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POBLENOU, A EULOGY ABAUT DISCONTINUITY.
by Carles Guiral i Gutičrrez, architect.

(...) As it happens in all other historical districts of the city, to have been born in Poblenou leaves a certain imprint on your character and creates a relationship - possibly a love-hate one - with a urban landscape that is a mixture of traditional neighbourhod and industrial suburb. Deep down, the existence of that industrial substratum - made up of factories, workshops, stores, chimneys and cafés in which the blue-collar workers (local residents or those coming from other parts of the city) used to have a sandwich, a pint of beer, a whole meal or a coffee with brandy - has always been the peculiar essence as well as the raison d'ętre of the Poblenou district. To disown such a substrate would be akin to disowning the very founding deed specific to the place, as if Rome wanted to forswear the legend of Romulus and Remus and the she-wolf of the Capitole.
Even the newcomers to the neighbourhood - such as the many artists who have set up their studios in abandoned industrial premises that appeared to have become obsolete, the musicians who have come to play in factory shops suitably fitted out to serve as rehearsal facilities, or the various professionals who have transformed some old industrial building into an office-cum-house-cum-workshop compound clearly reminiscent of a New-york loft - have arrived in search of a certain degree of authenticity (often tinged with snobbery), precisely the kind of authenticity that might be bestowed on them by their immersion in a post-industrial, somehow decadent landscape which is at the same time a well-served area connected with the rest of the city and endowed with sufficient facilities (schools, parks, clean beaches, sports pavilions, shopping centres, etc...). It was the combination of such attractive features with the alluring results of the great town planning works prompted by the 1992 Olympic Games, that induced some Barcelona residents - those who both had faith in the future of the area and boasted a comfortable financial status - to become the first "colonizers" of the Nova Icŕria - Vila Olimpica neighbourhood which substituted a former part of the so-called "zona morta" (dead zone) for one of the blurred boundaries of the district.
Nowadays, when Poblenou is no longer an ignored and isolated section of the city, when its beaches are being invaded every weekend by people from all parts of Barcelona's metropolitan area, when the name of "Les Glňries" no longer evokes only a square, but also a successful shopping centre, when certain groups of noisy, fun-loving young people go carousing in the newly opened bars and discothčques that form the "triángulo golfo" (the rogues' triangle) - a bad name by which another part of the large post-industrial "zona morta" surrounding the district is presently known - and, above all, now that the sales target set by the developers of the Vila Olímpica housing estates has been met, the conditions are right for the redevelopment of the areas abandoned by the larger-size industries between the Poblenou district and the Besós river into new residential areas. (...)

FROM DISTRICT PROBLEMS TO CITY DEBATES.
by Elisabet Tejero, sociologist.

(...) Poblenou, though displaying common identifying elements due to its industrial and working-class origins, is not a homogeneous district. Quite on the contrary, it is a diverse and pluralist district, not merely from the town-planning aspect but also in economic and social terms. The historical centre that surrounds the "Rambla" forms the nucleus as well as the backbone of the district's extensive area : it also accomodates 48 per cent of its population and provides the setting for most of the communal activities and cultural events that take place in Poblenou. Other neighbourhoods such as Gran Via, Diagonal / Selva de Mar, Parc, Vila Olímpica and Glňries complete the industrial and residential mosaic of the Poblenou district. (...)
After many years of stagnation through which the district had undergone very few significant changes, the City Council of Barcelona decided to promote and carry out an important town planning transformation on the occasion of the Olympic Games that were to be held in 1992. Once again, deep divergences in criteria between the projects put forward by the institutions and the aspirations of the Poblenou residents came to light. Once again, the official conception of how the city ought to develop, expressed in town planning schemes which proposed to encircle the district within a rigid, overwhelming ring of urbanistic transformation gave rise to conflicts and protests amongst the citizenry. (...)
Projects such as the construction of the Vila Olímpica, the opening and extension of the Diagonal avenue to the seashore or the new Sea Front Plan, are town-planning "packages" that were conceived from a fragmented perspective. Every one of them has been thought out quite independently and bears merely formal relation to some of the peculiar urbanistic characteristics of the area concerned. The architects in charge of the projects and the City Council have defended the idea that those works "radiated" by themselves spontaneous effects upon their surroundings, which led to an overall renovation and to their integration into the district's social, productive as well as urbanistic fabric. However, the example of the Vila Olímpica seems to point to a completely different result : according to recent statements issued by the local Associations of Neighbours, the spatial as well as social segregation between those two adjacent neighbourhoods has in fact become more pronounced over the last years. (...)
Poblenou has already started to suffer the consequences of the lack of a clear town-planning proposal that would take into consideration the global reality of the district. Young people are leaving the Poblenou area for lack of reasonably priced housing, many older sections of the district are undergoing further degradation and, as a consequence, the living conditions of the inhabitants of those neighbourhoods - for a large part senior citizens - have significantly worsened, while, through lack of appropriate guidance, the productive and commercial sectors are at a loss to plan effective strategies. (...)
At the present time, the situation in the industrial area of Poblenou is being studied by City Council experts. Their objective is to work out a proposal to make the area suitable for the construction of a 100-block estate intended for a peculiar combination of production-oriented and residential purposes. (...) That prospective town-planning operation appears as another major contributing factor to the future development of the district as well as of Barcelona as a whole. Nevertheless, what is once again lacking in this new project is a global perspective that might aim at integrating all the different parts of Poblenou, as the approach to the remodellation is based on technical criteria that leave out the most strategically important part of the district : its historical centre. (...)
All these reflections on Poblenou and its pluralist needs and potentialities ought to bring about a serious debate on the feasibility of upholding the kind of city model Barcelona is heading towards. To produce new constructions while leaving aside the renovation of old buildings for different urban uses as part of a residual plan; to remodel districts without integrating their historical centres and the newly designed neighbourhoods; to invest in the construction of large-sized shopping centres and service facilities while abandoning urban industry as a source of economic and occupational openings; here are a few key elements that could be used as a basis for analysis. And the example of the town-planning operations being carried in Poblenou affords all those who are interested and involved in the future development of our city the opportunity to question current policies and propose new approaches that might make Barcelona more balanced and equitable, more habitable and more bearable in the long run.

SPACES OR PEOPLE?
by Joan Maria Soler, member of the Poblenou Association of Neighbours.

(...) If we want to make a general assessment of the current situation, there are two aspects that we ought to emphasize. One, on the positive side, is the recovery of our beaches. And the other, on the negative side and, maybe for that reason, not as widely known, is the privatization of many pieces of land located right along the seafront, most of which were occupied by obsolete railway tracks. In which ways did we benefit from the fact that 40 per cent of the shares in VOSA (the Vila Olímpica Real Estate Company) were public property ? Why did it practically escape everybody's notice that 60 per cent of the land destined for the Front Marítim (Seafront) housing development actually belonged to the Public Administration ?
However, if we are to consider general aspects, there is a crucial issue the importance of which we have never stopped to stress insistently since 1993 : the need for a Global Plan that would establish general guidelines for all town-planning actions within the Poblenou district. Such a Global Plan ought to discriminate between the actual requirements of the district and those of the city as a whole. In a place such as Poblenou, characterized by its rich historical background and its extended network of local associations and communal activities, it should be obligatory to assess the ways in which the newly urbanized areas might affect the life of the district. The Plan should establish the necessary mechanisms for removing the risk of social substitution through the migration of people with a modest income from neighbourhoods that have suddenly acquired a superior social status and where they cannot afford to live any longer. It should also guarantee the right of the families displaced by urban changes to decent new accomodation, which would prevent the kind of conflicts which are currently arising, more concretely in the case of the "PERI" works. Where industry is concerned, the Plan should assess how the change of use of certain places might affect not only the economic life of the city, but also the district's lifestyle, considering that the house-factory conjunction is a traditional part of its identity. Measures should be taken to protect the environment and keep some peace and order in the street traffic, as befits a 21st century city. And so forth ...
We consider that, in a district like Poblenou, immersed in a process of complete transformation and whose population will have doubled over the next generation, the lack of such a Global Plan is really outrageous. As a matter of fact, what is being done is just the opposite : the territory of Poblenou has been fragmented into six parts corresponding to six large-scale projects (Vila Olímpica, Front Marítim, Diagonal-Mar, Obertura de la Diagonal, Glóries and Zones Industrials) for which there is no common orientation.
Unfortunately, our request for a Global Plan makes very little sense now that five of the afore-mentioned plans are already being carried out. Only the "Pla de Renovació de les Arees Industrials" (Industrial Area Renovation Plan) has yet to start. But it is a relatively minor plan which concerns only 170 hectares of urban land. At the Poblenou Association of Neighbours, we are convinced that the survival of Poblenou depends on how this last project will be approached. The course of action that the Administration will choose will be a key factor in the process, given that it has power to decide on an eventual change in land classification as stated in the General Metropolitan Plan. So, it may either rule in favour of the owners of the land - and their speculative prospects - or recover the generated increased value and work out a new town-planning scheme by applying criteria with which the people who have lived in Poblenou their whole life long would be more in agreement.
In order to make this last alternative a reality, there is a basic requirement which we have yet to meet : the interest and participation of the whole community. The only source of information on those changes that are likely to affect the residents' environment should not be the press. The local associations ought to participate more fully and debates ought to be conducted before decisions are made. People have to stop feeling powerless victims and start realizing that they have an important role to play. It is the only sound course of action if the neighbours of Poblenou want to be able to view the newly urbanized areas as parts of "their" district in which they can take a walk and still feel at home.