Barcelona – In Mediterranean cities and towns, there is a sense of assurance that comes from the typology of the neighbourhood bar: in countries known for their generalised culinary standards, these spots brandish the idea that good food and service is rewarded with the consistent patronage that makes for a longstanding business. And that’s exactly the wordless language that El Villa-Vermutería del Mar, a revamped bar in Barcelona, is trying to harness – but, in this case, for a younger generation.
‘Our client was looking for a traditional bar, with the typical folklore of the fishermen bars of Andalusia, where preserved, salted fish products are mostly served,’ explained Omar Ornaque, one of the two architects behind AMOO, the studio in charge of the renovation. ‘It had to look popular.’
At first sight, ‘popular’ – as in, a place accessible for the many – is not what one would think of when seeing the use of industrial flooring and a corked ceiling so bright it's practically golden. And yet, thanks to the fast and wide travels of these aesthetical principles – thanks, Instagram –, these materials stand as the new popular for Gen Y and perhaps Z. ‘We decided to take the recognisable colours and materials of the fishermen places, from white and blue tiles to cork, but then we tried to play with these references in an abstract way,’ added Aureli Mora, AMOO's other half. How abstract? The tiles, for example, were arranged by motifs to resemble Andalusian arabesques, while the duo scattered elements coming from the fictitious shipwreck of a large fishing boat.
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Located in the hip, centric Gràcia neighbourhood, the building itself comes from the 1900s. The previous iteration of the original bar, opened in the 1990s, was a dark and mauve-heavy space that, fittingly, had the words ‘Authentic bar culture’ painted on the storefront. The AMOO team responded by relocating the restroom area, adding a sloped false ceiling to create a diversity of areas in the small space and opening up what used to be a long corridor, filling it with natural light. And while the cork itself ended up being one of its main aesthetic signifiers, it was originally considered mainly for its acoustic qualities, to reduce reverberation.