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]!

„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.

“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.

“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.

26 November – Pleasurescapes panel at the „Stadt nach Acht“ Conference Berlin

On 26 November you can meet part of the Pleasurescapes team live in Berlin. Our Hamburg researchers Lisa Kosok and Alina Just will present our project at the „Stadt nach Acht“ („City after Eight“) Conference. Together with Lars Amenda they will talk about our project and historical perspectives on key agents of entertainment culture in the pleasurescape of Hamburg St. Pauli. Tickets for the conference with many interesting talks on nightlife are available online.

More information: „Pleasurescapes: Pleasure and Nightlife as Driving Forces for Urban Development“ [Panel in English]: 26 November, 2:00 PM – 3:30 PM, Holzmarkt (Säälchen), Berlin.