Valuation or prosperity?

Photo: Vicente Zambrano

Photo: Vicente Zambrano

In recent years, property values have climbed more than the purchasing power of the people of Barcelona faced with renting or buying accommodation. The glaring gap between valuation and prosperity can only be closed if welfare and equality are valued as social assets.

The people of Barcelona are living moments of change and confusion. The charms of the Great Enchantress, as Joan Maragall called the city, have taken off all over the world. On the world stock market of cities, Barcelona’s valuation is on the rise and foreign population from all levels of society is being drawn to the city, from the humblest immigrant to highly qualified professionals who find good jobs and an attractive lifestyle here. We can say without fear of being conceited that foreigners no longer come just for the good weather, they also come because they find a lot of other incentives and benefits associated with living here. It isn’t the warmth of the sun, but the price of real estate that makes Barcelona attractive to the eyes of foreign investors.

A high valuation, though, doesn’t necessarily translate into prosperity. Value is measured according to the price index. Prosperity, on the other hand, is measured according to citizens’ welfare and the quality of a shared public space. In recent years, property values have climbed more than the purchasing power of the people of Barcelona faced with renting or buying accommodation. Barcelona has joined a world league of cities that have become fertile soil for big investors, but its inhabitants have had to face this gentrification with their incomes frozen.

In 1821 an epidemic of yellow fever broke out in Barcelona, a disease spread by mosquitoes which is fatal in 50% of cases. At that time the origin of the disease was a mystery and the city’s doctors were split between the ‘contagionists’, who believed it was an exotic disease transmitted by contact between humans, and the ‘anti-contagionists’, who were convinced the disease was not transmitted between humans but that it came from some microbe in the sewage. The epidemic of yellow fever in Barcelona made a great impression everywhere, because it was the largest city until then to have suffered a disease of that sort, so unfamiliar in Europe. The anti-contagionist doctors were a minority, but they persuaded the authorities to close the city gates to avoid contact with the stagnant waters of the port. The effect of this mistaken decision was lethal, because within a few days the death rate shot up even higher. Eventually the contagionists were seen to be right, as they had realised that the fever spread by contact between humans, but neither side was able to prevent the epidemic from spreading.

Similarly, we could respond to the new gold fever we are facing today either by giving in to the neoliberal paradigm and accepting that we can do nothing to halt the advance of globalisation or by armour-plating the city with walls and bylaws against speculation by big investors. The first option would lead to the gradual, definitive expulsion of the city’s middle classes. The second would not guarantee the object of prosperity either, which is to fairly redistribute wealth among citizens.

This glaring gap between valuation and prosperity can only be closed if welfare and equality are valued as social assets. For decades, Barcelona has been organised around associations that have safeguarded communal life. It has a rich network of non-governmental organisations that have guaranteed welfare services in the worst moments of the crisis. All this citizen mobilisation has not been in vain and has generated understanding between residents, dreams of emancipation and a wish for change. More than ever, Barcelona is in need of a political consensus that will help to bring together a city in which business opportunities are not measured according to their monetary profitability, but in relation to the possibilities of fomenting prosperity more horizontally and democratically.

Instead of sharing out the earnings of a few among the poor, we should foment an economy that doesn’t put productivity above all else and that values the reproductive and care work that guarantees citizens’ welfare, a welfare that must not be measured only in terms of income, but also according to its social, cultural and ecological returns.

The challenges of gentrification

Illustration: Joan Negrescolor

Illustration: Joan Negrescolor

Gentrification is a term derived from the root ‘gentry’, a word referring to the social class just below the British nobility. It was first used by the sociologist Ruth Glass in 1964 to refer to the influx of middle-class families to inner London working-class districts. Gentrification replaces a neighbourhood’s traditional population with a different social group with higher purchasing power, leading to changes in the neighbourhood’s make-up and traditional activities, and therefore questions its historical identity, sometimes for ever.

Gentrification is a complex and controversial process and a traumatic one for the population that is pushed out, one in which the powerful forces of the global market intervene but which can also be driven or favoured by urban regeneration policies.

Barcelona, like other European cities, is subject to intense gentrification pressures in some of its most emblematic neighbourhoods. In this dossier, with the help of leading specialists in urban issues, we review the particularities of this phenomenon, discuss the factors and determinants involved and reflect on how to ensure the right to the city of all its inhabitants in the face of rampant mercantilism.

Citizen Imagination

Photo: Pere Virgili

The architect Itziar González, head of the team that won the ideas competition for the Rambla, features in this issue’s interview.
Photo: Pere Virgili

The job of politicians and urban planners is to detect urban pathologies and solve them. The remodelling of La Rambla is an opportunity for an exercise in administrative therapy (on a small scale) that encourages citizens to believe that they have plenty to say and something to do to improve their surroundings in a non-defensive way.

“You made yourself with hasty hands, / in deep, nebulous centuries”, says Joan Perucho in his Ode to Barcelona. Yes, cities are built with the haste brought about by need, but also with the order required for coexistence. The city of Barcelona was built on a hilly landscape, with slopes and plains, tunnels and bridges, now climbing a mountain, now descending to the sea. A city of palaces and hovels.

Whether it’s the work of illuminated visionaries, insaciable speculators or homeless newcomers, a city is the sum of sedimented successes and impatient error. The city is also everything it’s given up on being. In La Barcelona desestimada (The Rejected Barcelona), Carme Granadas collects urban and architectural projects that wound up locked in a drawer for financial and political reasons, or because of changes in fashion. Can you imagine if Rubió i Tudurí’s idea of moving the Barcelona Zoo to the Park Guell had been carried out? Or if the Plaça Catalunya was a ring of kiosks designed by Antoni Gaudí? The history of Barcelona is also the history of its regrets.

Photo: Institut Municipal d'Hisenda

Two projects for remodelling Plaça de Catalunya: the one by Pere Falqués from 1891 and the graduation project by Pau Bajet, a student at the Escola d’Arquitectura, dated 2013.
Photo: Institut Municipal d’Hisenda

The job of politicians and urban planners is to detect urban pathologies and solve them. In other words, to detect the ailments in the chakras of the city, the places where energy and movement concentrate and allow the city to flow. The case of the Plaça de les Glòries, turned into a four-highway knot in the ‘60s, is a quintessential case of an urban pathology, which consisted of placing the Barcelona of cars above the Barcelona of people. The urban planning of Diagonal Mar made it clear that we were sacrificing a central point of the movement of citizens in favour of the mobility of vehicles. A chakra turned into an ailment.

This distinction between movement and mobility is one of the pillars of the project for remodelling La Rambla promoted by the Km-Zero collective led by Itziar González, the winner of a public competition. A former councilwoman of Ciutat Vella, an architect and urban therapist, González explains in the interview at the start of this magazine that we need to save La Rambla both from the monoculture of tourism and from disenchanting momentum. Km-Zero’s project aims to become a laboratory in participation that could mark the start of a new relationship between citizens and the administration. González is clear that managing the city isn’t the same as building a city, which is always the manifestation of collective expression. To bring about this community revitalization, innovation in the way the city is governed is essential. We need innovation involving a new set of rules, innovation that generally comes together with a new type of language.

Photo: Pau Bajet

Plaça Catalunya

For those of you who have heard the word “empowerment” time and again without really understanding what it means, here’s a concrete example. The remodelling of La Rambla is an opportunity for an exercise in administrative therapy (on a small scale) that encourages citizens to believe that they have plenty to say and something to do to improve their surroundings in a non-defensive way. The Km-Zero collective proposes a horizontal method, which takes into account both the opinions of those involved (neighbours, organizations, businesspeople, etc.) and the observations of technicians. It’s impossible to redo La Rambla without the cooperation of all sectors. However, we also can’t do it without a series of inalienable values: the transparency, delicateness and the closeness of the Administration, and especially urbanity in the most primordial sense of the world. Here, this means the protection of the trees, the promotion of movement over mobility, the recovery of a maritime character and the nodes (or chakras) that make up the promenade and the integration of Barcelonians into their rich cultural fabric. We also shouldn’t forget the tourists that brought with them the light of other shores and who, one August afternoon, were run over.

Foreign communities in Barcelona

Illustration: Marc Pallarès

Illustration: Marc Pallarès

Last fall, Bulgarian political scientist Ivan Krastev explained in a conference at the Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona (CCCB) that the countries in Europe where xenophobia is strongest are not precisely those that have received the most refugees. On the contrary, the distrust towards foreigners awoken by the Syrian exodus is much more pronounced in the parts of Europe that have lost the most population over the past 25 years. “People who leave their country devaluate and discredit their place of origin. Those who stay behind are often considered losers, and they live with the feeling that they no longer understand the place where they live”, Krastev observed.

Barcelona is one of the cities in Europe that has been the most understanding of the drama of the refugees, and it has also been a magnet for immigration in southern Europe. The communities of people from abroad living in Barcelona today are bigger and more diverse than ever.

In this dossier, we dedicate a space to investigating, on the one hand, how our largest immigrant communities live: Italians, Chinese, Moroccans, Pakistanis and Latin Americans. On the other hand, we look at how nationalities that have not been very well-represented until now have made themselves more visible, like the Bengalis, Armenians or Hondurans.

We are not afraid

Photo: Ajuntament de Barcelona

Photo: Ajuntament de Barcelona

The terrorist attack on 17 August left an indelible mark on the city. The expressions of international solidarity that immediately began to reach us from all over the world confirmed that we were experiencing events with a global impact. The thirty-five different nationalities of the victims of La Rambla are an indication that the pain was spread throughout the world.

Last July we celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Olympic Games, a joyful event that also marked a turning point in the city’s history. Whereas the Games put us on the mental world map of so many people around the world and placed Barcelona among the most charismatic cities in Europe, a terrorist attack is a reaction against the values and freedom of that Olympic spirit, against a city that has never wanted to turn its back on the world or be submissive. A few weeks after the nostalgia (and self-criticism) of celebrating the Games, we became the object of terrorist violence alongside other European capitals such as Berlin, Madrid, Paris, London and Stockholm. This sea change will force us to face new challenges and problems.

The city demonstrated from the start that it was prepared to cope with an attack of this magnitude. The effectiveness of the security forces and the health care services saved lives, placing citizens at ease and allowing them to respond to the attack without hatred or fear. More important than the basic reactions that emerge in times of strife, this attack has brought to the surface Barcelona’s long legacy of pacifism and its spirit of resilience in the face of adversity.

We have talked at length about Barcelona’s resilience and pacifist tradition in recent issues of this magazine. Urban resilience does not consist solely of good protocols for dealing with natural disasters or guaranteeing the provision of services in the event of sabotage. It also demonstrates the efficiency and dedication of the professionals who guarantee the security of their fellow citizens in cases of extreme need. That is why the Barcelona City Council decided to award the Gold Medal for Civic Merit to the Guardia Urbana, the Centre for Social Emergencies, the Risk Prevention, Fire Extinction and Rescue Service, the Police of the Generalitat (Mossos d’Esquadra) and the Medical Emergencies System for their extraordinary performance on 17 August.

Photo: Ajuntament de Barcelona

Photo: Ajuntament de Barcelona

The resilience of Barcelona has also been evident in the solidarity of shopkeepers, neighbours and the general public in the period immediately after the tragedy. We must celebrate their response, in which they left aside any divisions and maintained their shared values with aplomb and assertiveness.

Making partisan use of a tragedy such as this, through an abusive interpretations of facts that are solely the responsibility of the terrorists, shows a lack of respect for the victims. Any perverse attempt to take political advantage of such an infamous act is equivalent to giving victory to the terrorists, who only seek to divide society and to open wounds wherever there is a climate of peaceful and democratic coexistence.

We are not afraid, but we cannot ignore the wound that the attack on 17 August left in the city, and very noticeably in La Rambla, a boulevard that, now more than ever, must be recovered for the citizens who felt expelled from it. The reform of La Rambla has taken on a new meaning after the attack. It is no longer just a matter of developing an emblematic part of Barcelona that had been taken over by tourists. This urban fabric, which had fallen into the hands of speculation, now needs to be regenerated. We must return a public space to the local citizens who claim the right to live in their city.

Complementary currencies

Illustration: Miguel Gallardo

Illustration: Miguel Gallardo

Complementary currencies are exchange systems set up alongside official ones to advance social, environmental or economic goals, highlighting local assets and resources that are not part of the usual exchange circuits. They also pose an alternative—and a challenge—to traditional banking, a model of banking that emerges from each new financial crisis more concentrated and stronger than before, helped by digitalisation. Rather than fostering the elimination of intermediaries as in other economic sectors, in the financial sector digitalisation makes them ever more powerful. Barcelona is preparing its own alternative currency, initially linked to a social and commercial development plan for the neighbourhoods of the Eix Besòs (Besòs hub). On the following pages we lay out the general characteristics of the project and present its precedents and the theoretical and practical basis of these alternative exchange models, including some that are not strictly monetary, such as time banking and various types of cooperative organisation. As well as systems not far removed in time or space, such as the grama, of Santa Coloma de Gramanet, or the seny, of the Ecoxarxa Montseny, this dossier also features other successful systems like Switzerland’s WIR business credit cooperative, the Bristol Pound, the local currency of the Austrian town of Wörgl (which had spectacular results during the years of the Great Depression) and the LETS (Local Exchange and Trading Systems) that arose in Canada in 1983. The ‘econetworks’ set up in Catalonia after 2009 and the Cooperativa Integral Catalana (Catalan Integral Cooperative), which produced numerous alternative economic projects, deserve an article of their own.

The game of social and sustainable economy

Photo: Vicente Zambrano

Photo: Vicente Zambrano

Ecopolis is a game that takes its inspiration from Monopoly, but instead of teaching us how to speculate, it tries to help us understand how the use of complementary currencies can improve a town’s economy.

It’s played in two parts: the first, with purely capitalist criteria, encourages speculation, plunder and planetary destruction, while the second is based on criteria of sustainable, social economics. Here the playing board represents a city where there is a complementary currency obtained through work for the community or by offering hand-made products, services or expertise. Products can be paid for partly in global currency and partly in the local currency.

Each player chooses a character at random and an associated economic status. As the game progresses, they come up against needs that have to be covered by what the society has to offer. In the social economy part, possibilities for covering needs are far greater than in the capitalist part and the ecological footprint is far smaller.

There is a collective gain, which is made clear by the fact that all the players have work and are helping to improve the city, and there is also an individual gain, which is measured according to each player’s ability to reduce their ecological footprint.

Ton Dalmau, the game’s inventor, explains, ‘The game was created in 2010 to understand how the complementary currency we were designing for Vilanova i la Geltrú might work. A time came, in October 2010, when we said “Let’s play for real”, and that was the start of the turuta, Vilanova i la Geltrú’s social currency, a community project.’

‘Globalisation has served to create a lot of things that can’t be produced locally (such as computers, mobiles, aeroplanes and cars), but it puts it all on one market, even the products that had always been produced locally, and this has a high energy cost and affects individuals’ and the planet’s health,’ Dalmau continues. ‘The power of complementary local currencies is that they restore the value of things we can produce locally (such as food, clothes, furniture and houses). We feel that real globalisation is “glocalisation” (global plus local), as global can’t work if local is destroyed.’

One century of city memory

Photo: Vicente Zambrano

Photo: Vicente Zambrano

Photo: Vicente Zambrano

Images of the exterior of the Casa de l’Ardiaca and of the reading room of the Arxiu Històric de la Ciutat (Historical Archives of the City) as they are today.
Photo: Vicente Zambrano

In 1917 Barcelona City Council set up the Oficina d’Investigacions i  Publicacions Històriques (Historical Research and Publications Office), a department that was to be decisive for the course of social research. In the hands of the historian, archaeologist and archivist Agustí Duran i Sanpere (Cervera, 1887 – Barcelona, 1975), it gave rise to the project, approved that same year, to divide the Municipal Archives into two sections, an administrative one and a historical one. To house the history section, the City Council bought and restored the Casa de l’Ardiaca, which in 1922 opened its doors as home of the new Historical Archives of the City, headed by Duran i Sanpere himself.

We are commemorating these one hundred years in the life of the centre with an account of Duran i Sanpere’s work during the Spanish Civil War as director of the Generalitat’s Archives Section, safeguarding Barcelona’s and the rest of the country’s documentary collections. Accompanying this is a selection from his diary, an article on Barcelona’s new centralised archive in Can Batlló, which as from 2022 will house more than 50 km of documents from all the municipal archives from the 13th century down to today, and a further account of the work undertaken by the civil society to preserve the city’s memory.

Gender justice

Foto: Arianna Giménez

Foto: Arianna Giménez

The Gender Justice Plan for the period 2016-2020, drawn up by the Department for Life Span, Feminism and LGBTI Persons, plots the route towards building a city where women have a voice and participate in decision-making; where domestic tasks and care-giving are distributed more fairly; where the poverty and deprivation that women currently face, are dispelled: in short, a city where no woman has to be afraid of going home alone at night.

In recent years, the economic crisis has had a negative effect on the city of Barcelona. But the data shows that women are more acutely affected by deprivation and exclusion. They take on the care-giving burden, and have suffered more than men in terms of long-term unemployment and labour market instability. We have too often seen how motherhood has a detrimental effect in the workplace that is translated into lower salaries and lack of access to management careers.

Despite the patriarchal inertia of society, an atavistic force that is difficult to correct, some things are starting to change, and here in Barcelona there are clear signs of that. First, in a city that has elected a woman mayor for the first time in its history, the fact that priority is being given to creating a Gender Justice Plan is hardly surprising. This plan has not been imposed by the Council; rather, it is the first fruit of concerted efforts to understand social justice from a new perspective. Recent years have seen the emergence of numerous small- and large-scale initiatives that are making real change possible: a neighbourhood network has been activated to facilitate access to common assets through numerous examples of social innovation such as consumer groups, time banks, urban allotments and social finance. The sense of community that these measures bring must form part of the structural evolution towards a different city model. For that to really happen, a gender justice approach must be integrated into this transformation.

Photo: Arianna Giménez

Photo: Arianna Giménez

Photo: Arianna Giménez

Photo: Arianna Giménez

The Gender Justice Plan for the period 2016-2020, drawn up by the Department for Life Span, Feminism and LGBTI Persons, constitutes the City Council’s key intervention mechanism for eliminating gender inequality. It is a tool for promoting equality between men and women — and among women themselves. This plan plots the route towards building a city where women have a voice and participate in decision-making; where domestic tasks and care-giving are distributed more fairly; where the poverty and deprivation that women currently face, are dispelled: in short, a city where no woman has to be afraid of going home alone at night.

The Gender Justice Plan is defined in the context of changes that have also brought multiple crises — in terms of the economy, the sustainability of care, the environment and representation — which have a major impact on inequality between men and women. It is at the local level where we are more aware of it and where we have more tools at our disposal to mitigate it. We have the opportunity to improve our system of representation and make our democracy more democratic with mechanisms that enable men and women to participate equally in decision-making.

One of the objectives of the Plan is to strengthen the mechanisms for the political, social and technological participation of women, giving them a voice and empowering them to transform our patriarchal society.

Photo: Arianna Giménez

Photo: Arianna Giménez

Thinking about an inclusive city forces us to rethink its economy and even the very concept of economy. We must work to put the care of people at its heart as an activity that creates social value, not just market value. It is not about creating simple compensation mechanisms to guarantee women’s rights and well-being, but about making good use of a cross-cutting policy to transform all areas of daily life. We are facing an institutional change that the council itself has to start, one that involves reviewing all the processes we follow when it comes to integrating equality as a requirement and ensuring equality of working conditions in the public sector.

We need a more feminine city in which the tasks that, up to now, have been carried out primarily by women are held in high esteem and distributed more equitably, since nothing will give prestige to the abnegated, anonymous work done by so many women for other people if men are not prepared to take on or share in those tasks. It is not about rewarding women for doing less gratifying work; it is about according them the economic and social value they contribute to the well-being of society.

Urban planning and gender

Illustration: Susanna Martin

Illustration: Susanna Martin

Have you given any thought to how we use the city and the public space? Men and women make use of the city in different ways: men move around the city more for occupational reasons (19.4%), while for women it’s primarily for family reasons (15.6%) with occupational concerns in second place.

Traditionally, the roads and transportation in cities have been planned with a focus on the labour market and the economy instead of on public services, shops, schools or primary health-care centres and so on. In this context, urban planning for everyday life aims to rethink, or even completely change, the way we organise the city with a view to fostering a more human approach rather than prioritising the use of the city for almost exclusively productive purposes. Barcelona City Council intends to address this challenge from an equality perspective underpinned by feminism. The strategy includes actions aimed at, on the one hand, preventing women from being discriminated against and, on the other, equalising the participation of women and men by, for example, ensuring that care-giving tasks are not shouldered predominately by women.

The following pages outline the primary issues that must be addressed on this journey: issues related to mobility, labour and safety as well as combating the feminisation of poverty and tackling the problems caused by gentrification. The paradigm shift needed to create a caring city is described here in articles by Sara Ortiz, Blanca Valdivia, Clàudia Rius, Carla Alsina, Socorro Pérez Rincón, Esther Fernández Cifuentes, Zaida Muxí and Gerardo Santos.

The invisible city

There are many hidden layers of Barcelona. In this issue we speak about urban wildlife, we endeavour to portray the many resident-led movements that have arisen in districts such as the Nou Barris Athenaeum and the historical importance of the women leaders of residents’ and workers’ movements. We talk about the rescue of family photo archives and albums and we discover what Barcelona smells like.

Photo: Vicente Zambrano

Photo: Vicente Zambrano

We often bemoan the superficial relationship that tourists have with Barcelona. Visitors establish an essentially epidermal and iconic connection with the city and then leave with only a few poorly assimilated impressions and a gallery of selfies recorded on their mobile phones. Yet the city has a layer that is invisible to these visitors: a thick layer which is the real Barcelona, the same layer that connects us with its day-to-day vibe and innermost pulse. At the same time, there is also a Barcelona that remains invisible to those of us caught up in its daily grind, one to which we will give particular focus in this issue.

We should begin by first speaking about the animals that inhabit the city and are a part of its urban ecosystem. Our coexistence with these beings revolves around a balance that is much more consequential than the benevolent relationships some of us have with pets. Barcelona is inhabited by a rich diversity of both autochthonous and allochthonous fauna.

Photo: Vicente Zambrano

Photo: Vicente Zambrano

Photo: Vicente Zambrano

Photo: Vicente Zambrano

The urban wildlife workshops organised by the group Animal Latitude has enabled us to examine and compare the visions of urban ecology experts and animal rights activists who work to protect animals and promote a healthier relationship with them. The workshops are part of the environmental education project “Animals in the City” which has the support of the City Council and the Diputació of Barcelona. While many of us have seen Dolphins do flips at the zoo, few of us have been lucky enough to catch glimpse of cetaceans off the city’s coast. We have heard of wild boars venturing into urban areas, but few of us are aware that such incidents represent the tip of the iceberg of existing human-wildlife imbalances. This is but one case among the many imbalances that occur when autochthonous animals are allowed to roam overfed and uncontrolled in an urban environment, or when exotic or invasive species collide with existing ecosystems.

Nor are we all that familiar with the invisible work carried out by volunteer activists and urban ecology professionals who strive to preserve urban greenery and biodiversity along with our natural heritage, while ensuring that urban fauna is managed ethically.

In this issue we have also endeavoured to portray the many resident-led movements that have arisen in districts that were long neglected by the city council and which have expanded Barcelona’s vocation for democracy. We will look back to 1977, when a residents’ group got the asphalt plant in Nou Barris shut down and opened Ateneo Popular 9barris, which for the past 40 years has operated as a community-managed cultural centre. In a comprehensive report, we also call attention to the historical importance of the women leaders of residents’ and workers’ movements, such as Maruja Ruiz, Llum Ventura and Paqui Jiménez, who demonstrated unwavering commitment to democracy and incorruptible opposition to Francoism.

Photo: Vicente Zambrano

Photo: Vicente Zambrano

Also in this issue, we vindicate the role of important women of both yesterday and today, as exemplified by Clotilde Cerdà, daughter of Ildefons Cerdà, a Republican and anti-slavery Freemason who founded the Academia de Artes y Oficios de la Mujer (Women’s Academy of Arts and Occupations) and paid very dearly for her struggle for the intellectual emancipation of women. Amongst today’s most important women is the veteran teacher Maria Antònia Canals, whom we interview in this issue. This historical educator and member of the organisation Rosa Sensat has always been an advocate of “mathematics that are useful for life”. Her exemplary character and precise pedagogical instincts have opened pathways for many generations of teachers in our country.

We have managed to rescue one of the many hidden layers of Barcelona from family photo archives and albums – artefacts which in many cases made their way to flea markets inside shoe boxes and biscuit tins. And it is thanks to such invisible networks woven by antique dealers and collectors, by public and private archives, and particularly by individual families, that we have been able to obtain exceptional evidence about the way everyday life was lived throughout most of the 20th century.

And there is yet another invisible Barcelona, the most sensory and evanescent of them all: the one that we smell. We will let you in on recent studies carried out to create a map of the city’s smells. How might they influence urban planning? What does Barcelona smell like? Enter, read and smell.

The management of urban wildlife

Illustration: Patossa

Illustration: Patossa

In Spain, Barcelona broke new ground by banning both bullfighting and the use of animals in circuses. Now, the city is leading the way once again by developing a new model for zoos specifically designed to prevent animal suffering. Both the movement against bullfighting and the initiative to reform zoos have benefited from the support of a city government that is particularly attuned to such issues. However, these movements and projects take on their full meaning as part of a wider effort to defend the well-being of wildlife and biodiversity as factors that are indicative of collective civility and ecological commitment. We often imagine animals as being either in the wilderness, far from the city, or imprisoned in zoos, while forgetting that there is also a richly diverse and mostly free-living urban fauna living alongside us.

Noise, pollution and predatory zeal do not contribute to a balance between humans and other species whose place and modus vivendi are to be found within our urban ecosystem. Protecting these species and controlling their invasive brethren are both civic duties and a way of maintaining our bond with nature. In the pages that follow, experts and activists will reveal the richness of this natural treasure of Barcelona which is so near and yet so little-known to us.

The right to the city

Photo: Vicente Zambrano

Photo: Vicente Zambrano

The world’s population is now mostly urban and will be progressively more so in the future. Cities will hold an unprecedented concentration of people, and both our happiness and our creativity and efficiency will largely depend on how good we are at making a habitat for ourselves that doesn’t become dehumanized. Indeed, the future of mankind depends on the city, currently one of the main instruments of progress with which to face the future. And the changing times that we live in will force us to rethink the very concept.

A local authority has limited room for manoeuvre as it tries to guide the changing course of a city. The disorder that is inherent in any spontaneous action can never be completely regulated by local government and nor should it be. In areas that laws or municipal directives don’t reach, life has a way of creeping through the cracks to affirm itself and create new tensions and contradictions for us. Today more than ever, we need to rehabilitate life in the cities before it becomes simply the survival of the fittest.

At a time when market forces and speculation appear to be ruling over us more powerfully than ever, Barcelona needs to redouble its efforts to ensure basic rights like access to housing and public space that is free of coercion. Throughout 2016 the Architects’ Association of Catalonia (COAC) organised the Architecture Congress, an event that had not been held since 1996. The lectures and discussions that were held resulted in a commitment to the new values of participation, equality and sustainability.

Photo: Vicente Zambrano

Photo: Vicente Zambrano

Citizens live under constant attack from structural and symbolic assaults that force us to think of intolerable situations as normal, everyday things, which have become part of a momentum that is very difficult to halt. We talk of gentrification, energy poverty, transport deficiency, noise, segregation, touristification of the public space, etc. In response to these destabilising factors that jeopardise a large part of the urban population, we now have the concept of the “right to the city”, a set of rights that brings together a minimum common denominator of guarantees under one umbrella.

The right to the city is not about the right to live in one, which is obviously anyone’s right, but about the ability of those who already form part of the urban fabric to access basic services and a shared public space. Wherever ad-hoc market forces cannot guarantee this, it will be provided by force through urbanity, the ethics of the city, which is simply the set of shared tools that a community has for living together in a particular space. While urbanism is the responsibility of the authorities, urbanity will depend on the citizens, because it requires of us a sense of community that can only be built on the basis of collective generosity.

This right is not viable without the duties of citizenship that go with it. The sense of urbanity cannot just be about being polite and courteous or a code of conduct for road users. It will also demand a shared vision: respect for differences, social empathy, environmental awareness and the will to participate in collective governance. A free and open city by all means, but with the refinement of urbanity.

(More) humane cities

Illustration: Olga Capdevila

Illustration: Olga Capdevila

It is predicted that by 2050, almost 70% of the world’s population will be living in urban areas. In Spain, this figure is already 80%. The world’s cities only occupy 3% of the Earth’s surface, but they consume between 60 and 80% of the energy and produce 75% of all carbon emissions. The future of the human race, then, is played out in the cities.

Barcelona has seen a migration boom in the 21st century – from 2000 to 2015 more than a million people came here from other countries and from other parts of Catalonia and Spain. Given this demographic reality, the city has to be able to find a new balance that can create decent conditions in the areas of education, healthcare, employment, the environment and housing.

The future of the city must be built on three basic pillars: identity, cohesion and sustainability. The key to the peaceful coexistence of multiple identities is cohesion. And being able to generate a form of cohesion that fosters equality will be a crucial requirement if we are to guarantee a sustainable city.

Is it possible to build more humane cities? To answer this question, various associations and discussion groups took part in a series of talks in November on a number of themes that are summarised here in articles written by the speakers themselves.

Plans for Barcelona’s nightlife

Photo: Dani Codina

The Heliogàbal cultural association, in Gràcia, which has specialised almost entirely in poetry recitals for several months.
Photo: Dani Codina

The city grows after eight, but haphazardly and, according to many critical voices, under the orders of tourism. It wasn’t planned for the night, unlike what other European cities have done. It’s overflowing with musicians and venues anxious to schedule live concerts, but years of applying a policy of restrictions has sunk the sector in depression.

The City Hall approved a new set of regulations months ago to allow bars, cafés and restaurants to schedule live amplified music so long as they abide by security requirements and strict noise control. This is a foretaste of an ambitious plan to promote the small-format live music scene, based on recognition of the cultural and social value of this leisure offer. Live music is a grassroots cultural manifestation with a long tradition among us and backing it has to do with the model of city.

Chink-chink. That’s the metallic sound made by coins when someone is fiddling with them, counting them, dishing them out. Plink-plink. There are also some €5 notes in there and one or two €10 notes. Most of it, though, is loose change. The band, Pol Omedes Special 4tet, has just finished a gig – some jazz classics and a couple of their own compositions – and now they’re getting paid, mainly from the proceeds of a collection tin, although the owner of the bar has also chipped in. The amount is not even sufficient for an “ethical” daily wage. The bit about ethical is mentioned by Albert Pons, part-owner of Robadors 23, where the quartet have just been playing.

Barcelona comes alive just after 8 pm, but, critical voices say, without any kind of planning and at the bidding of tourism. Nightlife has not been thought about like it has in other European cities. Barcelona is full of musicians and venues that are keen to have live music, but the restrictions introduced by the tripartite left-wing local government and developed during the term of the CiU, the Catalan nationalist party, have caused a real downturn in the city. The current government team has warned that the scene “is at risk” and, to save it, it has introduced a new legal framework that modifies the approach to how nightlife is managed. It is a significant change: bars, restaurants and cafes that couldn’t legally put on amplified live music in the past without being fined, can now do so provided that they don’t exceed a certain volume of decibels, which varies depending on the area, and that they meet safety requirements. The measure is intended to boost the small-scale live music circuit, one of the most popular expressions of culture in the city.

In the blink of an eye, Barcelona went from the creative frenzy of the seventies – with a psychedelic, hippie vibe concentrated in venues like Zeleste – to the recklessness and noise of the late eighties. Pre-Olympic Barcelona’s nightlife was utter chaos: punks, hippies and party animals crowded all corners of the city.

The chaos of the eighties and nineties has now been reduced to a literary myth and yet, somewhat contradictorily, still forms part of the brand: sold even though it doesn’t exist. Mexican author, Sergio Pitol, described that Barcelona live from Carrer dels Escudellers in  his book Diario de Escudellers (Diary of Escudellers). In 2016, Barcelonian writer Miqui Otero turned nineties Barcelona into the novel Rayos (Rays). Fidel, Justo, Iu and Brais – the main characters in Rayos – spent their wild youth in Barcelona during the early nineties: they said goodbye to one city and saw another one born.

From chaos to branding, and from branding to depression

Pasqual Maragall’s socialist government laid the foundations for the Barcelona brand. Little by little the city was transformed: it went from being the equivalent of a student flat overflowing with cigarette butts, music blaring until all hours and anarchic breakfasts, to a guest house for 12 million tourists looking for the Barcelona of the brochures and largely focused in Port Vell and Port Olímpic, areas that have become tourist hotspots for fighting and binge drinking over the past few years. Despite repeated complaints from the residents of Vila Olímpica, no solutions were forthcoming until last summer, when Barcelona City Council agreed to sign a protocol with the Catalan Regional Government to take on ownership and direct management of Port Olímpic, a measure that will come into effect from 2020, when the current licence expires.

Barcelona’s music scene was becoming a depressed reality, marked by an invasive tourist model that undervalued and impoverished small venues. What’s more, nightlife became an integral part of this model.

Photo: Dani Codina

Performance at the Absenta bar in Ciutat Vella, Carrer de Sant Carles.
Photo: Dani Codina

New legislation full of promise

The current local government took office in Barcelona in May 2015 with a policy programme that included efforts to address the predicament facing music venues. The Culture Institute of Barcelona (ICUB) set itself the task to develop a Plan about music, in coordination with other departments and all the districts.

The plan focuses “on different areas of activity to foster recognition of the cultural and social value of live music, while also taking into account its sustainability in terms of neighbourly relations that guarantee the right to sleep” for residents in las áreas próximas a los locales. The set of measures put forward for live music forms part of the Culture Plan 2016-2026, which aims to redefine the relationship with the city’s cultural sector over the next ten years and it was the cultural proposal that received the most votes in the Decidim Barcelona (We Decide Barcelona) participatory process that forms part of the Municipal Action Plan 2016-2019.

Before making public the plan, on May 11 the ICUB published a circular to regulate the performance of amplified live music in hotel establishments. To the new regulation can be hosted premises like Robadors 23 and Absenta bar, which, until its approval, were technically staging illegal performances. From the outset, it was well received by musicians, bars and restaurant owners, who will also be able to benefit from subsidies: a total of €400,000 has been set aside so that premises can be adapted to meet the new soundproofing requirements. It’s a breath of fresh air for an industry that – while not yet losing its scepticism – is viewing it as an opportunity to rebuild the musical nightlife scene as a space and a time with huge potential for civic social integration. Another positive aspect is the opportunity it provides to fill the gap between the two extremes that, until now, have been the only options on offer for musicians in Barcelona: playing acoustic, or “unplugged”, in a bar or playing amplified in a bigger venue.

Photo: Dani Codina

Musical performance at the Robadors 23 bar, Carrer d’en Robador, Ciutat Vella.
Photo: Dani Codina

Robadors 23 as a symbol and symptom of the music scene

As the applause dies down, people are heading out the door of Robadors 23, and, with them, the members of the Pol Omedes Special 4tet: they are chatting, smoking and laughing in the street in El Raval district. The end of the performance coincides with the shops closing and with cinema-goers passing by on their way to see the night’s final showing (9.30 pm) at the Filmoteca de Catalunya, a local cinema.

The Pol Omedes Special 4tet, – trumpeter, saxophonist, double bassist and drummer –  each get a share of the proceeds from the collection. The entry price was €5, and there were around 30 people in the audience. So how much did they collect in the end? “I’m ashamed to admit it, but the pleasure of performing a particular type of music, in the company of a particular group of musicians, compensates for the meagre income we make. I feel bad saying it, because I have a lot of respect for Robadors 23”, says Martin Leiton, the double bassist. He is from the Canary Islands and, despite a precarious work environment, he has chosen to settle in Barcelona and to make his living by making music. He used to play in Malaga, Cuba, Buenos Aires, Madrid and in his homeland of Tenerife.

“On a normal day like today there are usually around 30 people. We could put our prices up, but then we’d only attract foreigners. And if we didn’t put gigs on at all, nobody would come”, laments Albert Pons, one of the part-owners of Robadors 23. The venue’s own history embodies the contradictions of the city’s night-time music scene.

Robadors 23 opened in 2004, when the street was not much more than a passageway full of used condoms and discarded single use needles. Now, there are cool bars, and the Barceló Raval Hotel, which offers rooms for up to €300 a night, is just a stone’s throw away. Since 2004, Robadors 23 has been closed on three occasions for “police and urban issues”, and has reopened the same number of times. The venue was almost closed down for a fourth time at the start of 2016, but the current legislation “saved them by the skin of their teeth”, Pons explains while sat at the very bar he tends during the dozens of performances the bar hosts each week. Another performance is due to start shortly: this time, it’s flamenco. Robadors 23, which has become one of the cult bars for musicians passing through the city, is one of the bars that appears in tourist guides as representing the Barcelona night.

The saxophonist opens his wallet and starts putting his money away. He’s Lluc Casares and he is one of the young Barcelonians that the city has driven out in the name of new inspiration and opportunities. That’s how he justifies his move to Amsterdam: “There, I make a living off my music, but I admit that we are a generation that is not used to earning money. Our lives mean going to play in these places, enjoying them and surviving however we can.”

Destiny took Lluc Casares to the Netherlands almost five years ago, but if any “little things” happen here in Barcelona, he gets a low-cost flight back. He graduated from the Catalonia School of Music (ESMUC), and followed that up with a Master’s degree in Amsterdam and an exchange programme in Philadelphia. So far, his musical career can be summarised by this triad: scholarships, “a lot of inspiration from other musicians” and performances in small venues. He does also play in large venues, but they are an exception. Casares is convinced that Barcelona is an “inspirational” city, but he also thinks that it is difficult to show the fruits of this inspiration: there are many musicians in competition between them and there are few opportunities to play live properly.

A change of model

The conditions under which venues offer live music was a source of intense debate in the days following the last local elections, a debate that has now been fully introduced into the political decision-making sphere. The issue is not only about fines or the conflict between residents and bar owners, but also its effect on the city’s model for leisure activities and the city’s model in and of itself. Betting on live music is one way of supporting grassroots cultural events: and that is where small venues and local bands come in.

Carmen Zapata is one of the names heard that night, one that is still defining her course and what it means to be Barcelonian. She is the manager of the Catalan Association of Concert Venues (ASACC) and founder of the Association of Women in the Music Industry (MIM). She was interviewed on Scannerfm, the first radio station to broadcast solely online in Barcelona. Zapata shared the sofa with Miquel Cabal, general manager of Heliogàbal, the Gràcia venue that had to shut down before the summer, besieged by police inspections and facing regular fines. It had managed for 20 years on a licence that did not meet its needs as a live music venue.

“We continue living in a state of alarming insecurity, and it does not look as though there is any way to resolve it easily or quickly”, Zapata replies to a question from the Scannerfm interviewer. “Although there is a will, which helps, it is much easier to change things when there is a political will. But it is the Catalan Regional Government’s Department of the Interior, the body responsible for regulating shows and concert venues, that needs to show both political will and cultural sensitivity. And that is where we come up against the police.”

Some 30 venues are part of the ASACC. Carmen Zapata explains that the entity, created in 2001, is continuing to call for conflicts with venues to be managed from a cultural perspective and for the responsibility for resolving problems on the streets to fall not the owners. “If someone shouts in the street, the owner should not be held responsible. Venues are already tasked with making certain reinforcements”, she says.

The musician, researcher and cultural producer Daniel Granados, programming director of the meeting Cultura Viva, of the research platform ZZZINC and of Producciones Doradas, advises the ICUB on matters of music policy. He has spent years insisting that a city should rethink what is meant by music and by cultural expression. From there, he thinks that a city should recognise and promote grassroots culture and protect whoever wants to grab a guitar in a bar just because they can, as well as anyone who wants to make a living from doing just that. Granados took part in developing the legislation for amplified music as well as participating in the already mentioned Culture Plan 2016-2026, that municipal governments present when they start their term.

Absenta bar, in Plaça del Pes de la Palla, regularly schedules live music in its basement. With the new legislation, it can do so legally. The bar is practically deserted; the only noise is background music, at a volume that is just slightly louder than silence, and the conversations at a couple of occupied tables. White noise, is what Daniel Granados calls it.

The serious problems come from the streets

Photo: Dani Codina

La Rouge music bar, on the Rambla del Raval, at night.
Photo: Dani Codina

The new legislation rigorously safeguards the health of residents from noise pollution, particularly in the Ciutat Vella, Sants, Gràcia and Eixample districts, where “critical  levels of overcrowding in certain public spaces” have been identified, and where the sound volume must be turned to zero at 11 pm. In the event that a bar is located next to housing, a sound level is allowed – measured from the home’s bedroom – that does not exceed 30 decibels between 7 pm and 11 pm, and 25 decibels between 11 pm and 7 am.

Photo: Dani Codina

Another picture of Robadors 23 bar, this time of the exterior.
Photo: Dani Codina

So how loud is 25 decibels? “It’s basically silence. We asked for soundproofing of bars so that homes nearby were not disturbed by noise”, said Granados in the digital newspaper Catalunya Plural a few days after the ICUB circular was issued. “Even so, 95 per cent of complaints about live music venues do not relate to the music itself, but rather to the noise that is generated outside the establishment. Working groups comprising representatives of the districts, residents and the local police are now considering ways of intervening in the event of conflict”.

“It’s not live music that is the cause of neighbourhood conflicts, but rather what’s happening on the street – Granados insisted in this interview –. There’s a huge number of bars showing televised football matches, during which people shout “goal” or go out onto the street to smoke, but that’s OK”.

At night, the decibels in Ciutat Vella seem to be amplified. In the centre of Barcelona, several small venues that have live music are close to each other, as is the case with Sidecar and Robadors 23. Not to mention all the other bars with their round-the-clock opening hours, mainly for tourists, every day of the week; after all, it’s tourists who can party every day, who don’t have to get up early the next day. It matters little if it’s a Tuesday or a Friday.

Ciutat Vella is the second poorest district in the city, after Nou Barris. Its income per capita is €14,481. At the same time, according to 2015 data from the Sociological Research Centre (CIS), Ciutat Vella is, along with Eixample, the district with the most tourist accommodation: 55% of all hotel beds are in these two districts. The city has added almost 20,000 hotel beds since 2005, with 367 hotels and 27 aparthotels. According to the Municipal Services Survey, the number two worry of residents in Ciutat Vella is tourism, surpassed only by job insecurity.

The district is a testing ground in many respects, as in the case of the coexistence between residents and music haunts. The district councillor, Valencia-born Gala Pin, has implemented policies aimed at disciplining merchants. The latest policy affects everything related to tourism and leisure: Barcelona has frozen licences in Ciutat Vella for a year. There will be no more hotels, bars, nightclubs, bike rental establishments or tourist information services in the central district during this period. This one-year moratorium will allow the City Council to review the plan relating to public establishments, the hotel industry and other areas of activity. The aim? “To organise, prioritise and minimise the impact of turistic activity on residents”, says Pin.

According to the councillor, nightlife is one of the district’s main problems, and it negatively affects residents’ sleep. The usual hustle and bustle broke record levels last summer, with occupancy rates similar to the levels experienced before the crisis.

The heads of venues (small, medium or large) know that money talks in English, and if they want to carry on being full each night they need to adapt their programming accordingly or go non-stop. Neverhteless, it’s not entirely the fault of the schedulers: the real pull factor these days is festivals, not traditional music venues. Either way, the effect is that the identity of venues is suffering, as they have started to offer an amalgam of styles: the more the merrier. In general, the identities that marked European nightlife in every city at the end of the last century have run out of steam: Berlin is no longer so techno nor Paris so French house. And Barcelona is no longer so… wild.

The power and appeal of festivals

Photo: Josep Tomàs

Lluc Casares, saxophonist for the band Pol Omedes Special 4tet, playing in Jamboree, Plaça Reial.
Photo: Josep Tomàs

An increasingly important part of these tourists, and it is a growing trend, is coming specifically to Barcelona for its summer music festivals. Primavera Sound, where half of the audience are foreigners, Sónar, Cruïlla. The formula is simple: marathon sessions of bands and hundreds of barrels waiting to spurt beer.

Aurelio Santos makes it clear that he is never going to be able to save enough money for a three-day pass for such an event. He has been linked to the live music scene in Barcelona, organising concerts, for more than 20 years. “People, especially younger people, are able to work and save enough money for tickets costing €200 for up to two or three festivals each summer, but for the rest of the year they are unable to watch live music.” He’s clearly irritated, almost angry, raising the tone of his voice.

He is coordinator and compere at the WTF Jam Sessions at Jamboree, a renowned jazz club in Barcelona. His is the voice saying “Thank you for respecting live music”, something he has repeated every Monday for some 15 years. “The musical entertainment model that has been promoted is based on festivals”, he says. “Instead of choosing regular live music in small venues, it has all become concentrated. People get their dose of jazz at the Jazz Festival in Barcelona, indie music at Primavera Sound and electronica at Sónar. They want an escape, to show off, to create an identity for themselves. If you’re not going to Primavera, you’re nobody.”

Aurelio Santos belongs to a group of freaks – that’s how he classes himself – who watch live music four or five times a week. “In Barcelona, I don’t think that culture is taken for what it is: it’s one of the most important catalysts of any civilisation. As far as the new legislation goes, it’s like prescribing paracetamol for the pain of an injury caused by a crash at 200 kilometres an hour.”

Photo: Dani Codina

Friday of poetry at Heliogàbal, at Ramón y Cajal street.
Photo: Dani Codina

On the roller blind of the Heliogàbal bar, in Carrer Ramón y Cajal, in Barcelona’s Gràcia neighbourhood, you can still make out – painted in a graffiti style – the last poster for the festival they hold in summer coinciding with the neighbourhood celebrations. It’s a long time since locals and non-locals holding beers and rolling one cigarette after another disappeared from the doorway. It’s been days now since the venue was last packed out, exceeding – this is one of its problems – the limited capacity of 39 people. With the cancellation of the British band Crushed Beaks in January, the Heliogàbal announced it was temporarily stopping its activity as a music bar. Coinciding with the coming into force of the regulations for amplified music, the establishment also closed the bar area.

As the protagonist of a demand shared with many other places in Barcelona, the Heliogàbal announced that it was forced to close until September at least. The reason for the closure was the lack of a proper activities licence, which meant that police inspections always ended in a fine. While the new regulations were awaited there was no choice but to close. The Heliogàbal (2012 City of Barcelona award) also cancelled the special programme of events to celebrate its 20th anniversary. ‘The bar doesn’t make enough to cover the cost, so the only solution is to close’, said the Heliogàbal management at the time. The news came after the Gràcia venue organised a concert at the Razzmatazz (‘Pay the fine’: the name said it all), with which it raised almost 16,000 euros thanks to the collaboration from friendly bands and an enviable network of supporters. With that it was able to pay most of the almost 22,000 -euro debt it had built up with the administration.

In spite of the closure, the owners of the bar found a way round the situation; they kept the Ronda season of concerts alive at the Sala beCool, which for them was a lifesaver during the months of hardship and a relief valve for their followers. And they got the light shining again behind the Helio’s roller blind. The premises opened intermittently some weekends until the end of the year, to house the 18th edition of its quarterly season of poetry, and even scheduled the occasional concert.

Recover the integrative side of the night

Living in Portugal’s capital is a Catalan man who has dedicated his doctoral thesis to rethinking how Barcelona’s nightlife is managed. Jordi Nofre, a sociologist and researcher at the Universidade Nova de Lisboa, won the Youth prize in 2009 from the Catalan Youth Agency (ACJ) for his work L’agenda cultural oculta (The hidden cultural agenda). That same year, he gained his doctorate from the Human Geography department of the Universitat de Barcelona.

In his thesis, Nofre argued that Barcelona’s night scene had been “purposely overlooked” by the Government. “Very often, policies for action make reference to the city by day, while the city at night is segregated in terms of space and time.” Nofre spoke of an orchestrated night scene: “Night-time in Barcelona has been used by government authorities as a strategy and a mechanism for the social, cultural, political and moral cleansing of the city. It is a double play by the Government in complicity with the elite who run the nightlife in Barcelona because, essentially, it generates a lot of money through tax systems and tax revenues.”

Jordi Nofre, who is currently participating in a process of regeneration for the port of Lisbon, expands us in videoconference some of these concepts. In a telephone interview we asked him to identify these elites. “Barcelona is just entertainment and fun. There is no industry anymore. The entrepreneurs are the ones who decide the model, not of tourism, but even of city”, states bluntly.

But  this model can be combated with political will, in the opinion of the sociologist. “Why does the City Council keep using public money to promote Barcelona as a tourist destination, while forgetting the underground cultural circuits and youth music scenes that would allow the smallest establishments to survive?”.

“If the use at night of public spaces is inseparable from our culture, then tell us so.” Jordi Nofre envisages the use of university credit programmes to educate students on the use of nightlife and public spaces, risk management and respect for residents and urban landscapes…

“The absence of nightlife projects in Barcelona makes it very segregated on a social level”, he continues. “Latin nights are found in one place, the jazz scene in another, the Chinese in another, North African lads board the train to Mataró. The night scene is a space-time continuum which is absolutely there for discovery in terms of social integration. My question is this: if we see that nightlife is profitable at the same time as being an opportunity for social integration, then why doesn’t the City Council open nightclubs that offer different programming?”

The invention of the night mayor

The saxophonist of the Pol Omedes Special 4tet, Lluc Casares, often returns to Barcelona from Amsterdam to play in bars like Robadors 23 or Jamboree. Although he picked his destiny as a means of pivoting towards the United States – the local conservatoire offers an exchange programme – it seems that the Netherlands capital has seduced him enough to become his home.

He explains that “there are more bars that offer live music (small venues, bars) in Amsterdam, while official establishments (auditoriums, concert halls) benefit from a more regular crowd. Cultural consumption is higher”. Unlike Barcelona, the Dutch city has spent years thinking about its nightlife scene: nightlife has been planned and is understood as the space for socialising and for the inclusive civic cultural expression to which Nofre was referring.

One of the pioneering measures brought about by this night-time model in Amsterdam is the concept of the Night mayor, a mediator responsible for managing and improving relations between business owners, residents and the City Council. One of the first proposals by the current night mayor in Amsterdam, Mirik Milan, has been to increase the opening times of venues in the Red Light district, which will now be open 24 hours a day, and to schedule shows, talks and live music during the day. The model has been so successful that it is already being replicated in cities like Paris, Zurich and Toulouse.

Casares is not pessimistic about the future of those who make a living by performing live in small venues. If the music is good, the scene will be saved and people will be able to live off it, he believes. “If we look after music, then music will look after us.”

What does it mean to be a pacifist today?

The pacifist response must come from the people, but it must also be global and it is here that the role of cities will become ever more significant. Violence will not only be instigated between nations in conflict but also from within our major urban centres.

Photo: Robert Ramos

A young man of the Conscientious Objection Movement. Barcelona, 1984.
Photo: Robert Ramos


Photo: Robert Ramos

Protest against Spain joining NATO, on 1986.
Photo: Pepe Encinas

This year marks the fortieth anniversary of the founding of Barcelona’s centre for peace Casal de la Pau, where the pacifist activities of the 1980s were hatched and which a decade later led to the “No” campaign in the referendum on Spain’s membership in NATO. Today, we shall weigh up the present, the past and the future of the culture of peace. What does it mean to be a pacifist today?

The wars of today are not what they once were. Western nations feel powerless in the face of new forms of violence that are unpredictable and uncontrollable. War could break out in a remote province of Asia or in the underground carriage that’s taking you to work.

Until now, wars have been administered by nation states. And that is why pacifist movements have always been at odds with the government bodies that have promoted military values to defend a demarcated area of sovereignty. Citizens of the western world no longer feel that the integrity of their nation state is under threat, but they do see a threat to the security of their lives in their homelands. Today’s European is not setting out to win a war. He or she just wants to avoid or postpone a disaster.

During the cold war, the military were seen as the escalators of a perverse arms race that could only lead to destruction on a global scale. Now, though, they are seen by many citizens as a peacekeeping force that we send to faraway armed conflicts to ensure the stability of the world order. While anti-Francoist activists were filled with indignation at the suspension of the rule of law during the dictatorship, now many citizens are willing to live in a permanent state of emergency deemed as necessary to control the flows of migrants across our borders. We face a worrying scenario. The democracy we dreamt of put full citizen’s rights above national identity or one’s ethnic or cultural status. The model of a pluralistic and inclusive democracy is giving way to the establishment of large zones of exclusion.

Photo: Ruta Pacífica de las Mujeres / CooperAcció

Demonstration in Colombia in November 2007.
Photo: Ruta Pacífica de las Mujeres / CooperAcció

So what does it mean to be a pacifist today? What role do peace movements have in this new and very disconcerting context? Present and future peace will not only be defined as the opposite to military conflict, but also as the opposite to the broader notion of catastrophe. The shock waves of remote wars that reproduce like spores, spreading their effects far and wide, reach us in the form of terrorist attacks or waves of migration. The pacifist response must come from the people, but it must also be global and it is here that the role of cities will become ever more significant. Violence will not only be instigated between nations in conflict but also from within our major urban centres.

Social imbalances can lead to the insurgence of the excluded and the discontented. A clash of cultures or the devastating effects of climate change will sorely test our peace, with outbreaks of violence that we can’t foresee but for which we must be prepared. The devastation of New Orleans after hurricane Katrina was not just the result of a natural disaster, but also the consequence of the breakdown of a social order which led to looting and lawlessness.

But peace cannot be reduced to a simple question of public order and security; that would entail renouncing our own practice of peace and turning all responsibility for it over to the authorities. We cannot leave the matter of peace in the hands of the police. The culture of peace must plan for all these challenges so that the imminence of disaster is not used as an excuse to maintain the status quo.

Photo: Pere Virgili

The demonstration held in Barcelona in support of refugees on 19 June 2016 under the slogan “Open borders, we want to welcome”.
Photo: Pere Virgili

As Slavoj Žižek says in his book Violence, “If one were to open the borders, the first to rebel would be local working classes. It is thus becoming clear that the solution is not to ‘tear down the walls and let them all in,’ the easy empty demand of soft-hearted liberal ‘radicals’. The only true solution is to tear down the true wall, not the Immigration Department one, but the socio-economic one: to change society so that people will no longer desperately try to escape their own world”.

Peace in motion

Illustration: Patossa

Illustration: Patossa

Many of us have had our geography lessons thrust upon us by war. Beirut, Vukovar, Kandahar, Tikrit and Aleppo are place names that have been carved into our memories by gunfire and shrapnel. And closer to home, our city’s streets and squares commemorate local battles that date further back, such as Bailén and Tetuán.

Barcelona has shown itself to be a city of pacifism. Over time, this has been demonstrated time and again: during the anti-NATO campaign in the 1980s, the movement for conscientious objection against military service, the launching of campaigns such as C3A against the arms trade, the creation of collectives such as Dones Antimilitaristes [Anti-military Women], and the large crowds that protested against the war in Iraq.

In this dossier we look at the pacifist movement from various perspectives. We start with the rejection of military service, which by the end of the last century had become so common that in Catalonia there were more objectors than recruits. We focus on gender and peace, and the continuing threat of male violence. We also discuss coexistence between different religions. We cover the work performed by various organisations seeking to promote peace, who are part of a network that is able to react to major crises, as proved a year ago by the City Council’s activation of its Refuge City plan. And we ponder the future and challenges Barcelona faces in this field. In a globalised world, city networks are cornerstones in the construction of peace.

A magazine that listens

After almost thirty years of uninterrupted publication, Barcelona Metropolis is coming out with its 100th issue. For more than three decades it has endeavoured to explain the city to Barcelonians and to the world at large. The magazine has also been a platform for debate and for sharing the challenges and changes faced by a city in constant transformation.

The brainchild of former Barcelona mayor Pasqual Maragall, the magazine was intended to give Barcelona an expressive tool that would cast the city as a great Mediterranean metropolis in the midst of a period of pre-Olympic acceleration. Edited for twenty years by Joan-Anton Benach, the publication’s beginnings were marked by a distinctly cultural focus. This was particularly evident in its central supplement, where cultural topics were explored in depth.

First released under the title of Barcelona. Metròpolis Mediterrània, it has always been a tri-lingual (Catalan, Spanish and English) publication, a quality that has helped it become a data source for scholars and biographers of the city. As founding editor Joan-Anton Benach mentions in the interview that opens this issue, Australian writer and art critic Robert Hughes extensively combed the pages of this magazine for research material that he would use to write his book Barcelona, a monumental work that helped explain the city to the world through art and literature.

The publication evolved and was eventually renamed Barcelona Metròpolis. Edited by Manuel Cruz between 2008 and 2011, and then by Bernat Puigtobella from 2012, it has progressively widened its spectrum of interests to become a magazine open to all topics that are a part of Barcelona’s everyday urban and social transformation. Just like Pasqual Maragall, the mayors that succeeded him – Joan Clos, Jordi Hereu, Xavier Trias and Ada Colau – have all been more than respectful and afforded full editorial independence to our editors, who have all shared the common mission of inspiring critical discourse.

Now more than ever, the meaning and integrity of a magazine like this one lie in its ability to observe how the people of Barcelona comprehend and adapt to new times. It is not really such a question of telling an institutional story as it is about stimulating debate regarding our challenges and listening to the people and communities that get things done and contribute to progress with a transformative spirit. We also try to give to experts in a variety of fields free reign to express themselves and identify important dilemmas and junctures.

Our city has always had narcissistic and self-congratulatory tendencies, which have counterbalanced our other defeatist and bad-natured habits. For obvious reasons, the City Council has always done a good job of shining a positive light on its governing actions. It nonetheless needs outlets such as this one that enable it to put labels aside and listen to the citizenry with an open ear. The magazine looks forward to expanding its content in the future, but from now on it will be published in print in only two languages (the English version will be available exclusively online).

Barcelona Metròpolis will continue with its mission to focus in on the city and its metropolitan area. We will also maintain our commitment to the values that have always distinguished us and to challenging and vital issues such as peace, equality, sustainability and the necessary co-existence between diverse ideologies and ways of navigating the urban experience.

Happy birthday!

City in [re]construction

Illustration: Júlia Solans.

Our magazine’s 30th anniversary and 100th issue have arrived at the same time. On this special occasion we invited writers and activists to tell us about their Barcelona, and they responded by offering their personal visions. In the process, they have also illuminated aspects of the city and uncovered layers that are not obvious at first glance.

Barcelona finds itself in a period of political change that that calls for bold proposals. At the same time, the broadening of the city’s political spectrum requires everyone to engage in dialogue to find common ground. As sociologist Joan Subirats says in the article that opens this issue, “the vitality of a city like Barcelona is measured more by the amount of conflict it can contain and manage rather than the hegemony of an equalising logic of consensus”.

Joan Subirats, M. Àngels Cabré, Kathrin Golda-Pongratz, Isabel Segura, Itziar González, Mery Cuesta, Maria Barbal, Javier Pérez Andújar and Enric Casasses explore a range of concerns with one common theme: finding the right fit between the city and citizens. Each of these writers, from their own perspective, offers reflections or proposals on how to manage competing interests within the public space.

Barcelona has to look after itself and its citizens. It also must manage public space in a way that ensures that the city’s streets are places of understanding and coexistence, places of participation that breed freedom and democracy – two concepts that do not always go hand-in-hand, as Itziar González points out in her piece.

Barcelona also needs to assume responsibility for its neighbourhoods and outlying metropolitan areas, and thus develop a more authentic and honest relationship with a reality that is just as Barcelonian as the city’s great icons of Modernism. Barcelona’s high ranking in international indices has helped turn it into an inevitable tourist city. Now is the time to focus on making it a habitable city.

A melting pot of languages

Newspapers with editions in different languages.
Photo: Pere Virgili.

According to the census, more than three hundred languages are now spoken in the country whose capital city is Babelona. While this linguistic richness constitutes a major social and economic asset, it is also a cultural asset existing within the fragile balance of a particular ecosystem.

Barcelona has become multilingual. The city that proudly and confidently spoke to the world in Catalan, Spanish, English and French during the 1992 Olympic Games is today an even richer and more diverse linguistic habitat, a reflection of our globalized planet. According to the census, more than three hundred languages are now spoken in the country whose capital city is Babelona. While this linguistic richness constitutes a major social and economic asset, it is also a cultural asset existing within the fragile balance of a particular ecosystem.


A taxi with its ‘occupied’ sign in Catalan. Above the Texas cinema, the only cinema that exclusively offers films translated into Catalan.
Photos: Pere Virgili.

Eight international organisations are working in support of a project called the Protocol to Guarantee Linguistic Rights, whose aims are to offer guidelines for the defence of language equality and to support endangered languages. If Barcelona is to be a benchmark for multilingualism, it must start by protecting its own language, Catalan, in a way that ensures that it can be assertively used without becoming a kind of imposition or source of conflict. At this point in time, when some would like to see our society fractured by linguistic differences, it is more important than ever to encourage harmony and respect amongst speakers of different languages. Addressing someone who looks foreign in Catalan should be interpreted as a sign of respect. Were this not the case, we would be demonstrating bigotry towards people whose linguistic identity is not discernable by the colour of their skin, physical features, surname or mode of dress, while at the same time denying large sectors of the population access to the Catalan language.

There should be no room for linguistic laziness. Languages should be thought of not as problems but as opportunities, not as barriers but as bridges that facilitate the incorporation of new people and communities into the life of the city. To the extent that we can all understand one other, we should also put the languages of new arrivals to good use to further the development of Barcelona, a city which needs to forge economic and financial links with the vast network of cities that are re-drawing today’s world maps.

A class of Catalan at the Casa Amaziga of Catalonia. Photo: Pere Virgili.

As Francesc Xavier Vila points out in his article on the languages of Barcelona, the city’s multilingualism is nothing new. It goes way back to the time when the area known as Barkeno (inhabited by Iberians, Greeks and Carthaginians) became Barcino (which Latinised natives and colonisers alike) and later Barchinona, where vulgar Latin lived alongside Classical Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Arabic, Amazigh and Barbarian languages.

An Amazigh speaker is the subject of the interview which kicks off this edition of Barcelona Metròpolis: Najat El Hachmi, a writer of Amazigh origin and winner of the Ciutat de Barcelona prize. Today, she is one of the rising stars of Catalan literature. Najat El Hachmi is a representative of the new wave of immigration of the 1980s which brought non-Europeans to our country. While no longer an old empire’s metropolis, today’s Barcelona sets the scene for stories written by both local and foreign authors such as German Stephanie Kremser and Frenchman Mathias Énard, a recent winner of the Prix Goncourt. The rise of Najat El Hachmi and the other writers mentioned is an indication that the life of this country and this city that we are building is destined to be ever more diverse and heterogeneous. Barcelona’s narrative is no longer in the hands of any one social class, media group or powerful lobbying group with a branding concept. Nor is it in the hands of a City Council that works to empower and give a voice to the citizenry: together these citizens will build the Barcelona they want.

Activities at the Brazilian association housed in the Parc-Sandaru Civic Centre.
Foto: Pere Virgili.

Barcelona will achieve linguistic sovereignty if it is able to give Catalan its rightful place in the world. It will also serve as a haven for languages if it is capable of welcoming – without being condescending or pretentious – speakers from all around the world, including those of the most endangered languages.

The multilingual city

Il·lustració de Cristina Daura

© Cristina Daura

Globalisation has led to a huge increase in mobility and cultural exchanges around the world. As Barcelona receives a large proportion of the immigrants who arrive in Catalonia, it has become an exceptionally diverse mosaic of cultures and languages. We have the shared responsibility of ensuring that the heritage these immigrants bring along with them becomes a driver of wealth and opportunities for everyone. The history of languages, in fact, shows that great innovations take place in societies that have successfully been able to make room for contributions from other cultures and that have made the most of the arrival of other groups to transform themselves and strengthen their creativity.

In this edition, linguistics specialists and representatives from organisations linked to the study and defence of language paint a portrait of Barcelonian society and outline solutions to the problems arising from the multilingual nature of the city. We take a broad look at the relationships between Catalan and Spanish, the city’s two main languages, against a backdrop where the historical language has been reintroduced in institutional spheres, while it still faces the challenge of gaining ground in everyday contexts. According to one of these articles, the relationship between different languages has to be based on the criteria of sustainability. A sustainability that, while recognizing an increase in intercommunication, would ensure the necessary conditions for the development of the different linguistic groups present.

A specific article is dedicated to the situation in the classroom, where Catalan is the main working language, although the presence of Spanish is far from insignificant. The edition also highlights the 20th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Linguistic Rights, approved at a global conference held at the University of Barcelona, with support from UNESCO.

Making a city from people

One of the different examples of uses of public space: tourists in Park Güell.
Photo: Vicente Zambrano

The debate about public space in the city is just as lively as ever, or maybe even more so. Ultimately, it is about finding collective solutions where the public and the authorities work together. Making a city from people.

People can be found in public spaces more than in their own homes. This was the surprising discovery made by Ana María Dávila, a Chilean journalist, when she arrived in Barcelona in the early 1980s. As she herself explains in the section “Visions of Barcelona”, she had landed in a public space that was still that of pre-Olympics Barcelona, with large areas yet to be developed and transformed.

Now, forty years later, the debate about public space in the city is just as lively as ever, or maybe even more so. This is because the city remains alive and unfinished, with spaces that every so often require rethinking in order to be inhabited, travelled, worked and shared in a thousand different ways, in line with social changes and the new needs of the citizens that live there and make them their own.

The city has changed – hugely – and great urban development work has been done, from reclaiming the seafront between the Besòs and Llobregat rivers to building ring roads, as well as recovering entire neighbourhoods such as Poblenou or building new ones such as Diagonal Mar and Vila Olímpica. However, there are still big projects on the table, such as the work on La Sagrera railway station, which also involves the unfinished number 9 metro line; the reorganisation of Plaça de les Glòries and its surroundings; and the redevelopment of the Marina del Prat Vermell neighbourhood, to name just a few examples.

Although it is often major projects that come to mind when we think about urban development, public space is also made up of the network of small or large roads, courtyards, alleyways, parks and gardens, communal elements within residents’ communities, as well as the fabric of open public amenities: markets, civic centres, libraries, museums, art factories and centres… Homes fit in between large infrastructures

and these other spaces for passing through and participating in. Town planners and architects are thus facing the dilemma of responding to both individual and collective needs, public and private needs, and setting different limits and definitions of what stays within and outside the public space.

This issue of Barcelona Metròpolis brings together a group of architects and town planners who analyse the public space of the four areas where everyday life takes place: the home, transport, work, and leisure, culture and participation. The authors of this dossier suggest responding to the needs in these four areas by putting people at the centre, looking at the city from street level and making the most of empty spaces to provide settings where the public can participate, get involved and play the leading role.

One of the different examples of uses of public space: a meeting of La Borda social housing cooperative at Can Batlló.
Photo: La Borda

The proposals gathered here include innovative and alternative ideas, such as those emerging from the solidarity economy, broad-based participation and counter-culture, as well as fields of experimentation that allow for new ways of participating. Town planners and architects are calling for close cooperation between civil society and public authorities, and agree on the need to promote more public housing and fewer private vehicles. This housing now accounts for 1.6% of the total housing stock available, either to buy or to rent. Cars, meanwhile, occupy 60% of the available public space, when only 15% of trips are made with this kind of transport.

Ultimately, it is about finding collective solutions where the public and the authorities work together. Twenty-five years ago, Manuel de Solà-Morales predicted that collective space (and we are not just talking about public space) would form the future wealth of cities. These proposals therefore suggest building the city and its public space so that they will organise community life and at the same time be personally welcoming, both for the people born there as well as for visitors. This is the case of refugee writer Basem Al-Nabriss , who closes the magazine with a collection of short stories about Barcelona written during his stay as Catalan PEN’s “Writer in Refuge”. Making a city from people.

New perspectives on public space

© Maria Corte

The way public space has been managed over the last fifteen years has been a reflection of the policies that have defined the life of our city. This dossier goes over some of the architectural and urban solutions applied, which haven’t always responded adequately to the challenges posed by housing, mobility, urban sprawl and de-industrialisation.

The abuse of mortgage loans and the scarcity of public housing projects have made access to housing difficult for large sectors of the population. In some neighbourhoods, the phenomenon of gentrification has expelled the traditional inhabitants.

Mobility is key in order to rethink productive models. Vehicles occupy an excessive amount of space in our streets and are killing Barcelona, which is already one of the most polluted cities in Europe.

Barcelona is also being polarized between tourists and citizens. Even if tourism is inevitable, the city needs to be liveable. Changes to the productive model and its consequences for the industrial fabric encourage us to consider how we can re-industrialize our city, and what role public spaces need to have in the system of production and consumption.

The architects that participate in this dossier ask that urbanism solve existing problems instead of creating new ones, and they offer proposals that place people at the centre once again. They also ask that the democratisation of the city include sustainability, memory, redistribution, and the participation of citizens in demanding accountability.

The city as a haven for literature

For centuries, Barcelona has been committed to the book sector and intends to continue to uphold this commitment, now as a UNESCO City of Literature. This issue addresses all the realities that define what literature means to Barcelona, and seeks to explore the reasons why it aspires to the UNESCO title.

Photos: Lluís Clua

Books filled the city in September. We are not referring only to textbooks because of the start of the school year. Books literally came out onto the streets, meeting up with residents at the cathedral during Catalan Book Week, and subsequently at the Second-Hand Book Fair in Passeig de Gràcia. For a few days, these sites became meeting points for new and old, literary and professional, children’s and young people’s books and books for all ages. They brimmed with activities that united the street, writers, residents and literature.

During the course of the year, numerous events bring books to the fore in different city locations, and also unite authors and readers. These include Barcelona Negra, Poetry Week, Món Llibre for youngsters, and Kosmopolis, the self-defined amplified literature festival. And let us not forget World Book Day, on St George’s Day (Sant Jordi), as the publishing world event par excellence. Book-lovers and newcomers to reading throng festivals, bookshops and libraries.

For writers, the city is a source of inspiration, as well as a haven. Some ten years ago, PEN Català, with the City Council’s support, contributed to creating a network of city-havens for threatened writers to facilitate the right to freedom of expression that is denied to them in their places of origin. This initiative ties in with the proposal from the mayor’s office to create a cluster of cities to welcome even more refugees, such as those fleeing from the war in Syria.

Barcelona has become the Iberian Peninsula’s publishing capital in terms of number of titles and turnover (excluding school and official books), where almost 300 publishers bring out more than 30,000 titles a year and employ some 5,300 professionals. The city is home to multinationals that use it as a platform to access the Spanish and Hispano-American markets. However, it is also a place that welcomes small publishers with personality, that are just starting out and are trying to carve a niche for themselves.

The programme for hosting threatened writers, the distribution network provided by libraries and bookshops, the broad range of festivals and trade fairs with a potential to embrace more readers, the publishing sector that makes Barcelona the publishing capital, World Book Day, the Casa Vil·la Joana museum project, and corners that ooze literature or have inspired stories that became books… These realities and on-going projects, as well as Barcelona’s capacity to create international bonds and networks, have led to its candidacy as a UNESCO City of Literature, an opportunity to continue promoting local culture, here and everywhere, with the help of the book world.

Photos: Pepa Álvarez

This issue addresses all the realities that define what literature means to Barcelona, and seeks to explore the reasons why it aspires to the UNESCO title. We begin from the distant past, when the city set up what Sergio Vila-Sanjuán called “a comprehensive book ecosystem”. And we conclude with some food for thought about the future by Antoni Martí Monterde. Monterde believes that, beyond literature, Barcelona has to rethink itself as a cultural capital, and adds that “being a UNESCO city is the recognition of a structure in which the literary book plays a fundamental role in citizens’ lives, something more than one of its economic driving forces, which it undoubtedly is too”.

For centuries, Barcelona has been committed to the book sector and intends to continue to uphold this commitment, now as a UNESCO City of Literature. Networking with other cities allows it to share and exchange experiences that drive creativity, while also bringing literature closer to the citizens in all neighbourhoods. Barcelona will continue to work to decentralise festivals, to further foster the untiring work done by libraries, to support neighbourhood bookshops – which in many cases have become cultural facilitators –, to spread educational programmes to promote reading, and to continue to spearhead high-quality literary and publishing initiatives.

Barcelona, the city of literature

© Pep Montserrat

Barcelona has a literary calling. It’s worth remembering that it’s the capital of Spanish-language publishing and the beating heart of publishing in Catalan. It’s literary role isn’t limited to the book industry, however. It also holds a distinguished position in the literary geography of the western world. It’s the location of the final scene of Don Quixote, the first modern novel and the foundational work of the world we live in today.

Through the written word, Barcelona has created a gathering space in its healthy web of libraries, and it’s also sought to share culture through programs meant to give refuge to persecuted writers, or the cooperation agreements established with other cities across the globe. Literary festivals, writers’ schools or the Vil·la Joana House of Literature project are additional milestones for a city seeking to turn the world of books into its natural habitat.

This year, the City Hall has submitted a candidature to make Barcelona part of UNESCO’s network of Creative Cities as a City of Literature. This initiative could make it sister to a whole community of cities around the world that have made literature one of the most important pillars of their identity.

A long and fruitful publishing history, Sergio Vila-Sanjuan

Accustomed to risk: Barcelona publishing lab, Javier Aparicio Maydeu

The Kosmopolis festival and amplified literature, Carles Domènec

City of refuge for persecuted writers, Carme Arena

A space for literature and much more, Valeria Gallard

Reading the streets, Marià Marín i Torné

Coming up roses, Mathew Tree