La Rambla has been waiting for its long-awaited reform for too long. If there are no new delays, the remodeling will start next year in the Drassanes and Colom area. In this crucial process of the future of the promenade, one of its oldest residents, the Reial Acadèmia de Ciències i Arts de Barcelona (Racab), is immersed in the rehabilitation of its historic headquarters in order to open up more to society and promote its scientific dissemination task, begun more than two centuries ago. “We are at a stage where we want to enhance our role as a cultural promoter, as a center for scientific culture and applied arts”, highlights the president of the entity, Jordi Isern.
Although few tourists stop at number 115, the entity’s house, located precisely on the section of Rambla dels Estudis, houses treasures that have marked the history of the city. One of them can be seen on its façade, where a clock with the label “official time” hangs. From this building, the Barcelona time was officially marked until 1940.
The academy established this service in 1886 by means of astronomical observations from its two domes due to the hourly chaos of the time and a few years later, in 1891, the City Council decreed that of the academy as the legal hour. “Each city had its time. When the boats arrived in Barcelona, the crew would come here to update their watches, ”says Isern.
The works will allow the installation of a telescope in one of the domes for astronomical observations
The entity, founded in 1764, is based in a building that was remodeled between 1883 and 1894 by the architect Josep Domènech i Estapà – who was also president of the Racab – and was declared a Cultural Asset of National Interest (BCIN) in 2014. On the ground floor, the Poliorama theater is located and in the lobby, to the left, an imperial staircase leads to the interior of the institution. Without neglecting the challenges of the future, the association has begun a rehabilitation of its house that will allow it to enhance its outreach work.
On the fourth floor, work has recently begun to create a new space that will complement the function room and make it possible to organize courses, conferences and workshops. This room, of about 120 square meters, will have a capacity for fifty people. The works are expected to finish in the summer with the aim of making it operational for the beginning of the next academic year, in October.
“It is an opportunity that will allow us to carry out projects that until now we could not carry out. The idea is also to offer these facilities to the scientific community for their events or meetings. Our objective is to bring scientific culture closer to society in general ”, Isern advances.
The new room will be used to organize workshops, courses and make it available to other scientific entities
The rehabilitation will also serve to update the facilities in terms of accessibility and security. “The building has been cared for. Actions have been carried out over the years but what he needed was to catch up on an issue as fundamental as evacuation and fire fighting ”, highlights Carles Gelpí, the architect who leads the restoration, from the Barcelona studio 2bmfg.
Among other interventions, the rear façade and the two domes will be refurbished, in one of them, the astronomy one, a telescope will be installed and it will be rotatable. “Above all, it will be designed for young people or schools. Unfortunately, the light pollution is excessive and although you can see the Moon, Venus or Jupiter, the most interesting thing is to reproduce the process of an astronomical observation ”, points out the president of the academy. The total cost of the remodeling amounts to about 700,000 euros, a budget financed with subsidies from the Generalitat, the City Council and own funds.
A visit to the academy is full of surprises. In this place is the daguerreotype with which the first photograph was taken in Spain. It was on November 10, 1839 in Barcelona and it is a panoramic view of the Llotja building and the Porxos d’en Xifré, of which the snapshot is not preserved but there are engravings. The device was acquired by the Barcelona-based engraver Ramon Alabern during his presentation in Paris and after a report by the doctor Pere Felip Monlau for the academy, also present at the event, the institution acquired the device some time later.
Another jewel that shines with its own light is the library, with a documentary collection of more than one hundred thousand volumes of great historical value and whose oldest work corresponds to the Sphaera astronomy treatise by Ioannis de Sacro Bosco, published in Lyon in 1567.
Important figures such as Albert Einstein, who gave a lecture on the theory of relativity during his visit to Barcelona in February 1923, or the Nobel Prize in Physics Jack Steinberger on the occasion of the entity’s 250th anniversary have passed through these facilities. The British writer George Orwell, who fought against fascism in the Civil War with the International Brigades, also spent three days on the terrace and roof of the academy to defend the POUM headquarters, located opposite, in what today is the Hotel Rivoli.
The one on the facade is not the only clock that stands out from this site. Before entering the auditorium, decorated with paintings by Fèlix Mestres, a large astronomical clock stands out, exhibited at the Universal Exposition of 1888 and where it won a gold medal. The piece was designed for the Senate but once it was finished he did not buy it and over time the Racab was made with it. Its author was the Swiss master watchmaker Albert Billeter, who lived in the Gràcia neighborhood. With more than two centuries of life, the academy has been a privileged witness and actor of what has happened throughout the history of the city and wants to continue being it in one of the most emblematic arteries of Barcelona.
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Impetus to promote the Rambla de la Ciencia