The central market of Tarragona has finally opened its doors to the public after a costly refurbishment lasting nearly ten years.
The beautiful modernista building, designed by the prolific municipal architect Josep Maria Pujol de Barberà, first opened its doors on the 19th of December 1915. Its location was crucial to the expansion of the city as it helped the development of what was, at the time, a marginalised area.
The restoration and current development have been hugely controversial not only because of the elevated cost (47 million Euros) and what felt like a never-ending time scale (nearly ten years), but also because it has allocated the ground floor of the building to Mercadona, the large supermarket chain whose branding and presence is predominant. My personal view is that the interior of the central market should have been more sympathetic to the original idea of space and light devised by Pujol: the large windows, which originally let in natural sunlight and ventilation, have been mostly covered up transforming the interior into an oversized cavern. The exquisite metal columns which support the great vaults are largely lost in the square intrusion of individual parades and three large lifts, so are the beautiful elements of the vaults covered in dark cladding and barely illuminated.
But let’s look at the positive: the Mercat Central is now a renewed centrepiece of Tarragona and a great showcase of local produce with counters piled high with cheeses, meat, fruit, vegetables and fish produce. One of the big changes is the new “fast food” sushi counter, where you can buy and eat instantly prepared food on the spot. If this concept develops it could signal a viable future for the beleaguered paradistas whose rent has shot up and whose sales are now compromised by the competition of the large supermarket below.
The next stage of the development will be to remove the now tattered provisional market and restore the square underneath. There is also talk of pedestrianising the adjacent streets in order to offer a better overall shopping experience. So whether you are popping in to eat or buy or to simply savour a coffee over the counter in the middle of all the hustle and bustle, the refurbished Mercat Central is a mandatory stop-over.