Barcelona city council rejects Toyo Ito-designed Hermitage Museum

Down the Drain in Spain

Barcelona city council rejects Toyo Ito-designed Hermitage Museum

The Hermitage commissioned Toyo Ito to design its Barcelona outpost on the city’s coast. (Courtesy Toyo Ito & Associates, Architects)

The Hermitage Museum, the 256-year-old art museum in St. Petersburg, Russia, that is now the second-largest in the world, has developed several European outposts in the 21st century, including those in Amsterdam, Vilnius, and Ferrara, Italy. Barcelona, Spain, was slated to become the latest outpost when the Hermitage and the Catalan government signed a letter of intent with the expectation of a 2015 opening date. When that failed to pass, a 2018 opening was agreed upon and later abandoned.

Two years later, Barcelona’s city council gas refused to greenlight the third planning application rather than move the goalpost even further down the field. The council rendered a verdict on January 27 after its members expressed concern over a few of the plan’s major elements. The council was initially displeased with the proposed site in the narrow peninsula of Nova Bocana, and raised concerns over the project’s economic viability, especially given the ambiguous sources of private funding and offering of museological materials. The council also felt lukewarm about the offer given that, in the last few years, the city has become overrun with tourists and “has become a tourist theme park,” according to The Guardian.

Rendering of a museum with swooping terraces and curves and cutaways
Alternate view of the proposed Hermitage Museum in Barcelona. (Courtesy Toyo Ito & Associates, Architects)

Though the city council members ultimately lost interest in the deal, members of the Hermitage Museum commissioned Japanese architect Toyo Ito to design a four-story, 170,000-square-foot space for the port of Barcelona to help sell their vision. Having already designed a 41-unit apartment building in the city in 2009, Ito had become inspired to further contribute to Barcelona’s architectural heritage with a billowing, all-white structure overlooking the sea.

After the recent shakeup, Madrid’s city council has reportedly expressed interest in hosting the museum if Barcelona officially passes on the project, though it is unclear whether Ito would remain the museum’s architect following a relocation. The council told Catalan News that the suitability of a Hermitage outpost in Madrid will be considered over the next few weeks and a decision will be made public soon.