Monday, July 13, 2009

Barcelona, Urban Planning, Historic Preservation, Roman (Gothic) City

We have started learning about the history of Barcelona, and one thing we learned is that because of its location it was not a major Roman city to start out with, and to make a long history short, there was a centralled walled-in Roman city. Under Spanish rule (I believe) it became larger but was heavily fortified with Spanish military and walls around the city to limit development, because the Spanish government was worried that it might be a revolutionary threat because of the differences in the Castillian and Catalonian kingdoms.

When the city became more properous, it began to develop more, but it could not develop outside of the set borders (yet) so it developed very narrow streets and was built up high. It was very dense. Living conditions became very stratified and the lower classes lived next to the bourgeosise who decided to revamp their city's history by investing lots of money into restoring what is now considered to be the Gothic part of the city...

What we learned today is that a majority of the buildings, walls, etc in the Gothic part of the city were not in the same places they are today when Barcelona really was a Roman city. Things were rearrange, building surfaces and walls were moved brick by brick to create plazas and beautiful squares to recreate the Roman history of the city... The church that is pictured above is an intesting case because it was never finished during the period it was built in, so when Barcelona started to prosper and money came into the city Barcelonians with money researched the period quite a bit, and made the outside of this Cathedral a model example of the type of architecture and design that they wanted the building to look like...

This brings up interesting questions about what is authentic and what is not, but more importantly, why a city would chose to re-CREATE this historical part of the city, which was not entirely true to real history. The lecturer today talks about how this recreation of history is a way to create cultural community and identity. In doing to the Catalonians and Barcelonians can emphasize the history that they care to, and not emphasize what they would rather forget. I suggested that it was the commercial creation of history for tourism, however it was suggested to me that the Barcelonians really needed the re-creation of this historical identity for themselves as much as it is something nice for tourists to look at... I wonder what other kinds of historical preservation movements do the same thing. How much of the history that we see is authentic, and what was researched and restored to look more periodic in order to highlight the parts of history that we want to be prominent in our cities?

As things progress I hope to learn more about the Cataloian identity that has been created in this region of Spain. Also, Barcelona is apparently one of the best models of modernist planning that has ever existed, which I am supposed to learn about tomorrow.

Interesting stuff, and great times in Spain.

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