Designing America: Spain’s Imprint in the U.S.

Nov 30, 2016


The U.S. Spain Council played a significant role recently in opening the doors for the informative exhibit, Designing America: Spain’s Imprint in the U.S., to be displayed in Santa Barbara, California as part of its US tour. Organized by Fundación Consejo Espana-EE.UU., the U.S. Spain Council’s counterpart in Spain, the exhibit was previously on display in Madrid, Washington DC and Houston. This past summer during the annual US-Spain Council Forum in Santiago de Compostela, representatives of Fundación Consejo España-EE.UU. asked US Spain Council board member David Bolton, executive director of the California Missions Foundation, to help them find an additional exhibit location in the western U.S. An agreement was soon reached between the Fundación Consejo and the Santa Barbara Historical Museum. The exhibit opened in Santa Barbara on October 20.


Santa Barbara Historical Museum. From October 20, 2016 to April 10, 2017

From 1513, the year when Ponce de León first set foot in Florida, through to the twenty-first century, Spain has had an influential presence in the United States of America we know today. This exhibition aims to examine, under the same looking glass, the contributions Spain has made toward the construction of territories, landscapes and cities in the United States: a living legacy that is continually renewed despite the centuries that have gone by.

With some 500 years of uninterrupted control, Spain was the first European nation to settle in the territory that is known today as the United States, and the one that has stayed the longest. This influence extends to very distinct fields: from the exploration and charting on the map of the American territory to the founding of American cities. A long period of Spanish rule (1565-1821) that has left behind pivotal influences on the territory’s structure and the composition of its landscape. Through today, the work of Spanish engineers and architects in the United States has kept this connection alive.

Embarking on a themed, yet non-sequential cross-sectional survey of these contributions, the exhibition is presented in four blocks: The image of America; Constructing the territory; Cities: the Spanish urban space; and Constructed works: architecture and engineering. In each of these blocks, a set of more than 20 maps, images and objects is matched with parallel narrations that complement and enrich this collection. The visit is completed by The Spanish Language: place names in the United States, an interactive installation that helps to localize the states and cities in the US, the video The Spanish Frontier in North America, and a multi-touch table with zoomable maps. Most of the images will have QR codes.

This exhibition takes place within the context of several key events, to be celebrated between 2013 and 2015, that reflect upon the common history between Spain and the United States. Current commemorative celebrations include the 500th anniversary of Ponce de León’s arrival in Florida, the 500th anniversary of the exploration of the Pacific Ocean by Núñez de Balboa, the 300th anniversary of the birth of California’s founder, Father Junípero Serra; and the 450th anniversary of the foundation of the first city in the United States: St. Augustine, Florida.

The exhibition has been organized by the Fundación Consejo España-Estados Unidos in collaboration with the Biblioteca Nacional de España. Santa Barbara Historical Museum is the third venue in the United States. It has been curated by Juan Miguel Hernández León, director of the Cultural Landscape Research Group of the Technical University of Madrid. The exhibition design was carried out by Indissoluble.