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El Vapor Vell

What was once one of the most important textile factories in 19th century Barcelona, a driving force in the industrial revolution, has been a cultural power in the Sants neighbourhood since the beginning of the 21st century. Transformed into the Vapor Vell Library it specialises in modern music, possessing a unique collection and an amazing wealth of material, and it promotes a great deal of cultural activity.

An industrial past

In Barcelona the industrial revolution was particularly important throughout the 19th century, and was based around the textile industry. As it was a walled city, the new factories set up in the nearby towns, like Sants. The Vapor Vell factory opened in this former independent municipality, which today is part of the city. With its innovative use of steam, it was considered to be one of Catalonia's great modern factories.

The construction of the building, owned by Güell, Ramis i Companyia, began in 1844, and two years later it began producing velvet. It became one of the most important factories in the sector, as it provided employment for thousands of workers, but the 1889 cotton crisis led to its closure. The following year Eusebi Güell, the son of the founder, moved the business to Colònia Güell, an industrial village in Santa Coloma de Cervelló.

Culture in motion

Since then, the building has been used for many different things. One of the most unusual came just after its closure as a factory, when the pioneering filmmaker Fructuós Gelabert chose the courtyard for shooting the main scene in Riña en un café, considered to be Spain's first feature film.

It subsequently passed through many hands, from the CNT (the anarchist trade union) in the Civil War to the Rumasa company in the 1970s, until finally, in the middle of the 1980s, it was acquired by the City Council, who decided to convert this industrial complex into a local library, which was officially inaugurated in 2000.

Considered to be a historical monument and piece of cultural heritage, the building which today houses the modern Biblioteca Vapor Vell continues to be a driving force in the neighbourhood, encouraging and developing culture in Sants. You can participate in discussions, book clubs, conferences, workshops and a whole host of other activities that take place every day in this place full of history and memories.


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