Urban Journalism Institute
Municipal Times Journal


Palo Alto, the venue for the 2023 UCLG Retreat, is closely connected to the history of Barcelona. At the end of the 19th century, when Barcelona was well-known for its textile industry, two Catalan entrepreneurs dedicated to the manufacture of wool yarn, asked for permission to build the space. After them, other owners contributed to enlarge and renovate the original building until 1980, when, coinciding with a profound economic crisis of the city, it was completely abandoned.

Thanks to the renovation that the area experienced with the Olympic Games 1992, a project was created to convert the factory into a commercial and advertising film studio called “Palo Alto”, inspired by the eponymous city in California. In 1990, the designer Javier Mariscal installed his studio there, which led to a group of design and creation professionals also hiring spaces.

When the grounds were declared expropriate, the artistic and cultural movement of the city defended to preserve the place and the possibility that the site would become a space of creation and design.

Since 1997, the Palo Alto Foundation has managed the space, and it concentrates different disciplines and artistic and cultural areas of the city of Barcelona. Architectural studies, photography, sculpture, painting, editorial, graphics, and fashion, among others, turn the space into an urban laboratory that generates co-creation and collective knowledge to feed the cultural and artistic environment of the city.

Palo Alto is home to 16 companies, 94% of them with local capital, that generate more than 250 direct jobs. In the past 29 years, it has hosted more than 60 companies.