On many occasions, the local citizens have been some of the main agents responsible for promoting the recuperation, preservation and reactivation of Barcelona’s industrial heritage. Here, we present 20 cases of former factories that were reclaimed by local citizens, neighbours’ organisations and different social agents, and which today are urban facilities that house public amenities, housing facilities or have other productive uses.
The positioning of social movements with regard to the value of industrial heritage has evolved alongside that of society in general.
According to Checa-Artasu (2007), the history of the defence of industrial heritage can be divided into three periods. During the first stage, which started with the Spanish Transition and ended with the awarding of the Olympic Games (1976-1986), the local citizens demanded green zones and services in what had previously been industrial or built up areas and they forced the authorities to adopt a clear position regarding the management of such facilities. Cases like Espanya Industrial, La Maquinista or La Pegaso date from this period.
The second period (1986-1999), corresponding to the presentation of Barcelona’s Strategic Plan for the Cultural Sector, was strongly influenced by the Olympic Games. In it, new urban planning operations received priority over the preservation of industrial heritage, although some notable exceptions helped to preserve certain singular facilities, including Vapor Vell, La Sedeta, Can Felipa and Can Fabra.
Paradoxically, it was the dismantling of the industrial fabric in the Icària sector (Sant Martí district) during the construction of the Vila Olímpica (Olympic Village) which, in 1999, fostered a greater awareness of the value of industrial heritage, even though this awareness mostly took an architectural point of view and paid little attention to elements relating to social or historic memory (Tatjer, 2008). On the other hand, research into and the dissemination of works spread from the 1990s onwards (Granados, 1991) (Checa-Artasu, 2007) (Tatjer, 2004) and this gave rise to a broader vision of what was a complex phenomenon, both from both the viewpoint of the public administration and the local citizenry. This led to the conversion of old factories into amenities serving the community (one of the centre of Barcelona’s History Museum is at Oliva Artés, there is a community centre at La Farinera del Clot, the headquarters of the Pompeu Fabra university are at Ca l’Aranyó, and there is a district library at Can Saladrigas) or facilities that housed private cultural initiatives (like the museum at Can Framis).
Even so, there are many important industrial complexes whose reconversion is still demanded by local citizens and which have, as yet, an unclear future. These include the conflictive Can Ricart and we could also add cases like Ca l’Alier and Benet Campabadal, whose reconversion projects are currently at the development stage.