A New Design Museum in Barcelona

Posted inEllen Shapiro
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Massimo Vignelli is finally across the street from Pablo Picasso.

Disenny Hub, or DHUB, is Spain’s new design museum. Located on Barcelona’s Carrer de Montcada across the street from the Museo Picasso de Barcelona, it attracted 165,000 visitors in 2009, making it the fourth most visited museum in this city of arts and architecture.

Like the Picasso Museum, DHUB is housed in a medieval townhouse built around a courtyard in the Catalan Gothic style typical of Barcelona’s old city, Ciutat Vella. Unlike the Picasso Museum, however, there are no jostling crowds lining the narrow, cobblestone street to buy tickets and get in. The ambiance is pleasantly serious; visitors take their time to study and discuss the work.

The entrance to DHUB in a renovated medieval courtyard in Barcelona's Ciutat Vella

I was one of the first visitors in 2010, and found the “Helvetica: A New Typeface?” exhibition refreshing and inspirational. The Swiss-International style still looks smart and fresh on posters and other printed pieces. Yes, Helvetica and the grid are alive and well, at least in the hands of European designers.

The "Helvetica: A New Typeface?" exhibition included a 50-year timeline of graphic design

A visitor watches a video of Massimo Vignelli explaining his 1972 New York subway map

The museum’s information-packed, entertaining website is a paradigm of how well structured information architecture can be effective, clear, and sophisticated. Massimo would be proud. Like DHUB’s printed materials, the site is written in Catalan, the official language of the region, and translated into Castilian Spanish, and (somewhat awkward) English. I especially like the section about the meaning and development of the museum’s visual identity.

The current exhibition, “Fabrication Laboratory,” curated by museum director Ramon Prat, presents 3D digital fabrication technologies that are making radical changes in design and production processes. It is described as a “dynamic event to which various layers of information and experience will be added.” It has its own “Fab Lab” with workshops on new production models, along with videos available for download on the site.

DHUB is located at Carrer de Montcada 12 near the Jaume I metro station. Late in 2011, a multilevel permanent home will open on the Plaça de les Glòries, near the bullet-like Torre Agbar, a landmark of the rapidly developing northern quarter of Barcelona. Who’s complaining that there are no design museums?