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 museum. Its features have been perfectly preserved: the noisy engine room where the ancient engines are still in working order (though electric motors have replaced the original steam driven engines); the boiler room where water chambers once produced 3000 kg of steam per hour; and finally the electricity room, suffused with light, with its four steam engines enthroned along the end wall like the captain’s bridge on a liner. The highly polished engines, the carefully restored tiles and windows and the equipment, which have been preserved down to the smallest detail, all reveal the Catalans’ enthusiasm for their technical history. Audiovisual media, games and interactive modules draw visitors directly into the activities that used to happen daily in this industrial monument. A stroll through the extensive museum garden highlights the intimate network of connections between the pumping station, the water towers and the storage ponds.
The River Llobregat, which flows through the south of Barcelona, is not just an important overground artery. Deep beneath the river bed flows groundwater that has continuously fed the network of pipes for more than 100 years to provide drinking water for the millions of people living in the Catalan capital. This has been achieved by an old pumping station called Central Cornellà, which is still in operation. The Agbar Foundation, a branch of an internationally active water supply company, was set up in 1998 and since then it has taken over one section of the works to house the Museu Agbar de les Aigües. Alongside the pumping station itself the exhibition deals with environmental issues, and how sustainable modern water management influences the quality of our lives. The context could not be better: an industrial monument (part of which is still in use), in a beautifully proportioned building with restrained decorations, which is also equipped with immaculately preserved engines, dinosaurs of technical history that have an inimitable charisma. The three wings in the brick building designed by Amargós i Samaranch give it a rhythm and diminutive feel which belies its size. The most important section of the building dominates the other two wings in that it lies at right angles to them: this wing once contained the plant’s power centre. Here four huge steam engines, set in motion by the neighbouring boiler room, used to drive the equally huge pumps in the third wing of the building. These still draw water from the shafts leading down to the underground river. The oldest of these shafts, known as Fives-Lille, built in 1905, goes down to a depth of almost 35 metres. The beautifully maintained museum garden contains a water tank which visitors can enter in order to get a good idea of the amount of water that is moved here every day, and why the ever increasing demand for water makes it necessary to build even larger storage tanks. Apart from that, only after a stroll through the garden is it possible to fully appreciate the beauty of the whole industrial building.
|Recommended duration of visit:
|Duration of a guided tour:
|Access for persons with disabilities:
|Infrastructure for children:
|Visitor centre on site:
|Gift and book shop on site:
Tuesday - Saturday 10am-7pm
Sunday, holidays 10am-2pm