The establishment of the Eixample, in the 1860s, initiated dynamic the development of the city in the third quarter of the 19th century. However, this process was primarily a result of the economic boom whose peak fell at the end of the 1870’s and beginning of 1880’s. In the time of the second industrial revolution, Barcelona became one of the most important centres of trade with Central and South America in Europe, a place of stock exchange speculations and textile production. The real power in the city was held not by the old aristocracy, but also by the new elite: bankers, stock exchange agents, and first of all members of the dynasty of the Barcelonan bourgeoisie. It was primarily their money that around 1870-1910 built a new industrial agglomeration.
The urbanisation and industrialisation process of Catalonia was in parallel accompanied by intensifying anti-Castilian moods and separatist aspirations in the region. At the end of this century, “national rebirth” was a broad political and cultural movement. The Modernisme trend, present in the Catalonian culture circa 1880-1910, came to the fore. At that time, architecture became one of the most important forms of manifesting identity. The architectural “Catalonian style” was initially a variation of late historism with national motives and “Mudéjar” forms, later, closer to the end of the 19th century, more Art Nouveau influences emerged.
The development of the Catalonian architectural avant-garde movement was highly influence by the establishment of GATEPAC in1930. GATCPAC was the Catalonian section. The main members of this organisation included Josep Lluís Sert, Josep Torres Clavé and Sixt Yllescas. Dynamic changes in art coincided with vital political events. The 2nd Republic was established in 1931 in Spain and autonomic Republic Catalonia . The authorities ordered the project of rebuilding the capital of Catalonia (Pla Macià). The plans of “functionalistic Barcelona” were made in 1932 by Sert and Torres, in cooperation with Le Corbusier. From this project, only on prototype gallery building, the so called “Casa-Bloc” was realised.
The “second wave” of modernists, from the fifties, was associated primarily with Group R (Grup R), operating in 1951-1959. The most important members of this organisation were José Antonio Coderch and Oriol Bohigas. On one hand, these architects wanted to refer to the GATCPAC tradition, on the other – they declared the will to create a new architecture model – both modern and Catalonian.
Three years after the collapse of the Franco regime, Catalonia regained its autonomy. This was the beginning of an extremely dynamic development for Barcelona. In1986-91, many large scale investments were undertaken. Construction works were focused in three places: on Montjuïc hill (the Olympic Circle), the shore (Olympic village and new port), and in the Northern districts. In a relatively short time, Barcelona joined the group of large post-modernistic metropolises. It became one of the most important points on the map of the global tourist industry. Thanks to the consequent activities of local authorities, Catalonian architects, and numerous social organisations, Barcelona managed to avoid “disneylandation”, thematisation, privatisation of urban space, and uncontrolled development.