de Gaper. ‘It has architects, advertising and branding firms, as well as major design schools, such as BAU.’
How has speculation affected the area? ‘It’s causing the rough edges to disappear, and this is attracting the design sector. I hope Poblenou will one day become a design district, but time will tell.’
Here, we tour 11 of Poblenou’s treasures, from galleries and coworking hubs to an experiential lighting showroom and a restaurant furnished with open-source designs.
Dada Objet Trouvé
The run-down, industrial alleyway that leads to this gallery and private showroom gives away nothing of the riches within. Dada Objet Trouvé deals mostly in museum-worthy pieces of 20th-century furniture, sometimes signed by Le Corbusier or Jean Prouvé, and hosts sporadic exhibitions of contemporary art. Pallars 74.76 Bajos 12, 08018 Barcelona
Interior designer Skye Maunsell and industrial designer Jordi Veciana spent 18 months converting a former industrial building into this new Barcelona coworking space. ‘The idea is to curate a collective of people who collaborate with each other,’ says Maunsell. Spread over three floors and 950m2, Montoya has a calm atmosphere, with residents working at bespoke tables generous enough to host a banquet. Carrer d’Àvila, 32, 08005 Barcelona
Architect Mino Digenis (a resident of Poblenou) has converted an old flour mill into a smooth, industrially-inspired space for gastro-events and fashionable gatherings. Original brick walls and high ceilings enclose various ambiances, from a state-of-the-art show kitchen to an outdoor patio and roof terrace. Carrer de Roc Boronat, 35, 08005 Barcelona
Brutus de Gaper
Niels Jansen transports truckloads of mid-century furniture and decor from his native Holland to this spectacular 450-metre open-fronted warehouse in Poblenou. Amid the countless sofas, leather armchairs and modular side tables, look out for the ‘gapers’: curious, open-mouthed Moorish heads that originally stood guard at Dutch pharmacies. Carrer de Pamplona, 60, 08005 Barcelona
Eco-chic is predominant in Poblenou, and there’s no prettier place to soak up the vibe than this café-come-plant shop. The front section of the generous, split-level locale is laden with cacti in handmade terracotta pots. At the rear, you can have a craft coffee surrounded by walls revealing decades of peeling paint. Carrer de Badajoz, 95, 08005 Barcelona
The first of the factories in the area to be converted into a design hub, Palo Alto features a lush central garden, where once a month you can buy designer goods and fashion at the hugely popular Palo Alto Market. Design veterans such as Fernando Salas occupy its nineteen studios. Carrer dels Pellaires, 30, 08019 Barcelona
Espacio Simón 100
The old factory of Simon – a manufacturer of light switches – has been converted to an experiential showroom for the company that feels more like a contemporary art gallery. Local Poblenou designer Antoni Arola conceived a series of spaces where you are immersed in either coloured light, rainwater or moving images at the flick of a switch. Sancho de Ávila, 66-72, 08018 Barcelona
Pretty much everything you see at this Poblenou restaurant – developed in conjunction with the local IAAC architecture school – is open-source, meaning that you can download the patterns for the chairs, tables, stools and origami-inspired acoustic ceiling. Recipes for their excellent whole-food dishes can be sourced online too. Carrer Badajoz 65, 08005 Barcelona
There was a time when it was hoped that all the old industrial complexes in Poblenou would be allocated to affordable art studios. La Escocesa is one that has survived speculation. This lively creative hub is home to 17 resident artists, working in varied media. Carrer de Pere IV, 345, 08020 Barcelona
Bau School of Design
One of a handful of design, architecture and art schools that shape Poblenou’s creative spirit, BAU offers university-level studies in all fields of design, in over 6,000 sq m of restored industrial space. It has specific teaching areas, along with zones for investigation, creation and exhibitions. Carrer de Pujades, 118, 08005 Barcelona
BD Barcelona is synonymous with Catalan design. Founded in the late 1970s, it has launched many an illustrious career and still produces furniture designed by Gaudí and Salvador Dalí. The surrealist’s iconic lips sofa adorns the entrance of the company’s showroom, which in previous years has been a factory and then a decadent night spot. Carrer de Ramon Turró, 126, 08005 Barcelona