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BARCELONA - AN INDUSTRIAL CITY
by MartÝ Checa Artasu.

Ca l’Aranyˇ, La Sedeta, Farinera, Can Fabra, Pegaso, Can Battlˇ, the Sants train sheds, Hispano Olivetti, Vapor Vell, the three chimneys on the Paral.lel, the Philips factory ... The city still conserves numerous reminders of its industrial past. Former factories have been converted into recreational complexes, civic centres and even bars. Other less fortunate ones have fallen prey to speculation and the wrecking ball. In his article, MartÝ Checa Artasu evokes the heritage value of these memorials to Barcelona’s industrialisation.
Further proposals have been made for compilation of a catalogue in connection with the content of the exhibition, and for setting up organised visits, didactic workshops and other activities, such as conferences, audio-visual presentations or creation of a web page.

Two Centuries of Industrial History

Barcelona has been an industrial city since the beginning of the 18th century. In effect, the city became the centre of one of the first regions in the Mediterranean area to become industrialised, and in the course of these two centuries its importance in industry has been comparable to other European regions, such as the Basque Country and the Piedmont. In spite of the growing trend towards tertiary activities, it remains a strategic centre in this sense. In addition, this industrial presence has accompanied modern urban growth, occupying certain areas within the city and forming a part of its landscape.
Beginning in the second quarter of the 18th century, the outlines of this industrial Barcelona began taking shape, with two of its outstanding features being the manufacture of calico and the Rec Comtal. The calico industry, consisting of the spinning, dying and printing of cotton, required a great deal of water. This requirement conditioned its location near water supplies, and in Barcelona it led to these manufacturing activities being situated near the Rec Comtal, an irrigation channel carrying water from Montcada through the towns on the coastal plain and finally the city. As a result of this obligation, the first calico factories were located in the Sant Pere and Portal Nou neighbourhoods. With later expansion and creation of new industrial activities, they spread during the rest of the 18th century to the Raval, an area that was still unpopulated at the time.
These factories were not purpose-built; instead, they were installed in already existing buildings that were modified to accommodate them, such as on the ground floor of houses or in craft workshops, where they were adapted to the existing pattern of narrow properties.
The second quarter of the 19th century saw a renewed impulse in the city’s industrialisation, with the textile sector playing a leading role.
A number of turning points are indicative of this process. The first was the installation of the company Bonaplata, Rull, Vilaregut i Cia on Carrer Tallers, traditionally considered the first factory to use steam power. Others soon followed its example, and steam power became the new driving force behind industry, evident in the new name used for factories: vapors (steam plants). The second, the need to import the fuel needed for steam generation, i.e. coal, turned the port of Barcelona into the hub through which shipments of this commodity were moved. This circumstance, and the mere fact of geographical proximity, had far-reaching economic and logistic consequences for the city. The presence of the port encouraged the installation of more factories, augmenting Barcelona’s dominant role in the industrialisation of Catalonia.
The third was the founding in 1820 of the Catalan Factories Commission, an organisation symbolising the rise of the Catalan industrial bourgeoisie, the social class that was to lead the industrial revolution in this country. The last was the introduction of new textile manufacturing equipment, i.e. the spinning jenny, which replaced the old hand looms and boosted production to previously unheard of levels.
All of these circumstances together meant that industry had to seek new sites for its installations and a new concept of construction, with larger dimensions and greater flexibility of use. The new buildings were patterned on models already existing in other countries with a much longer history of industrialisation, such as England. These were multi-storey factories, isolated industrial premises and buildings with sawtooth roofs, known as sheds. A minor revolution in construction techniques, based on the use of cast-iron pillars, allowed bearing walls to be replaced by stylised rows of columns, making interior spaces much more useful and versatile.
These new factories, with their requirement for larger surface areas and the inherent dangers of steam machinery, caused the burgeoning industrial activity to gravitate to vacant areas in the Raval, away from the more densely populated districts. This tendency also led industry to move outside the bounds of the historical city to establish itself in neighbouring small towns. This was the case with Vapor Vell, installed in Sants in 1842, Can Fabra, installed in Sant Andreu in 1839, and many others in Sant MartÝ de Provenšals. By the turn of the century, this last town had become the leading industrial centre in the country and was known as the Catalan Manchester. A number of enterprises also found sites in the newly developed Eixample, among them such outstanding examples as La Sedeta, Damm, and others.
While industrialisation in Barcelona and Catalonia was led by the textile sector, other related activities began growing in importance during the last quarter of the 19th century. Metallurgy, which had been subjected to an absurd protectionist policy, found potential for growth in the manufacture of machinery, with a similar situation arising in the chemical industry.
The loss of Spain’s last colonies in the Americas and the resulting new market circumstances impelled the transformation of Catalan industry, and in particular Barcelona’s, up until 1936, with increasing diversification of business structures, along with their concentration and specialisation. This transformation was facilitated by the implantation of substantial technological innovations that had occurred during the final quarter of the 19th century and that were then being incorporated into industry. These innovations paved the way for the development of the automobile industry, expanded the availability of electricity and its industrial applications, and led to the creation of such sectors as synthetic fibre textiles and plastics. As a result, the textile sector, which had enjoyed undisputed dominance until then, had to make way for other rapidly expanding sectors, such as metallurgy and chemicals, and for the positioning of others, such as the construction, food or graphic arts industries. This development has left an indelible imprint on the city’s physiognomy, with enterprises such as Damm, Myrurgia, Titan and Can Girona, later re-named MACOSA.
The autarchic economic policy that dominated the period subsequent to the Civil War caused a drastic slowdown in business development, but at the level of Barcelona, took on highly contradictory aspects; on the one hand, companies were created under the auspices of the National Institute of Industry (INI), such as SEAT, ENASA or ENMASA, the first one acquiring enormous importance for the city, while at the same time the metallurgy sector was undergoing a minor revolution, with an increase in production capacity to respond to growing market potential. During the 1960s, a renewed entrepreneurial impulse was reflected in a new economic policy, with the appearance on the scene of multinational companies, the consolidation of certain sectors, such as pharmaceuticals, and the construction of industrial estates to centralise activities.