New Interview by Marc Geli about the Paral·lel in Barcelona

Our team member Marc Geli has published an interesting interview on Pleasurescapes in Barcelona. For the Catalan magazine „Ab Origine“ he met three local stakeholders to talk about the myth and leisure at the forgotten margin of the Paral·lel.

His conversation partners are experts on the history but also the present of the Paral·lel. The researcher Enric H. March has recently published the book „Barcelona Freak show“ about the history of travelling „sideshows“ like clowns, musicians, illusionists, „human phenoma“, and wax museums in Barcelona. Jordi Rabassa is a historian and local councilman. Also present was Pablo Perez from the Arnau Itinerant Project, which is trying to reclaim the old Arnau Theatre as a building and in its use for the neighbourhood.

You can find the complete interview online in the history magazine Ab Origine [article in Catalan]!

7th Pleasurescapes workshop in Barcelona

The fifth Pleasurescapes workshop took place in Barcelona from 6 to 8 April. Finally, we had the opportunity to visit the historical pleasurescapes along the Parel-lel and in El Raval for real. Especially the guided tours with the residents of the neighbourhood were very exciting and informative. We were also able to discuss the planned exhibition with the museum director Joan Roca on site. The play is also making great progress. We were already able to enjoy a rehearsal.

„Infrastructuring pleasure“ by Aurelio Castro Varela 

Montjuïc is a long flat-topped hill overlooking the harbour of Barcelona from the southeast border of the city. From 1915 onwards it underwent a profound transformation turning it into the site of the 1929 International Exhibition. Aurelio Castro Varela delves into this turning point, examining the aesthetic role of infrastructures in delivering pleasure on the hill before and during the dazzling, monumental display that characterized the event. He elaborates on two distinct regimes of pleasure by theorising their material forms as functional to and expressive of specific ways of having fun. Thus, such enquiry concerns the ambient conditions, sensorial landscapes and architectural elements through which pleasure took shape in Montjuïc from the mid-nineteenth century to 1936.

Out now: Interactive maps of Hamburg’s historical pleasurescapes

Laurenz Gottstein and Alina L Just have conducted a comprehensive mapping of historical address data to identify Hamburg’s pleasurescapes of the past. The maps visualize the spatial entertainment hub of Reeperbahn, but they also shed light on largely forgotten entertainment quarters from the early 1900s. Along with the maps, and in cooperation with the PortCityFutures research group, Laurenz and Alina have published a blogpost explaining their methodological approach for this mapping initiative. Have a look here and here and have fun exploring!

“Changes, continuities and the public in Paral·lel and the 5th District in Barcelona (1914-19)” by Marc Geli 

Paral·lel Avenue and the old 5th District formed Barcelona’s underworld in the early 20th century. PhD candidate Marc Geli investigates this area in the period 1914 to 1919. During these years of the First World War, the city experienced drastic changes due to Spain’s neutrality in the conflict. The arrival of foreign capitals allowed, among other influences, the change of the leisure offers, a more relaxed morality and the cosmopolization of Barcelona. Paral·lel Avenue and the 5th District became the epicenter of the entertainment industry across classes, but how far did this seeming equality of classes reach exactly? Along with an analysis of the change – as well as its continuities – of the traditional entertainment models, this research scrutinizes how accessible the new leisure offers were to all social classes or where boundaries emerged.

The Om street (Fifth District) in 1934. Many of the leisure activities took place among huge poverty.
The Om street (Fifth District) in 1934. Many of the leisure activities took place among huge poverty. Source: Arxiu Fotogràfic de Barcelona, Margaret Michaelis.

“Public pleasure culture in the port city of Hamburg, 1890s – 1960s” by Alina L Just

Coloured postcard from the Star Club Hamburg. The wide room is densely filled with people, in the foreground several groups are sitting at tables. Behind them, most people are standing and looking towards the stage. A band is playing there. Different coloured lanterns hang from the flat ceiling. The postcard is inscribed in German with "Greetings from the Star-Club Hamburg".
Post card from famous Star-Club in St. Pauli, 1960s. Universität Hamburg, Arbeitsstelle für Hamburgische Geschichte, Hans-Werner Engels Collection.

Based on an initial pan-Hamburg mapping of major entertainment venues (see below), Alina Just zooms in specific Hamburg pleasurescapes between the 1890s and the 1960s to explore the relations between spatial urban configuration and alternate social appropriation. Key questions of hers are: Which infrastructures and spatial conditions facilitated the establishment of urban landscapes of pleasure in Hamburg since the turn of the 20thcentury? How did political and economic strategies of urban planning interfere with public pleasure culture or, vice versa, how did early entertainment entrepreneurs shape urban development actively? Which program offers and audiences circled in which areas and locations of public pleasures and how did this influence the image and reputation of specific quarters? Case studies delve into the Hamburg neighborhoods of St. Pauli, Veddel, Rothenburgsort and Billwerder, as well as an amusement park in the formerly neighboring city of Altona.

Black and white postcard of August Schwaff's excursion restaurant on the Veddel. You can see the three-storey building with the garden in front of it. In front of the building are several people and three large trees without leaves. The card is printed in German with the inscription: "Elbinsel Peute, Hamburg. Summer establishment. Owner: August Schwaff."
Post card from August Schwaff’s garden restaurant in Veddel, 1904-1910. Veddel-Archive, Dieter Thal Collection.
The picture shows the entrance to Luna Park at night. Several lanterns illuminate the night scene. The entrance gate consists of three small towers that together form a building. In the middle and largest tower is the passageway with the inscription "LUNA PARK". To the right and left of it are smaller passages under the connecting roofs to the other towers. A few people are standing in front of the entrance gate. On the left edge of the picture is a car with its headlights on.
Photo of Luna Park entrance in Altona, 1913-1914. Staatsarchiv Hamburg, Plankammer, 720-1_151-03=15_00051.

„Mapping Pleasure“ by Laurenz Gottstein and Alina L Just

Laurenz Gottstein and Alina L Just have conducted a comprehensive mapping of historical address data to identify Hamburg’s pleasurescapes of the past. The maps visualize the spatial entertainment hub of Reeperbahn that evolved in proximity to the port and its maritime practices, but they also shed light on largely forgotten entertainment quarters from the early 1900s. Eventually, we see how entertainment structures mirror the different historical stages of urban development, and that Hamburg’s cityscape of pleasure culture used to be much more diversified.  

Pleasurescapes in Hamburg 1910

Pleasurescapes in Hamburg 1925

Pleasurescapes in Hamburg 1935

To determine the addresses and locations, we used the historical address books from 1910, 1925 and 1935. The Hamburg State Library has digitised these and published them online:

The names of the categories are based on the original terms in the address books. With the help of historical maps and street directories we placed the points as accurately as possible. Because many street names have changed since 1910, the addresses given here may be confusing. They reflect the official status at that time.

To learn about the full methodological background of Laurenz‘ and Alina’s mapping project, please read their article on the PortCityFutures-Blog!

“Pleasure near the Port: Spaces and Legacies of Notorious Entertainment Culture in 20th-Century Rotterdam” by Vincent Baptist

In the foreground of the painting is a carousel. A child with a flag of the Netherlands sitting on a white carousel horse stands out. Other people are sitting on a red elephant, a lion or standing on a boat swing. On the left, a carousel organ can be seen in the background. On the right edge of the picture is a river or canal with a ship in the distance. A kissing couple is lying on a lounger at the water's edge. Behind two trees, the faint sun can be seen in the cloudy sky. In the middle of the picture is a larger crowd of people, behind them is a small tent with a crescent moon on top. On the horizon, a few buildings are silhouetted.
Painting by Dolf Henkes, of a fairground with carousel along the quay of (presumably) Katendrecht, 1961. Museum Rotterdam, 91214.

Vincent Baptist’s PhD research centers on the following questions: How did spaces of notorious entertainment develop and disappear in the port city of Rotterdam over the course of the long 20th century? And how can the legacies of Rotterdam’s pleasurescapes be linked to current practices of urbanization in the port city, such as gentrification and touristification? Three pleasurescapes are investigated in particular, namely Zandstraatbuurt, Schiedamsedijk and Katendrecht, which respectively succeeded each other in Rotterdam throughout the period 1880-1975. Focusing on combinations of spatial and experiential aspects, as propagated by the new ‘pleasurescape’-term, case studies on these pleasure districts are conducted by linking each of the neighborhoods to certain experiential themes (nostalgia, safety, gentrification) and different types of cultural sources (literary, visual, oral). Ultimately, the three neighborhoods are also further linked together through an overarching analysis of the residential displacement patterns and unrealized planning projects that arose in the wake of Rotterdam’s discontinued amusement offers.

Map depicting the Zandstraatbuurt‘s prospective replacement by a new city hall and post office building, 1912-1913
Map depicting the Zandstraatbuurt‘s prospective replacement by a new city hall and post office building, 1912-1913. Rotterdam City Archives, 4001-II-15-01-02.
The black and white photograph shows a busy street. The photo is taken from about the height of the second floor, the street runs exactly in the line of sight. Numerous garlands and flags span the street. Two tram tracks run down the middle, many cyclists and a horse-drawn vehicle are in the street. In the foreground a few chairs can be seen, which looks like a terrace of a café.
Photo overlooking a decorated Schiedamsedijk during a VVV festivity week, 1935. Rotterdam City Archives, 4261-2002-1588.

“Public pleasure culture in the port city of Gothenburg, 1860-1930s” by Christina Reimann

Between the 1860s and 1930s, the peripheral port town Gothenburg was catapulted into industrial modernity. Public pleasures functioned as vector of spatial transformation and urban self-understanding, and as crystalizing point for urban (counter-) narratives. In this context, Christina Reimann’s research is structured along three analytical angles and key questions: 

The black and white drawing shows a four-storey hotel building with the inscription "Hotel Garni". On the ground floor there is a café advertised as "Cafe du commerce - Restauration" and "absoluta nykterhetscaféet Liljan". Scattered people and a horse-drawn carriage can be seen in front of the building.
Skeppsbroplatsen 1: Hotel Garni, varitékrogen Café du Commerce och absoluta nykterhetscaféet Liljan, late 19th century, GhmD. Göteborgs Historiska Museums bildsamling, copyrights: Göteborgs Stadsmuseum.

1. Pleasure institutions and the (re)-making of inner city borders (1860-1923)

How were borders, particularly those between “port districts” and the “city centre,” constructed, maintained and given meaning through institutions of pleasure, and how did these borders in turn shape the urban pleasure culture?

2. Deviant pleasure practices as counter narratives (1880s-1920s) 

Deviant practices of pleasure by social and ethnic minorities are seen as counter-narratives to the contemporary modernity discourse dominated by disciplined popular pleasures and the liberal spirit of some bourgeois pleasures. 

3. Exoticizing and ‘folklig’ performances on Gothenburg’s scenes (1880s-1930s)

The entanglement and tensions between “the exotic” and “the folksy” in public entertainment are investigated, tracing the transformation of their relationship in the context of the emerging industrial welfare city.

Photography, view into a straight street. On the right edge of the picture are two men and two children, on the left side of the road is a horse-drawn vehicle. On both sides of the streets are shops with signs, the sign in the front left advertises in Swedish a "Room for Travellers" by "J. B. Lundberg". The street looks very busy in the background.
Sillgatan, GMA:14389. Fotosamling, fotografi, bilder, copyrights: Göteborgs Stadsmuseum.
You can see a large fairground at night. There are many people on the square, standing or walking together in small groups. There is a fountain in the middle. On the left is a building with an outdoor terrace, on the right are very tall and narrow columns with torches at the top. At the head of the square is a small high-rise building with long vertical rows of windows and an outbuilding with a dome. In the background, a lighthouse shines on a mountain.
Jubileumsutställningen i Göteborg 1923 / The main esplanade of the Gothenburg Jubilee exposition. Uppsala universitetsbibliotek, public domain.

“Spiritism and occultist practices as popular entertainment around 1900” by Judit Vidiella

Judit Vidiella explores the connection between maritime trade and the freedom of conscience that placed port cities at the forefront of articulating new societal ideals among the population around the turn of the 20th century. She is interested in analyzing how Spiritism circles built proper networks of communication and ‘uncanny infrastructures’ (Geoghegan 2016), focusing on the fundamental role that female mediums played as active agents in the change of consciousness by means of their ‘inspired’ messages and socio-political practices.

Engraving table moving, at la Ilustracion, Saturday 21 of May 1853, page 201. Biblioteca Nacional de España.

Occultist practices became a massive entertainment in Europe, when the magic and the scientific lived together and spirituality was given a positivist and scientific touch and supposedly empirical evidence in public shows and performances. This opens a field of research about the ‘spectatorial regime’ (Crary 1992) that had spiritist séances in common with other forms of popular entertainment in the late 19th and early 20th century such as cinema, hypnotist and magnetizer’s exhibitions or café-concert shows.

Poster for the "Magnatiseur" Donato. The coloured litography shows excerpts from the programme. In the centre of the poster is a large portrait of "Donato" and next to it a female artist. Around it, the artist "Donato" is depicted in a tailcoat with small scenes and with different emotions, for example: singing, eating, dancing and fighting. You can also see a hypnosis act and how the woman is made to levitate.
Le Magnetiseur Donato. Unknown Lithography (around 1880 and 1881). Musée Carnavalet, Histories de Paris, Inventory Number AFF956.
Advertisement for the movie "Más allá de la muerte" / "Beyond Death" in magazine, text in Spanish saying: "En Olympia esta tarde, a las 5 y por la noche a las 10, grandioso estreno del extraordinario y emocionante cinedrama original de Don Jacinto Benavente que lleva el título de “Más allá de la muerte” (premio Nobel en 1922). Filmado por la Casa “Benavente Film”, puesto en escena por Benito Perojo y adaptado a la pantalla por Lara Brunet, con ilustraciones musicales “ad hoc” y experiencias prácticas de hipnotismo por el Profesor Onofroff."
Advertisement for the movie „Más allá de la muerte“ / „Beyond Death“, El Diluvio journal, Tuesday February 1 of 1927, Year 70 number 27. Arca, Archive of Old Catalan Magazines.