From the Horizontal to the Vertical

The Displacement of Bon Pastor in Barcelona

  • Stefano Portelli University of Leicester
Keywords: Barcelona, Urban renewal, Displacement, Demolitions, Urban planning, Anarchism


In the 2000s Barcelona’s City Council initiated the demolition of the working-class neighborhood of Bon Pastor as part of a ‘participatory’ urban plan aimed at integrating a deprived population into the city. However, the residents’ narratives show that tearing down the traditional one-story houses built in 1929, and relocating people into new and taller buildings nearby, disrupted the social forms crucial for the cultural, social, and political identities of residents. The physical verticalization of space dispossessed people not only of the old horizontal (one-story) houses they rented for many decades, but also of the practice of horizontal, face-to-face interactions in the streets, which mediated conflicts, prevented social and ethnic tensions, and kept out unwanted intrusions from the authorities. These techniques were rooted in the anarchist counterculture of Barcelona’s working-class neighborhoods of the 30s, when street life was considered a tool of the workers against the state, and which had been crucial in the urban resistance to Francisco Franco’s military regime. For these reasons, the demolition of Bon Pastor, although upheld through a progressive rhetoric of citizens participation which allowed most residents to remain in the neighborhood, severed the links between people and the streets, and as a result fragmented a community whose historical recalcitrance towards the state had been a defining feature since before the Spanish war.


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How to Cite
Portelli, Stefano. 2020. “From the Horizontal to the Vertical”. ACME: An International Journal for Critical Geographies 19 (1), 339-51.
Themed Issue- Narratives of Displacements (Guest Eds. Pull, Lind, Tsoni, Baeten)