The State Hermitage Museum’s long-awaited Barcelona branch has finally been given the green light for development. The port of Barcelona’s board of directors announced on Thursday that a proposal for the Hermitage Barcelona was approved, despite considerable resistance from the city authorities. The building, designed by Pritzker Prize–winning architect Toyo Ito, is slated to open in 2024.
Like the Russian museum’s older outposts, the Hermitage Amsterdam and the Hermitage Kazan, the proposed museum will show works from the State Hermitage Museum’s expansive collection of more than 3.2 million artworks, artifacts, and design objects. In time, the Hermitage Barcelona will amass its own collection of works that, according to the release, will tell the story of the city while also engaging with the “central issues” of today.
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In a statement, the State Hermitage Museum’s general director, Mikhail Piotrovsky, called the Hermitage Barcelona “a bridge for cultural exchange between St. Petersburg and Barcelona.” He added that the museum “is intended to play an important new part in the cultural map of Barcelona, for the local people as much as visitors, and most importantly to establish a dialogue between people.”
Ito has proposed a 140,000-square-foot building with a crisp, undulating facade resembling lapping waves that can be seen nearby. Per environmental requirements in place for buildings of the sort in Barcelona, air conditioning in the structure will be powered by solar and marine hydrothermal energy.
“Hermitage Barcelona aims to be a reference point, not only as a cultural facility, but also as a model of respect for the environment,” Ito said in a statement. “It will be here where thoughts and reflections of people from all over the world are exchanged.”
Construction on the project has stalled since the Hermitage first reached an agreement with the Catalan government in 2012. The project requires permission from the port of Barcelona board and city council. The latter entity has expressed concern over its environmental impact and financial viability, and it has rejected multiple proposals submitted by the port and Hermitage Museum. Earlier this week, the council requested more time to consider the project.
The port’s board ignored the request and unilaterally approved plans for the museum. According to local news outlets, the city council is considering legal action, including the option to sue the port’s board.
“The port has pushed for the right to protect its heritage interests by ignoring the interests of the city,” Janet Sanz, the city’s deputy mayor for urban planning, told Betevé. Meanwhile, more than 80 Barcelona businesses have signed an open letter in support of the Hermitage Barcelona.