A study analyses social relationships with architecture based on the urban expansion of Barcelona from the beginning of the 19th century through to the 1960s

The article, published in the journal ANUARI d’Arquitectura i Societat, was written by Pedro Casariego and Vicenç Sarrablo alongside lecturers from the UOC and the UPC

UIC Barcelona School of Architecture lecturers Pedro Casariego and Vicenç Sarrablo have published the article “Arquitectura y sociedad a través de la expansión de Barcelona” (Architecture and society through the expansion of Barcelona) in the first issue of the ANUARI d’Arquitectura i Societat, published by the the Escuela Técnica Superior de Arquitectura in Valencia. In addition, Jordi Boixader, lecturer at the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya, and Josep Maria Pons, from the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya, also participated in the study.

The article reflects on the complex relationships established between architecture and society, and outlines four scenarios that transpired in the city of Barcelona between the beginning of the 19th century and the 1960s.

“The document aims to offer a holistic perspective and provide an overview of society’s relationship with architecture. The period in question is ideal for chronologically linking four interrelated scenarios that arose during the expansion of Barcelona and affected the same society. We present a historical review that explores the social relationships forged with architecture”, explain the researchers.

The expansion of Barcelona across four scenarios
The first part of the document analyses the historical period between 1800 and 1874, when the city walls were demolished and a radical physical change was proposed for its surroundings as part of the expansion plan. It reviews the rejection and the low social acceptance of the project proposed by Cerdà.

The second part covers the turn of the twentieth century, where some contemporary intellectuals who had initially rejected Cerdà’s plans started to use the prevailing architectural language of the time, Modernisme, to send out a message and appeal for local and regional roots.

The third part highlights the hesitancy in using the language of the Modern Movement after the Spanish Civil War and how some of the gurus of the time withdrew and returned to a classical architecture whose mark is still evident around Barcelona today.

Finally, the fourth and final part explores the use of the language of the Modern Movement in the 1950s and 1960s. Its trivialisation and mass application caused decline and complex scenarios such as vertical shanty-towns, tower blocks on the outskirts of Barcelona with serious technical deficiencies.

The above scenarios highlight the emotional relationships between architecture and society by analysing the connections to place, group identity and the use of architecture as language. “The social acceptance of architecture is often conditioned by the social and political context of the historical moment in which it is created. Society, as a system, has its own mentality. It is influenced by currents and can provide emotional responses that are not based on reason”, the study concludes.

Image: Institut Cartogràfic i Geològic de Catalunya. Generalitat de Catalunya

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