Museu Agbar de les Aigües

Sonia Hernandez


Museu Agbar de les Aigües

Ctra. Sant Boi, 4 ZIP 08940 Cornella de Llobregat - Barcelona

Cornellagrave; de Llobregat, Spain
Micheletti Award  2010

Where water lives, where you live water

Intrinsically linked to life and the development of civilisations, water is an omnipresent and commonplace element. At one and the same time, water is a natural substance, a vital need and a universal right, and that is why the Museu Agbar de les Aiguuml;es focuses attention on it from every possible angle, whether scientific, technical, environmental, historical, social, educational or recreational.

Its location in the historical Cornellagrave; Plant of Aiguuml;es de Barcelona -a first-rate industrial heritage site of the water industry- and the exhibitions and educational activities it delivers to foster freshwater-related cultural and environmental values, make the Museu Agbar de les Aiguuml;es a prime venue for discovering, exploring and experiencing the importance of this familiar yet extraordinary substance.

Where Water Lives

The Museu Agbar de les Aiguuml;es is housed in the Modernista [Catalan Art Nouveau] buildings of the plant that Aiguuml;es de Barcelona opened in 1909 to extract water from the aquifer of the lower basin of the River Llobregat in order to supply the city of Barcelona.

Industrial Heritage: architecture machinery

At the turn of the 20th century, Barcelona was a city in the full throes of expansion and Aiguuml;es de Barcelona, established in 1867, was already the most prominent business distributing water to the metropolis. In 1905, a solid-brick, iron-beamed building comprising three interconnected units was built in Cornellagrave;, a small village 10 km from the town to house the machinery with the most recent technological advances, using steam and electricity, cooperating to extract and pump water. Central Cornellagrave; was finally launched in 1909.

Nowadays, these facilities retain the architectural origins and their industrial heritage, which is the museum's most important feature, from a heritage point of view. It is one of the most complete and best restored hydraulic steam installations in Europe, which remains in its original place and therefore allows us to interpret the industrial facility as a whole.

Current facility company museum

Even though the original steam-driven installation ceased to be used more than 70 years ago, Central Cornellagrave; is still a fully operational plant, being core to the Barcelona area's water network. Boilers, electricity generators and steam-powered engines coexist alongside the modern impulse pumps and monitoring systems. Consequently, the Museu Agbar de les Aiguuml;es is also a living industry, a place where past and present come together with a common aim: to supply water.

When the Agbar Group (the holding company to which Aiguuml;es de Barcelona belongs) decided in 2001 that the historical part of its still-working water plant would become a museum, it seemed clear that the museum had to perform a historical narration of water supply, enhancing its industrial heritage, maintained over decades by the Company's engineers and workers. And the museum also aimed to project the values and the brand of the current utility and technological solutions business, showing a contemporary vision of water and becoming an interesting and enjoyable place for all the visitors.

Where You Live Water

Consequently, the Museu Agbar de les Aiguuml;es is, above all, a living space designed to draw attention to the different expressions of and approaches to water through a range of exhibitions and activities for people of all ages.

Before and behind the tap

The permanent exhibition describes the history of supplying water to the city of Barcelona and its metropolitan area through a collection of objects and documents that dialogue with interactive modules exemplifying devices designed throughout history to obtain water. In addition, it allows visitors to find out about the organoleptic, physical and chemical properties of water, and about other water-related issues such as hygiene and health.

Hands, mind, heart, soul

Exhibitions related to such diverse topics as archaeology, architecture, history, hi-tech, the environment and even the arts (photography, sculpture or painting) contribute to create this complete and complex overview of the presence of water in our life.

The quality of the educational programmes has gained a very loyal following among diverse publics: more than 30 regular school activities for children from 3 to youngsters 18 years old, special programmes to promote young research or civic responsibility and strengthen communities, family workshops, chatting and memory-sharing activities for senior citizens and innovative training for educators of museums and science centres.

Otherwise, the sociocultural programme includes heritage animation activities (animated visits, workshops and concerts) and water awareness events, giving rise to strong ties to the territory.

Temporary exhibitions and activity programmes deliver a wide range of approaches to give visitors a chance to explore, interact, learn and contemplate water.

Success commitment

Since opening on June 1st 2004, more than 400,000 people have participated in the museum's activities and temporary exhibitions at different venues, have discovered the extraordinary industrial heritage of Central Cornellagrave; and have also enjoyed water as a substance, as a natural element and as a resource for human activity.

In 2010, the museum received the Micheletti Award. The jury stressed, in its own words, that "the museum displays an ideal combination of historical and present day importance of water for mankind, shown in a very evocative way". The prize was recognition of the inspiration of the museum's workmanship, of the institution's vision and aims, of the ambition and quality of its public programmes. And it was, above all, recognition of those people who over the course of many years have protected the company's heritage.

The success of Museu Agbar de les Aiguuml;es, beyond figures and awards, strengthens the daily commitment as a centre for the community, giving a soul to an industrial heritage and promoting an understanding of water, embracing dialogue between not only diverse disciplines, but also sensibilities, across different cultures and generations.



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