Between its loss of empire in 1898 and the middle of the twentieth century, Spain oscillated between historicism and modernism in architecture. Ideas about looking back at iconic projects (such as the Barcelona and Seville Cathedrals) contrast with ambitious forward-thinking in construction, creating a cultural, regional, and generational schism. This debate was evident in two international exhibitions: the Ibero-American Exposition (IAE) in Seville, and the Barcelona International Exposition (BIE), both of which were constructed for 1929. While the Seville Exhibit recalled Spain's bygone glory as an Imperial power, the Barcelona Exhibit looked forward to modern ideas and international connections.
This paper will analyze these two expos and answer questions about the inspirations behind and implications of each, particularly when considering historicism and modernism. This topic is particularly important due to the nature of the exhibitions, both of which were hugely influential in the development of Spanish architecture over the course of the next few decades. The Seville and Barcelona exhibits were pivotal moments in Spanish architectural history, and should be examined in context and connection, rather than isolated events.
Although there has been some research on each exhibition individually, there are few papers that relate them to each other and to their historical implications. To show meaning and connection between each exhibition, this paper will consult period Spanish journal articles (such as Arquitectura or A.C. Documentos) and travel documents (such as Evelyn Waugh’s 1930 book Labels) as well as historiographical accounts.