On the border

Vallbona, Barcelona. September 2018. Image © Adrià Guardiet

Ignasi Solà Morales used the expression Vague Terrain’ to describe  peripheral places, both imprecise and unproductive. Strongholds of liberty and subversion that the capitalist city didn’t know of or didn’t want to  absorb, and that Solà demanded to preserve in their state of ruin and unproductivity.

Iñaki Ábalos and Juan Herreros defined ‘Impune Areas’  as those barren lands situated on the border between cities and the countryside, natural and artificial, public and private ‘where almost all emerging social forms are produced because they aren’t regulated.’

Recently, Gilles Clément coined the term ‘Third Landscape’ to refer to the transitive spaces between ecosystems. Residual places ‘in the highway gutters,’ free of the conscious actions of man, without a function and without a prior identity.

The first entrance puts emphasis on the unproductive character of certain spaces. The second highlights the lack of regulations. The third introduces two key concepts: function and identity. Diverse viewpoints that all converge in one similar place. A place on the border, ‘where the city loses its name.’

A few months ago we were invited to coordinate one of the groups of the ‘Vertical Workshop’ which each year, since it’s beginning twenty years ago, inaugurates the academic course of ESARQ-UIC. On this occasion the workshop took place in Vallbona, a neighborhood located on the boundaries between Barcelona and Montcada, isolated by grand infrastructures and also with some serious social difficulties which, due to its marginal condition, was able to dodge the process of indiscriminate urbanization that definitively transformed the peripheral area of Barcelona in the 60’s and 70’s.

The students of the workshop laid out a scene of social regeneration, economic and environmental through the reintroduction of productive landscapes in urban spaces that are currently not being used. The project was finished with an in situ installation that recalled agricultural plots of land through the abstract use of mesh netting formed by 430 pegs and 2,2km of cord situated in an empty plot of land measuring approximately 4.000m2.

The exercise aimed to bring visibility to the weaknesses and the strengths of a place on the border, forgotten until very recently, but which has received a certain amount of attention at the root of the Strategic Plan to Recover the Rec Comtal, a project developed by the study conducted by Carles Enrich that will be implemented with a special sensibility in those places that, during decades, had constructed their own identity marginalized by the grand processes of urban transformation, and now ‘rediscovered’ as opportunistic spaces.

The time of going unnoticed has been both a blessing and a curse for these places. They need to receive attention without the aim of taking them in or assimilating them. They should remain, at least in part, as barren lands, areas of impunity, as a ‘third landscape.’ They are genetically structured like this, and it is in no one’s interest to hide or try to change them. This would put a finish to their flourishing, as alerted by Manuel Delgado in reference to cosmetic urbanism which degenerated the celebrated ‘Model Barcelona.’

‘The whores, the transvestites, the poor, the supporters of independence, and all the other presumed disgraces, they will all return from their banishment. The trash once swept beneath the carpet will be revealed, and everything, more or less, will be how it once was.’

Text translated by: Kaitlyn P. Delaney
(Barcelona, 1982) Arquitecto por la ETSAB y socio fundador junto con Sandra Torres de estudi08014, un espacio transversal de investigación y desarrollo en arquitectura. Sus trabajos han sido premiados en certámenes locales e internacionales y publicados en distintas revistas, catálogos y plataformas digitales.

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