The Architecture of Collective Living: The Unit and The Block

Projective Cities students in Barcelona. Lecture by Josep Bohigas in La Escocesa, Poblenou.

In October 2019, Projective Cities realized their first studio trip to Barcelona. Organised and curated by programme staff Raül Avilla and Cristina Gamboa, its purpose was to understand and to study the city’s current problematics and the way these are addressed by different stakeholders: municipal authorities, academics, grassroots movements, architects and planners. Each day, a number of site visits and meetings with locals took place, addressing relevant morphological and social challenges of contemporary Barcelona, while understanding at the same time their historical background. Whilst Barcelona’s urban transformations have been celebrated for many years, the current condition of crisis has pushed a reformulation of city management and role of architecture and urban design within it.

The first day session “Prototypes for Housing Emergency” addressed the problems of the evolution of the centric medieval city from early days, through post-Olympics transformations, to current problems of overtouristification and gentrification. The group visited recent housing protypes such as prefab APROP or la Borda cooperative housing, and interviewed Tonet Font (Social Innovation, Municipality of Barcelona), David Juarez (architect Straddle 3) and Josep Maria Montaner (Director of Barcelona Housing Department 2015-2019).

On the second day, “Dwelling the Periphery: Affordability and Monumentality” targeted the stereotypes of affordable housing in the periphery through the visit to exemplary buildings such as Casa Bloc, Torre Via Julia or Walden 7. It also included a visit to Ricardo Bofill’s studio in a concrete factory “La Fàbrica” and a conversation between Josep Bohigas (director of Barcelona Regional strategic planning agency) and Salvador Rueda (director of Barcelona Urban Ecology agency) about future challenges for the city at a metropolitan scale. The group also visited Fundació Habitat 3, a trust that provides emergency shelters and affordable housing.

“In construction, Cerdà after 150 years”, the third daily workshop aimed to understand and review Ildefons Cerdà’s theories of urbanism and its heterogeneous evolution over the past century and a half. Passing through industrial fabric or 1990s housing and urban developments, like the Vila Olímpica, or the new redefinition of a superblock, Poblenou offered a unique scenario due to its attractiveness for many different sectors. Meetings and interviews included emerging practice Cierto Estudio, neighbourhood association Taula Pere IV, Sala Beckett by Flores and Prats with its director Toni Casares, and Maio’s 110 rooms collective housing project. During the evening we joined Zaida Muxí (architect and planner) and Marina Monsolís (visual artist) in docker’s union of Barceloneta in a cooking session that recovered lost fishermen traditions.  

The last session “Internal Edges of the City” traversed inner physical and psychological borders of the Barcelona of Sant Antoni neighbourhood with a visit guided by Ethel Baraona Pohl (critic, writer and curator) that included a number of new architecture and urban transformations that are redefining the bordering area of the first Eixample.

All meetings and interviews were recorded and will become material for further publications and Projective Cities external collaborations.

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