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Regional route Catalonia | Spain

One of Spain’s historically autonomous regions, Catalonia was one of the first industrialised regions in Europe and dominated by the textile industry. This has even made its way into the language. Vapor actually means steam, but Catalans use this word to describe a cloth factory. The first steam-powered ... more


One of Spain’s historically autonomous regions, Catalonia was one of the first industrialised regions in Europe and dominated by the textile industry. This has even made its way into the language. Vapor actually means steam, but Catalans use this word to describe a cloth factory.

The first steam-powered factory in Catalonia, a textile factory, was built in Barcelona in 1832. Until that point, the country had already experienced a development which contrasted greatly with the process of industrialisation in most other Mediterranean regions. Although this indicated a predominantly agricultural economy, trade and crafts had blossomed in Catalonia since the Middle Ages. Manufactured products included nails and small arms from Ripoll and high-quality paper from the mills around Capellades, but the strongest impetus for Catalonia’s industrial development sprang from chintz. Towards the end of the 18th century, Barcelona was intermittently Europe’s largest producer of this printed cotton fabric. By the mid-19th century, the Catalan cotton industry had climbed to third place worldwide, behind England and France.

Steam power quickly dominated transport as well. Spain’s first rail connection, between Barcelona and Mataró, was inaugurated in 1848. Difficulties in obtaining cheap coal to fire the steam-powered machines meant that water power was used in the new textile factories along the main river courses from the 1860s onwards. Although there were mining operations to some degree in Ogassa, Cercs and Berga, the lack of coal and iron ore prevented any significant metal-processing industry from developing. As a result, Catalonia as an industrial economy was geared solely towards the textile industry.

In the pre-industrial era, production sites such as grain, fulling and paper mills, forges, tanneries and similar were designed in line with the traditional architecture of the region and barely differed from typical farm buildings, Pyrenean mountain shacks or village houses with thick, stone or clay walls and tiled roofs.

With the advent of the Industrial Revolution, large spaces became necessary. The British example was followed and detached, multi-storey factory buildings were constructed with large windows to let in the light. However, it is modernisme, a Catalan form of art nouveau, which makes Catalonia’s industrial heritage so unmistakable. The architect Lluís Muncunill (1868-1931) was one of the most important representatives of this style and created a large number of industrial buildings. His “Vapor Aymerich, Amat i Jover”, built between 1907 and 1909 in Terrassa, is considered one of the more superb examples of European industrial architecture.


ERIH Anchor Points

Cornellà de Llobregat | Spain
The Cornellà Central Pumping Station has been providing the city of Barcelona with groundwater from a depth of around 35 metres since 1909. So much tradition is binding: hence the beautiful, ornate brick building, designed by the Catalan architect Amargós i Samaranch, now houses an industrial ...

Museu Agbar de les Aigües
Museu Agbar de les Aigües
Ctra. de St. Boi, 4-6
08940 Cornellà de Llobregat, Spain

The most eye-catching feature of the Vapor Aymerich, Amat i Jover in Terrassa near Barcelona is doubtless its unique roof. It consists of row upon row of 161 shell-shaped half arches, each with gently curving windows like stylised crests of waves. At first sight the building, designed by the Catalan ...

Catalonian Museum of Science and Industry
Museu nacional de la Ciéncia i de la Tècnica de Catalunya (mNACTEC)
Rambla d’Ègara 270
08221 Terrassa, Spain

Member Sites ERIH Association

The museum occupies the Dipòsits Vells (Old Cisterns) which collected and stored 12,000 m3 of water from the Sèquia canal and which were built by the civil engineer Marià Potó between 1861 and 1865. Nowadays, the museum has two permanent exhibitions spaces.The Sèquia and water: This exhibit ...

Manresa Museum of Technology
Museu de la Tècnica de Manresa
Carretera de Santpedor, 55
08242 Manresa, Spain


Capellades | Spain
The region around the town of Capellades was the most important centre for paper production in Catalonia. The museum is based in the Moli de la Vila, a 4-storey, 18-bay building of 1754. The technology of paper-making on a large scale is demonstrated to visitors. The International Cultural Centre ...

Capellades Paper Mill Museum
Museu-Moli Paperer de Cappelades
Pau Casal 10
08786 Capellades, Spain

Castellar de n’Hug | Spain
Portland cement factories were built in most industrialised countries in Europe during the late 19th century and the early 20th century, but few were as spectacular as that at Castellar de n’Hug about 90 km north of Barcelona. The works was opened in 1904 by the Companyia General d’Asfalts i ...

Asland Cement Museum
Museu del Ciment Asland de Castellar de N’Hug
Paratge del Clot del Moro
08696 Castellar de n’Hug, Spain

Castelló d’Empúries | Spain
Castelló d’Empúries is a small town in the Catalan province of Gerona and the ecomuseum is part of the Museu de la Ciècia I de la Tēcnica de Catalunya based in Terrassa. The ecomuseum is based in a flour mill to which the first references date from 1331. It was transformed from the 1860s by the ...

Flour Milling Ecomuseum of Castelló d’Empúries
Ecomuseu-Farinera de Castelló d’Empúries
Carrer de Sant Francesc 5-7
17486 Castelló d’Empúries, Spain

Cercs | Spain
Around the upper reaches of the Llobregat river there are many mines which have riddled the mountains with their galleries. The mines of Figols and the surrounding area were for long the source of the coal that moved the steam engines that drove Catalan industry.  The mining museum reveals 150 ...

Cercs Mining Museum
Museu de les Mines de Cerc
Plaça Sant Romà s/n. Colònia Sant Corneli
08698 Cercs, Spain

Esplugues de Llobregat | Spain
The ceramics factory “Pujol i Bausis”, popularly known as “La Rajoleta” (The Little Tile), is an ever present point of reference in the area of Catalan industrial ceramics production. And this is particularly so with regard to the times of splendor of Modernism and, later on, Noucentisme (early XXth ...

La Rajoleta ceramic museum
Museu de Ceramica La Rajoleta
C. Esglèsia 36
08950 Esplugues de Llobregat, Spain

Gerri de la Sal | Spain
Salt has always been the element which has marked Gerri people’s fate and the village’s image. The salt production, there are records from the IX century which prove that, became a profitable business in the late 19th century. The salt exploitation is due to a salted spring  (  ) a few meters far ...

Gerri de la Sal Salt Museum
Museu de Gerri de la Sal
Square Àngel Esteve, s/n
25590 Gerri de la Sal, Spain

L’Espluga de Francoli | Spain
L’Espluga de Francoli is a wine-making town some 30 km north of Tarragona. The ‘wine cathedral’ is the name often given to this amazing early twentieth century building, which consists of three vaulted bays in red brick in the Gothic style. It was begin in 1913 by the architect Lluis Domenech I ...

Museum of Wine | The wine cathedral
Museu del Vi "La catedral del Vi"
Josep M. Rendé, 5
43440 L’Espluga de Francoli, Spain

Palafrugell | Spain
The change from an agrarian to an industrial society and, more recently, into a services one, that have undergone those outstanding populations that were developing the cork- stoppers industry, recognizes as lawful the effort of trying to restore the conscience of a characteristic culture. On this ...

Cork Museum
Museu del Suro
Placeta del Museu del Suro
17200 Palafrugell, Spain

Santa Coloma de Cervello | Spain
The Colonia Guell is a workers’ settlement in the Garden City style built by the Catalan textile entrepreneur Eusebi Güell (1846-1918) around his principal factory that he re-located to Santa Coloma de Cervello from a site at Sants in present-day Barcelona in 1890. The new factory, in brick in the ...

Colonia Güell
Colonia Güell SA
08690 Santa Coloma de Cervello, Spain

Vila Rodona | Spain
This is one of about 50 architecturally-distinguished buildings constructed in Catalonia in the early 20th century for agricultural co-operatives. Most had spacious interiors to allow air to circulate freely around the wine vats. The building at Rocafort de Queralt, 30 km north of Tarragona, was ...

Wine Cathedral
Celler Cooperatiu i Secció de Crèdit de Vila-rodona, SCCL
Avda Enric Benet, 4
43814 Vila Rodona, Spain