The horizontal city: the neighborhoods of Cases Barates in Barcelona

Our research group began working in 2008 on the Casas Baratas de Bon Pastor, in the north periphery of Barcelona. It’s a special neighborhood: more than 600 one-story houses, every one of them painted in a different color, in the middle of factories and industrial zones, on the shore of the Besós river. Built in 1929 in the middle of nowhere, to give housing to the immigrant factory workers (“murcianos y de la FAI”, they called it in those times), now it’s an urban space more similar to a village than to a neighborhood of an occidental metropolis. A project of the Barcelona City Council, owner of all the houses, entails the “remodelation” of the whole area, through the demolition of the “casas baratas”: the first 145 where demolished in 2007, a few months before we began our research. The inhabitants of the neighborhoods are suffering a series of “social pathologies” that go along the physical demolition of the houses: the social networks (neighbors, relatives…) are suffering the consequences of the urban transformation, and the “humanscape” of the neighborhood is changing maybe even faster than the physical landscape.

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