Moments from the past, a firm grounding for the future. On the fortieth anniversary of the UPC, the rector and the executive council wish you a Happy New Year

The Terrassa Industrial School

A royal decree issued on 17 August 1901 set out the key elements of an overhaul of industrial engineering studies known as the Romanones Reform. Specialised technical studies were divided into two tiers: elementary and higher studies. The Terrassa and Vilanova i la Geltrú schools became centres for higher industrial studies. The photo, taken at the outset of the 20th century, shows the Industrial School (now the Terrassa School of Engineering), a long-standing symbol of the city.

Einstein and Catalan scientists

On February 1923, Albert Einstein arrived in Barcelona for a one-week visit. No one met him at the station, but after leaving he wrote in his diary that Catalans were a kind people. His visit was recorded in a number of photos taken at the Industrial School, known at the time as the Universitat Nova—now the Barcelona College of Industrial Engineering.

Visit by Alfonso XIII

"The King made his way to the Industrial Schools, where he was received by the Board of Trustees and the director, Mr Bartomeu Amat, who accompanied him to visit various premises where machinery is located. He took an interest in techniques used in the manufacture of textiles (....)" In his book Coses de Terrassa viscudes, Baltasar Ragón gives this account of a visit that King Alfonso XIII made to Terrassa on 18 April 1904. In the photo, taken on the grounds of the Industrial School, to the right of the King is Alfons Sala, the Count of Egara, an industrialist and politician who promoted the establishment of the School of Textile Engineering in the city.

Post-war carnival celebrations

This photo, taken at the Vilanova i la Geltrú School of Engineering, reflects the post-war hardship of the 1950s. The image shows a carnival scene typical of Vilanova—a festive occasion linked to celebrations marking the mid-point of the academic year. The School has a long history at the UPC and many interesting reminders of times gone by can be found in its files. The School was set up in 1902, along with industrial schools in Alcoi, Béjar, Cartagena, Gijón, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Madrid, Terrassa and Vigo.

1960s computer technology

The PACE 16-31 R analogue computer was one of the devices used by research groups at the Barcelona School of Industrial Engineering over half a century ago. Fundación March paid for the computer, which cost 1.5 million pesetas, and it was unveiled on 24 October 1960 at a ceremony presided over by Jesús Rubio García-Mina, the minister for Education and Science.


This photo taken on 11 June 1962 shows the blessing of the ARGOS nuclear reactor at the Barcelona School of Industrial Engineering. The reactor, used for training and research, was a pioneering facility in the context of university education in industrial engineering. The device was built in Madrid by the Nuclear Energy Board, with funding from the Barcelona Chamber of Commerce, and remained in operation until 1977. The decommissioning and dismantling of the reactor was completed in April 2002, when a lorry transported the waste material to a French processing plant.

A different kind of start to the academic year

Civil and military authorities attend a ceremony marking the start of the 1964–1965 academic year at the Barcelona School of Industrial Engineering. The same year, the School—which for over 30 years had occupied Can Batlló, a former factory on Barcelona's Carrer Urgell—was relocated to a new building. The new academic year got under way in a building located at 611 Avinguda Diagonal. The image offers a glimpse of the way things were during the Franco era.

Before the world went digital

Huge files, typewriters, Bakelite phones, and reams and reams of paper—this black-and-white photo of administrative staff at the Barcelona School of Building Construction offers a glimpse into the pre-digital world of the early 1970s. Now, the University is engaged in a transformation towards e-administration, a new paradigm for relating to the public that would have been the stuff of science fiction back in the 1970s.

A moment before the lecture

A moment before a lecture that Viennese architect Richard Neutra gave at the Barcelona School of Architecture in 1969. The lecture was attended by a large audience of students, who, on the cusp of a new decade, were hungry for new international perspectives like the one offered that day by Richard Neutra, internationally recognised for projects such as Kaufmann House (1946).

Mines and Manresa

The 1970s brought a series of changes to the Manresa School of Engineering (EPSEM). The School (originally known as the Escola de Capatassos Facultatius de Mines de Manresa) was housed first at the facilities of the Lluís de Peguera Secondary School and then at premises owned by the Caixa d'Estalvis de Manresa. Construction of the building where the School is now located began in 1963, and the new facility was finally inaugurated on 30 March 1974. The EPSEM is still the only school in the university district of Catalonia that offers degrees in mining engineering.

Defence of doctoral thesis

The defence of a doctoral thesis at the Barcelona School of Industrial Engineering is the subject of this black-and-white photo taken in June 1971. Many of those attending the session were attached to the former Chair of Metallurgy, which evolved into the Department of Materials Science and Metallurgy. The doctoral candidate who appears in the photo retired last summer.

Wicker chairs

This photo from 1974 shows students in a classroom at the former facilities of the Barcelona School of Agricultural Engineering (ESAB). In 2005, the School was moved from Carrer Urgell in Barcelona to the Baix Llobregat Campus in Castelldefels, and since then it has specialised in biological systems engineering. The ESAB—a project that received strong backing from Enric Prat de la Riba—was established in 1911, so this year the School is marking its first centenary.

Non-teaching staff also part of the University

1975 was a year for voicing demands at the UPC. Administrative and service staff (known as "non-teaching staff" at the time) were demanding salary increases and recognition as part of the university community. In the photo, some of those who helped achieve these goals are seen taking a break from their demonstrations.

First Doctor Honoris Causa

On 18 February 1977, George R. Collins—professor of Art and Archaeology at Columbia University in New York and a leading international expert on the work of Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí—became the first person to be conferred the title of Doctor Honoris Causa by the UPC. Collins, who was the president of the US branch of the Friends of Gaudí Association, was put forward for the honorary degree by the Barcelona School of Architecture and sponsored by Professor Joan Bassegoda Nonell. The ceremony was presided over by vice-rector Francisco Colom in the absence of the rector, Julià Fernández.

North Campus takes shape

The North Campus has grown brick by brick on a site in the north of Barcelona, where 30 years ago there were only bare fields. The D5 building, one of the first modules constructed, went up at the end of the 1980s, when Gabriel Ferraté was still the rector. The building was the starting point for what would become a dynamic knowledge hub and a centre for excellence in education—part of the Barcelona Knowledge Campus (BKC), one of the projects recognised as an International Campus of Excellence.

Shameful facilities

At the start of the 1980s, the UPC had to make use of some makeshift buildings like these ones on the North Campus, which housed facilities of the Barcelona School of Informatics (FIB). In 1977, annexes to Torre Girona had been fitted out to create a temporary home for the School, but the FIB soon outgrew these facilities and prefab buildings were put up to provide more space. In 1985, the School was relocated to Carrer Pau Gargallo (where the School of Mathematics and Statistics is now). Finally, in 1995 the FIB found a permanent location on the North Campus.

Carles Santos at the Coderch Building

Venus de Samotràcia is the title of a performance given by musician Vinaròs Carles Santos on the rooftop of the Coderch building at the Barcelona School of Architecture. The event, which took place in 1984, was warmly received, and the performance was captured on video. The recording can still be found in libraries.

From UPB to UPC

An image of the entrance to the 1984 meeting of the University Senate, held at the Barcelona exhibition centre's Palau de Congressos. That year the name of the University was changed from Universitat Politècnica de Barcelona (UPB) to Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya (UPC) to reflect its links to the region as a whole. It was also the year that the Parliament of Catalonia established boards of trustees to facilitate broader social participation in public universities.

Two rectors, a mayor and a president

In 1986, as mayor of Barcelona, Pasqual Maragall signed an agreement on the development of a traffic simulator. The simulator was to be part of a research project of the Department of Statistics and Operations Research and was developed at the Barcelona School of Informatics (FIB). In the photo, the mayor is flanked by Antoni Giró, dean of the FIB, and the rector, Gabriel Ferraté. Just a few years later, the mayor had become president of the Government of Catalonia, the dean had become rector of the UPC, and a UPC library had been named in honour of Gabriel Ferraté.

Model for an ambitious project

Rector Gabriel Ferraté shows a model of the North Campus to Jordi Pujol, president of the Government of Catalonia, and Pere Duran Farell, the first chairman of the Board of Trustees. In the photo, he is indicating where the departments, classrooms, laboratories and schools of the Barcelona School of Civil Engineering, the Barcelona School of Telecommunications Engineering, and the Barcelona School of Informatics will be located. The new facilities were constructed in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Immersed in virtual reality

The UPC has been a leader in applying virtual reality in medicine, automotive and naval design, architecture, and urban planning. The CAVE at the Virtual Reality Centre—a room-sized cube measuring 3 m on each side—is used to create an immersive virtual reality environment. The system has been used to run interactive simulations that facilitate a range of processes, including the production of prototypes for industry, medical diagnosis and surgical planning, and architectural design.

Supercomputer in FC Barcelona colours

In 1991, a Cray X-MP/14 was installed at the Supercomputing Centre of Catalonia (CESCA) on the UPC's North Campus. The model was one of the first vector supercomputers, in which instructions operated on arrays of data rather than scalar units. Designed to sport the home colours of FC Barcelona, the Cray X-MP/14 had a computing power of 0.24 Gflop/s, a 167 MHz CPU with 32 MB of main memory and 4.76 GB of disk.

Practical training

The Terrassa School of Optics and Optometry has been renamed (in Catalan) for the 2011–2012 academic year. Since it was founded in 1977, the School has produced over 3000 graduates, and a clinic—the University Vision Centre—has been set up. In this photo from the early 1990s, students are seen receiving training in optometric techniques.

Removal of fuel from the Argos reactor

In 1992, the fuel was removed from the Argos nuclear reactor at the Barcelona School of Industrial Engineering before the process of decommissioning and dismantling the apparatus began. The reactor was launched in 1962 and operated for 15 years. During this time, it provided students with access to modern technology and put the School at the forefront of industrial engineering education. The facility was an exceptional one in the context of Spanish universities.

Mercè Sala and Miquel Roca

Mercè Sala, former chair of the Fundació Politècnica de Catalunya and a member of the institution's Board of Trustees, and Miquel Roca Junyent, chair of the UPC's Board of Trustees from 1995 to 2002, are two key figures in the recent history of the UPC. Both were firmly convinced of the need to connect the University to civil society and Catalonia's production sector. They appear pensive in this photo taken during an event organised by the Fundació UPC.

The end of "Siberia"

"Siberia" was a large teaching space used by the Terrassa School of Industrial and Aeronautical Engineering (ETSEIAT). Members of the university community used this Stalinist moniker to refer to the zone because it was so cold and inhospitable. Armed with a sledgehammer, rector Jaume Pagès personally began the demolition of the building at the beginning of the 1990s. "Siberia" was replaced by a new ETSEIAT building with a façade on Carrer Ramón y Cajal—a new point of entry to the campus.

Invasive robotics

The National Robotics Competition has become a not-to-be-missed event for lovers of these small computer-controlled devices. Students from different universities participate in the annual competition, organised by the Aerospace and Electronics Systems Society of the Barcelona School of Telecommunications Engineering with support from the School. When the dust settles after the battles, the home team usually emerges victorious.

Close relationship with students

Over the last decade, teaching staff and students have come closer together than ever before. The Vallès School of Architecture (set up in 1973) has always recognised the value of this close relationship, now also seen as crucial in the context of the European Higher Education Area. The photo shows a teaching space for working with small groups of students. Facilities, equipment and services play an important role in defining the School's identity and facilitating its distinctive approach to education.

Bow to port

Since 2008, the NT3 space in the El Far building has housed Spain's first 3-D port simulator, acquired by the Barcelona School of Nautical Studies. The simulator can be used to create three-dimensional models of port areas that work with the Navi-Trainer 4000 navigational simulator (NTPRO 4000). The system is a tool for teaching students how to maintain a position, course, and the orientation of a ship's bow—in short, how to steer a ship safely and correctly.

The birth of the Baix Llobregat Campus

The Baix Llobregat College of Engineering, the first step towards creating the Baix Llobregat Campus in Castelldefels, was established in the 1990–1991 academic year. In the photo, UPC rector Jaume Pagès shows Jordi Pujol, president of the Government of Catalonia, the layout of the new zone. The Campus, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, houses the Barcelona School of Agricultural Engineering, the Castelldefels School of Telecommunications and Aerospace Engineering, the Mediterranean Technology Park (a business park), and a number of institutes.

A passion for IT

In 2003, the North Campus Sports Centre was the setting for the Fiberparty, an event for those with a passion for computers and new technologies. The annual three-day gathering—an initiative of students at the Barcelona School of Informatics and the Fiberparty Cultural Association—is attended by hundreds of people who bring along their personal computers and their desire to learn, get to know other IT enthusiasts, have fun, and unleash their creativity.

The MareNostrum supercomputer

The MareNostrum is currently the second most powerful supercomputer in Spain and was ranked 170th in the world on the June 2011 Top500 list. The supercomputer achieved its highest ranking in November 2006, when it was number five globally and took the top position in Europe. Managed by the Barcelona Supercomputing Centre–Centro Nacional de Supercomputación (BSC-CNS), the MareNostrum offers the international scientific community 94.21 teraflops of computing power, that is, the ability to perform 94.21 billion operations per second.

Enthusiastic about space

On 27 April 2005, Jaume Gibert, the director of the Terrassa School of Industrial and Aeronautical Engineering, welcomed Spanish astronaut and aeronautical engineer Pedro Duque, who had been invited to give a lecture at the School. The astronaut talked about his experience with microgravity as a participant on the Cervantes Mission to the International Space Station and other assignments. His lecture was warmly received by a capacity audience of students and lecturers at the School's auditorium.

Sant Jordi with rhythm


Practical on-site class

Designing, building, managing and maintaining public works are tasks that require "all-terrain" professionals who can adapt quickly to new work environments. In the photo, a lecturer at the Barcelona School of Civil Engineering provides practical instruction to a group of students at a work site.

Research and art

X-ray diffraction, spectroscopy, scanning electron microscopy—the Laboratory for Analysis of Cultural Heritage Materials uses the tools of chemistry and physics to conserve and restore heritage materials, applying the latest techniques so as to understand and assess component materials and restore works if necessary. The Laboratory, located at the Vilanova i la Geltrú School of Engineering, works with leading institutions in the field of cultural heritage.

Sir Michael Atiyah

The conferment ceremony at which the prestigious mathematician Michael Atiyah was awarded the title of Doctor Honoris Causa by the UPC rector Antoni Giró. Professor Sebastià Xambó and Professor Pere Pascual acted as his sponsors. The ceremony was held on 25 April 2008 at the auditorium of the Vèrtex building. Sir Michael was nominated by the Faculty of Mathematics and Statistics, with the support of the departments of Applied Mathematics I, II, III and IV, and the Department of Statistics and Operations Research.

Double serving for motivated minds

Students need to be highly motivated and have a strong aptitude for scientific and technical education to pursue two university degrees simultaneously. Since the 2003–2004 academic year, the Interdisciplinary Higher Education Centre has offered an innovative academic programme that gives students the option of studying more than one discipline within the framework of an individual programme based on UPC undergraduate courses.

Clean room for micro- and nanotechnologies

The Department of Electronic Engineering offers the Barcelona School of Telecommunications Engineering an extremely clean environment, where air is passed through a series of filters to eliminate dust. The clean room is used to investigate and manufacture objects the same size or smaller than the dust particles usually present in air, including organic devices, solar cells, photonic crystals and biosensors. The room provides the conditions required to conduct micro- and nanotechnology research.

From the UPC to the Moon

Since 2007, a group of students at the Castelldefels School of Telecommunications and Aerospace Engineering have been working to make a dream come true. Their goal is to send their PicoRover robot to the Moon within the framework of the Google Lunar X PRIZE competition. The prototype shown in the photo is made out of low-cost everyday materials. It is 12 cm in diameter, weighs 250 g, and has a motor, a battery, a remote control system, and a high-definition camera. The PicoRover is able to climb steep sandy slopes.

A sustainable house

The LOW3 house (low energy + low impact + low cost) was built by a team from the Vallès School of Architecture to represent the UPC at the Solar Decathlon 2010 architecture competition. A series of contests—focusing on factors ranging from energy efficiency to comfort—were used to evaluate 17 houses developed by university teams from around the world. The LOW3 project finished 13th overall and received the highest score in the architecture contest. The house is now used by the School as a laboratory for sustainable construction and experimentation.

The power of light

In March 2011, Nature published findings obtained by researchers at the Institute of Photonic Sciences (ICFO). A team led by Morgan Mitchell had for the first time detected ultra-weak magnetic signals beyond the Heisenberg limit, previously thought to be fundamental and unsurpassable. In the photo, Mario Napolitano, a member of the team, looks at optical components used in magnetometers with cold atoms. Through their work in photonics, the light wizards at the ICFO contribute to advances in medicine, communications, transport, information technology, and other fields.

Nobel laureates

At the Second Meeting of Nobel Laureates organised by the UPC, Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, Martinus J. G. Veltman, Werner Arber, Jerome I. Friedman, Joseph H. Taylor Jr., Rigoberta Menchú and José Saramago (from left to right) discussed whether higher education should be a public good or a commodity. The meeting was chaired by UPC rector Josep Ferrer i Llop and Federico Mayor Zaragoza, the chairman of the Foundation for a Culture of Peace (the two men in the centre).

Music and awards at the Palau

On 16 June 2010, the music of Brahms and Mozart served as a reminder that the UPC isn't just about engineering, architecture and science. On the second annual UPC Night, the Palau de la Música Catalana was the exceptional setting for a concert to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Architecture Choir and the 10th anniversary of the UPC Orchestra. UPC Night is an annual event at which the Board of Trustees recognises members of the university community who have received awards and honours.

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