A Graphic Designer’s Love Letter to the Endangered Signage of Barcelona

Photograph by Louise Fili from <em>Grafica de les Rambles</em> (courtesy Princeton Architectural Press)” width=”1080″ height=”780″ srcset=”http://originalart.xyz/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/graficabook03-1080×780.jpg 1080w, https://hyperallergic.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/graficabook03-720×520.jpg 720w, https://hyperallergic.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/graficabook03-360×260.jpg 360w, https://hyperallergic.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/graficabook03.jpg 1400w” sizes=”(max-width: 1080px) 100vw, 1080px”/>Photograph by Louise Fili from <em>Gráfica de les Rambles</em> (courtesy Princeton Architectural Press)</p>
<p>“I’ve been photographing signage for as long as I can remember,” graphic designer <a href=Louise Fili told Hyperallergic. The latest book of her signage images — Gràfica de les Rambles: The Signs of Barcelona — is out now from Princeton Architectural Press. In the introduction, she describes the “sense of urgency” that compelled her first two European signage publications — one on Italy, another on Paris — as their distinct mosaics, wrought iron, neon, gold leaf, stained glass, and other historic signage were disappearing.

Photograph by Louise Fili from <em>Grafica de les Rambles</em> (courtesy Princeton Architectural Press)” width=”360″ height=”263″ srcset=”http://originalart.xyz/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/graficabook05-360×263.jpg 360w, https://hyperallergic.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/graficabook05-720×526.jpg 720w, https://hyperallergic.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/graficabook05-1080×788.jpg 1080w, https://hyperallergic.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/graficabook05.jpg 1200w” sizes=”(max-width: 360px) 100vw, 360px”/>Cover of <em>Gràfica de les Rambles</em> (courtesy Princeton Architectural Press)</p>
<p>In fact, one of the signs she’d planned to document in Barcelona vanished just before she arrived. Instead of the silvery, looping text above Fotos López there was just a silhouette of the now missing typography. “I was beside myself because I felt like I had missed the removal of this by a matter of minutes,” she said. “The next day I just happened to have been interviewed by a journalist for the newspaper <em>El Paìs</em>, and I was still so upset about it, and I guess he must have asked me where it was. Two days later the article came out, and a week later I had just returned back to New York, and I get an email from the grandson of the original founder.”</p>
<p>That grandson, Angel López, said that he and his family were moved by her interest, and offered to remount the sign for a photograph. Although the photo studio had closed, they still owned the building and the sign, which had been removed out of concern for theft. “I went back as fast as I could,” Fili said. “The whole family came out for the event. It was really wonderful.”</p>
<p>Photographs of the family with the sign lead <em>Gràfica de les Rambles</em>, which is divided into sections like Art Deco, monograms, mosaics, and cursives. Most of these photographs are close-ups of the lettering, although a few zoom out to take in a whole façade of a pastry shop or fabric store, capturing how the signage is part of the architecture. Before she visits a city, Fili spends hours on Google Street View exploring potential sites, but by the time she arrives, the signs are sometimes gone. Once a business closes, its placards and decorative flourishes often disappear with it.</p>
<p>“There are never going to be signs as beautiful as these,” she said. “All the materials they worked with and all the typography they worked with, and there’s no other way to preserve them other than just keeping them on the building.”</p>
<p><img class=Gràfica de les Rambles: The Signs of Barcelona by Louise Fili is out now from Princeton Architectural Press.

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