Buscando Barcelona

A Renewed Neighborhood: El Raval

Posted on: December 15, 2009

File:Plaça angels.JPGFormerly a forgotten area of Barcelona, the neighborhood of El Raval went through a major cleanup in the early 1990s in preparation for the 1992 Summer Olympic Games hosted by the city. The dramatic turn from inner city neighborhood to progressive city neighborhood was incredibly beneficial not only to El Raval, but to Barcelona as a whole. Because of its working class population, drugs and violence were prevalent in the area. When the time came to clean up the neighborhood, the council decided that the Placa dels Angels was the best place to start. They cleared the plaza and made it an open area directeFile:CCCB 20070408.jpgd toward younger citizens and families in an effort to drive away the drug dealers. It is off this plaza that two of the most valuable contemporary buildings exist.

            First is the Museu D’Art Contemporani De Barcelona, MACBA for short. Home to late 20th century art, the building itself is a testament to this era as well. It was designed by the American architect Richard Meier’s and is based on rationalism. The straight lines and bright white façade with large windows create a stark contrast with the rickety old apartment buildings surrounding the structure. The curved lines incorporated in the architecture seem to be a small testament to the laundry constantly fluttering in the wind from the balconies of the apartments, as if Meier was trying to soften the contrast between the old and the new. The courtyard in front of the MACBA has become a place frequented by young people in the neighborhood and contemporary art exhibitions draw in diverse groups of people, a welcome change for the area.

                        Tucked behind the MACBA is the Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona, or the CCCB. Residents of the Raval neighborhood can attend art exhibitions, debates, festivals, films, concerts, and lectures that promote the arts in an effort to bring contemporary culture into the neighborhood.  There is an open courtyard in the middle for people to chat and dbarcelona ravaliscuss the exhibitions as well as a cute little café. When we visited, there were several college-aged kids having a café con leche and a cigarette talking with each other. Another group of elementary school children were just leaving from a field trip to the museum. There is a really pretty square courtyard in the middle that has a stunning contrast of classical and modern architecture. The top of the glass facade is angled in such a way that you can see all the way over the rooftops of El Raval to the Mediterranean Sea. It creates a beautiful effect on the glass and brings a little of the water into the neighborhood.

            From there we walked down Rambla del Raval, one of the spaces opened up by the City Council. Lined with palm trees it is similar to Las Ramblas, but much less touristy. It is the hang out spot for the neighborhood’s residents, which is largely Pakistani among other immigrants. It was very pretty and you could see the differences between the old apartments and those that had been remodeled in an effort to update the neighborhood. We passed a new, high class hotel which backs up to a street that is filled with prostitutes at night. It was strange seeing such a stark contrast between luxury and poverty, but is a poignant reminder of the work that still needs to be done to clean up the neighborhood for good.

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