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Arts & Culture

How Joan Brossa encapsulates Barcelona

Written by Maryanne Kamau

Joan Brossa is one of the most prolific Catalan avant-garde poets whose works defied the construct of genres and dividing lines between the arts. Brossa’s creations were varied and included literary poetry, theatre, cinema, visual poetry, objects, posters and installations all of which he considered as sides of the same pyramid. His work is centered on three essential elements: poetry, action and the visual. He was one of the early proponents of visual poetry in Catalan literature and founder of the Dau al Set group together with renowned artists like Antoni Tàpies, Joan Ponç, Arnau Puig, Modest Cuixart, Joan-Josep Tharrats and Juan-Eduardo Cirlot. The Dal al Set was committed to reviving the Catalan artistic tradition that was disrupted after Franco’s rule. They published a magazine through which they put forward their artistic and intellectual interests. Here are some of his profound works in Barcelona!

Related article:Interesting facts about the Gothic neighborhood


Photo by xcaballe via Visualhunt

This is one of the visual poems by Brossa which takes the form of a sculpture spelling out the word Barcino, the Roman name of present-day Barcelona. These giant letters, six of which are made of bronze and one of aluminium, are bolted to the ground and stand in Plaça Nova, in Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter, perhaps as his tribute to the city’s history. Each of the letters takes a different form and has a distinct personality which individually constitute a poem.

Poema visual transitable en tres tiempos

The sculpture is located in the gardens of Marià Cañardo Lacasta in the distict of Horta-Guinardo, Barcelona. The visual poem is made up of various pieces scattered across the garden and signify the cycle of life; life, the path in life and death. These three life stages are represented visually; the first by a capital letter A, the second by various scoring signs are placed on the grass and the last by a broken letter A. Address: Park Jardins de Marià Cañardo Lacasta.

Letras gimnastas

Letras gimnastas is a rather curious sculpture that loosely translates to Gymnastic letters attached to the wall of the costume shop El Ingenio. Brossa was friends with the family that owned the shop. The visual poem is comprised of two sets, in the first set, two red “A” letters are attached to the wall, and in the second, two red A letters are intertwined with one another as if performing some gymnastics, are on the roof of the store’s lobby. Address: Carrer Rauric, 6

Related article: Discover arts in the streets of Barcelona

Monumento al Libro

Photo by tgrauros via Visualhunt

Monumento al Llibro (Monument to the book) is  a sculpture that stands at the junction of Paseo de Gracia and Gran Vía in Barcelona. Brossa created it in 1994 for the Guild of booksellers of Catalonia. The guild uses the monument as a logo, and it has become a platform for paying tribute to Catalan writers. Every year a set of metal plates in the form of a book are added at the foot of the monument with the signature of Catalan writers. Currently, there are 35 plates. The monument is made with stainless steel plates on a grey granite base and depicts interesting perspectives of either a closed or open book, depending on the angle at which it is observed. Address: Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes, 634


The Antifaz is a plaque of a mask designed by Brossa  that sits in the pavement of La Rambla, one of Barcelona’s most famous streets. It was a tribute to the street which won the Sebastià Gasch prize in 1991.

Camí de l’A to Z

This visual poem lies of the walls of one of the buildings on Carrer Valencia in Barcelona. It is made up of two letters of the alphabet: A and Z. In between the two letters are footprints. The piece represents a journey marked by a beginning, a path inbetween and the end. Address: Carrer Valencia, 252


This piece sits on the headquarters of the Colegio de Aparejadores, Arquitectos Técnicos y Ingenieros de Edificación de Barcelona. It is a symbol of a grasshopper made of Steel which Brossa chose to signify wisdom as a tribute to architects and technical architects in Barcelona. Address: Carrer del Bon Pastor,5

 *Main photo by Diari La Veu via Visualhunt

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About the author

Maryanne Kamau

Maryanne is dreamer by day and thinker by night. She is a passionate individual, consumed by wanderlust.

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