The Llotja Advanced School of Art and Design (Escola Superior de Disseny i d’Arts Llotja or ESDA Llotja) is a public institute of higher education under the auspices of the "Departament d’Educació de la Generalitat de Catalunya". Heir to the Free School of Design (Escuela Gratuita de Diseño) established on January 23, 1715, by the Barcelona Board of Commerce, the Llotja is the oldest school of design in Spain. The school was first housed on the upper floors of the building called la Llotja de Mar 1, hence its popular name of “la Llotja”, which is now official as simply “Llotja”. The original goal was to train draftsmen who, educated in the ‘correct’ taste of the new Neoclassical style, would be able to design objects and ornamental motifs that would then be manufactured in the new factories, thus promoting production and commerce. Soon, however, the school became the Escola de Nobles Arts (School of Fine Arts, 1800), which focused on training painters and sculptors, as well as architects, becoming the first school in Catalonia to provide architecture studies (1817).
At the beginning of the 20th century the School was turned into the Escola Superior d’Arts i Indústries i Belles Arts (School of Creative Arts and Industries and Fine Arts, 1900), and ten years later, it was reorganized to separate the applied arts from the fine arts and came to be called the Escola d’Arts i Oficis artístics i Belles Arts (School of Applied Arts and Fine Arts, 1910). It was not until 1944 that the School of Fine Arts separated definitively into an independent school, leaving the Llotja as the school of applied arts. Therefore, nearly all of the well-known Catalan artists from the long period prior to 1944 studied at the Llotja School.2
Following the Renaissance and Neoclassical models, the designer’s training was based almost exclusively on drawing, while practical training was acquired outside of the school. In 1910 workshops were introduced, giving rise to the structure still operating today, leading to artistic specialization. Design remained part of the curriculum but it was not until the Spanish General Education Law (LOGSE) of 1990 was passed, which established the Advanced Vocational Training in Art and Design programs and the Advanced Design Studies (2002), equivalent to a university degree program (diplomatura), that the school recovered the word Llotja as part of its name.
The result of its long history is a school with a great deal of tradition offering a wide range of specializations and educational levels, with a diversity of subject matter and theoretical, historical, technological, legal, experimental, project-based and practical modules. This broad base makes the Llotja School of Art and Design an excellent example of the interrelationship between different fields of knowledge and artistic creation.
1 The building dates back to the 14th century and was originally dedicated to commercial transactions. By the time it housed the Llotja School it had been primarily remodeled according to the tenets of Neoclassicism.
2 Some renowned alumni include Lola Anglada, Damià Campeny, Marià Fortuny, Pau Gargallo, Josep Llimona, Josep Llorens i Artigas, Apel·les Mestres, Joan Miró, Isidre Nonell, Pablo Picasso, Josep Maria Sert and Modest Urgell, to name but a few.