Paths of water of Barcelona

The transformative element of Cerdà's Barcelona

Museu de les Aigües

The distribution of water in the city of Barcelona is one of the pillars that has allowed it to evolve, progress, transform and project itself to the world as a modern and sustainable city. Much of this story is unseen and this includes more than 4,500 km of underground pipes.

Plaça de Catalunya

The nerve centre of Barcelona and the point of connection between the thousand-year history of the city and modernity represented by the Eixample and the Cerdà Plan.

Works in the Plaça de Catalunya, 1927, Original Source: Archivo SGAB
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Plaça de Catalunya, 2022, From the collection of: Museu de les Aigües
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Construction of the Barcelona as conceived by Ildefons Cerdà required the provision of new services such as water. Added to this is the fact that from 1900 to 1930 the population of the city of Barcelona practically doubled from 500,000 inhabitants to almost a million.

Works in the Plaça de Catalunya (1927)Original Source: Archivo SGAB

The water distribution network had to grow at the same rate as did the city. For this reason, the ground below Barcelona filled with kilometers of pipes to bring water to all parts of the new city.

Passeig de Gràcia

One of the most emblematic streets of the city laid out under Cerdà’s guidelines, conceived as spaces for citizens to mix, for gardens, mobility and as routes for services.

Passeig de Gràcia, 1927, From the collection of: Museu de les Aigües
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Passeig de Gràcia, 2022, From the collection of: Museu de les Aigües
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The arrival of water was a technological and human challenge that would transform forever the relationship between citizens and this resource.

Passeig de Gràcia (1927)Museu de les Aigües

As Ildefons Cerdà said...

Drinking water is one of the primary necessities of any city; so one of the first tasks in any urban group, once it has become a relatively numerous neighbourhood, has been to bring in water, without which existence would be impossible.

Casa Milà or la Pedrera

One of the most iconic works by Antoni Gaudí and of Barcelona at the beginning of the 19th century. The building represents a new model of living which allowed the opening of the Eixample.

La Pedrera, 1970 - 1979, From the collection of: Museu de les Aigües
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La Pedrera, 2022, From the collection of: Museu de les Aigües
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The complex water supply network transformed the domestic sphere, in which bathrooms and areas for cleaning appeared, and changed the shape of the kitchens.

La Pedrera (1970 - 1979)Museu de les Aigües

Large water mains must be strong, such as this one of Bonna pipe, a make which used reinforced concrete and a metal coating.

Hospital of Sta. Creu i St. Pau

A work by Lluís Domènech i Muntaner, it symbolizes the replacement of the medieval and modern models of public health, adopting the hygienist criteria of the end of the 19th century.

Hospital de Sant Pau, 1927, Original Source: Archivo Sociedad General de Aguas de Barcelona (SGAB)
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Hospital de Sant Pau, 2022, From the collection of: Museu de les Aigües
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Without water, the adoption of the principles of hygiene envisaged for Cerdà's Barcelona would have been impossible. Abundant, and above all good-quality water was required to reach all parts  of the city to end epidemics linked with water.

Hospital de Sant Pau (1927)Original Source: Archivo Sociedad General de Aguas de Barcelona (SGAB)

In 1927, the current Avenida de Gaudí was laid out, through which one of the large mains, a meter in diameter, would pass to transport water, like a capillary system, from which small pipes would be connected to each point of consumption.

The Sagrada Familia

One of the great monuments of Barcelona, the work of Antoni Gaudí, and one of the great milestones of modernisme in which as well as functional criteria aesthetic beauty was sought.

Canalisation works in Avenida Primo de Rivera, 1927, Original Source: Archivo Sociedad General de Aguas de Barcelona (SGAB)
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Avenida Primo de Rivera, actual photograph, 2022, From the collection of: Museu de les Aigües
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Water not only transformed lifestyles, it was also an aesthetic and ornamental element that interacted with architecture, as at the Sagrada Familia.

Canalisation works in Avenida Primo de Rivera (1927)Original Source: Archivo Sociedad General de Aguas de Barcelona (SGAB)

Tubos Bonna's advertisements presided over several of the works which wre undertaken. As indicated in the poster, they were manufactured in Cornellà de Llobregat.

Canyelles neighbourhood, 1960 - 1969, Original Source: Archivo Sociedad General de Aguas de Barcelona (SGAB)
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Canyelles neighbourhood, 2022, From the collection of: Museu de les Aigües
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The extension of the paths of water reached all parts of the city, always alongside urban developments.

Works in the Plaça de Catalunya (1927)Original Source: Archivo Sociedad General de Aguas de Barcelona (SGAB)

Access to water has allowed undeniable advances, but the easy and constant access to water, as an everyday event, does not make it in any way less exceptional. Water is not an unlimited resource, and requires different processes to arrive in our homes with its quality fully guaranteed.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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