Head of World Heritage. Casa Batlló, Spain.
December 28, 2020
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Key words: World Heritage; Resilience; Intangible Heritage; Covid-19.
The Covid-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the world’s cultural ecosystem, but this has been most keenly felt by privately managed spaces that do not receive public funds and depend solely on visitor admissions. Overnight, cities that had been overcrowded with tourists found themselves in the complete opposite situation, to the great detriment of those who depended directly and indirectly on their presence.
The case of Casa Batllό in Barcelona is a good example of how a private institution managed to face this situation. The management team tried to adapt, as best they could, the cultural experience to the Casa’s mostly local audience, drawing its inspiration from the heritage value of artist Antoni Gaudí’s monument; they also focused on intangible heritage: an approach which helped to reinvent the Casa’s management model as a whole.
Health measures to prevent the risk of infection from Covid-19 when reopening museums have prioritised maximum hygiene and safety, and at Casa Batlló, we implemented protocols issued by the Spanish Ministry of Health accordingly. As Casa Batlló is a World Heritage property, we also implemented the recommendations of the Spanish Cultural Heritage Institute, ICOMOS, ICCROM and ICOM. These specific measures included the protection of internal staff, external staff and visitors. For Casa Batlló’s reopening on 1 July 2020, in addition to the basic measures of social distancing, wearing a face mask and applying disinfectant hand gel, we innovated by inserting HEPA and Carbon-active filters and Cold Plasma Bipolar Ionization in the Casa’s pre-existing ventilation systems. We also included a monitoring system that allows the visitor to identify, before entering, the Casa’s capacity and the air quality by means of an information screen at the entrance of the building. The video guide and headphones equipment undergo three cleaning cycles before reaching the visitor, the most important of which is its disinfection by ultraviolet light in a special cabinet created for this purpose.
Inspiration in heritage focused on a local public
The communication campaign for the reopening was mainly carried out online and included a visual image inspired by Gaudí’s own work; residents were encouraged to visit by promoting 40,000 free tickets for locals. The tickets ran out in 24 hours. The internal signage, web and social network communication channels and the products in the shop all adapted to the new situation, whilst maintaining the Casa’s spirit by offering a satisfactory cultural visit that allowed visitors to feel confident and safe in a closed space.
In addition, we carried out actions such as creating FFP2 masks inspired by the shapes and colours of Casa Batlló and webinars for the professional sector that brought together more than 250 specialists to discuss World Heritage issues, the works of Gaudí and our rethought management model. Furthermore, we produce live streamings via our social networks, focusing on local audiences but also reaching foreign audiences with more than 500,000 online visitors in total.
Intangible Heritage in World Heritage
A tool we used to attract local audiences to income-generating activities in order to maintain operating costs was to offer cultural experiences that combine musical intangible heritage with the visit of the World Heritage property. Other activities included exclusive tickets for selected visitors, guided tours by the museum’s ‘content curator’ and joint campaigns with other brands. Concerts of flamenco, jazz, blues, soul and rumba within the museum helped to offset partially the detrimental financial impact suffered as a result of the closure of concert halls. These small-format concerts were also organised in accordance with the new safety measures; they have helped to finance the Casa’s activities and provided an additional offer to the museum’s visitors.
Challenges for the future
Faced with an uncertain scenario, the management team faces three main challenges: 1. Adapting its content to ensure the safety, protection and cultural experiences of the local, historically underrepresented public. 2. Relocating the property through immersive experiences that can be exported using new technologies such as Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality and Artificial Intelligence to avoid saturation of visitors in a house with limited capacity, and 3. Continuing to conserve the Outstanding Universal Value of the building, which Antoni Gaudí designed, with the beauty of nature as his inspiration, more than a century ago.
The reinvention of Casa Batlló’s management strategy has been a historical challenge that the team is tackling with a spirit of resilience, combining knowledge and expertise and networking at an international level but, above all, with the conviction that the present challenges will help us contribute to a more sustainable future.
References and resources
Video of protection and safety measures for the reopening: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e3qhNCS86-8&feature=youtu.be
Video of the flamenco concerts on the terrace: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WqVjsFy-H-g&feature=youtu.be
Discover Casa Batlló with children: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WfsBVFQhs0k&feature=youtu.be
Description of measures implemented: https://www.casabatllo.es/en/news/we-guarantee-a-safe-visit-with-innovative-hygiene-measures/
Post-Covid products inspired by Casa Batlló: https://mascarillas.casabatllostore.com/
School visits for the benefit of the local visitor: https://www.casabatllo.es/en/news/visit-schools-2020/
Activities for children during the confinement: https://www.casabatllo.es/en/news/games-crafts-download-gaudi/
Hygiene measures at Casa Batlló: https://www.casabatllo.es/novedades/garantizamos-una-visita-segura-con-innovadoras-medidas-de-higiene/ y https://mascarillas.casabatllostore.com/mascarillas-tela-gaudi/
More information on Casa Batlló: https://www.casabatllo.es/en/
Virtual guided tours at Casa Batlló during the confinement: https://www.instagram.com/tv/CALPOK1qjOi/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link
Opinions expressed in the article do not commit ICOM in any way and are the responsibility of its author.