La Catalana, Barcelona

La Catalana, Barcelona

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The moment you pass the Ronda litoral tunnel, it’s like appearing in another world. Frozen in time, La Catalana was just another community of the quarter of Sant Adrià, trapped among Barcelona, the railway track and the Besós River. I came here for the first time on an urban Sunday dérive, the winter of 2009, without knowing what was happening, something that occurs to many of its inhabitants too.

I found horses, goats, birds, meadows and wild trees, the quietness was only broken by the sound of trains and the ring road traffic.

catalana barcelona Sant Adriá Besós españa bw

©Filippo Poli

La Catalana quarter, which owes his name to the power plant Fluidos Eléctricos la Catalana, was composed of modest ground-level houses, the majority of them uninhabited at that time, and empty lots ready to welcome huge buildings without history or soul.

The tiny houses served to lodge the power company workers when life in the quarter started to develop, it was humble, but had all the necessities: bars, bakeries and a caring neighbourhood composed of labourers and gypsy families who settled down in this area of the city which surrounds the “Mina”, a neighbourhood considered by many people as a synonym of drug dealing and vandalism.

catalana barcelona Sant Adriá Besós españa bw

©Filippo Poli

When I went there, I never felt the sensation of danger, a person approached my camera, a little girl asked me to take a photo of her. No threating intention, they just gave up to something that was falling on them, the modern city with all its comfort and aligned flats.

In the north area of the quarter, the first towers already dominated the landscape with their anonymous architecture, along with the empty streets and geometrically seeded trees, interspersed with steeled lamp posts. This was the future that awaited the luckiest ones.

Many years passed when, in 2016, I read by chance an article about this quarter and its problems: recently-built flats and yet empty, squatters, old people scared of going out and neighbours who had to cross the river to buy a loaf of bread because there wasn’t a bakery left in the quarter, shops and minimum services had almost disappeared.

The most disturbing thing is that, despite of the countless negative examples of this type of city, we still suggest the same patterns.

catalana barcelona Sant Adriá Besós españa bw

©Filippo Poli

My little contribution was to document this world which is about to disappear (probably when you read this, it would already be part of the city’s history), its last inhabitants, the demolition its tiny houses, some strange objects that looked as ghosts which presaged the disappearance of this place’s histories and lives and the threating billboard next to Ronda that announced the arrival of new towers (it still was there after 7 years…). Then, in 2016 when I visited it, I could photograph the movements of land, urban gardens that appeared in the waste lands and the last traces of a now ephemeral use of this place, whose tiny houses had disappeared.

catalana barcelona Sant Adriá Besós españa bw

©Filippo Poli

Towards the middle of the year 2017, I came back again, without a camera, now the whole place is fenced, the mountains of earth have been moved or flattened, gardens and huts have disappeared, there is every sign that in two years this terrain vague will be devoured by brick hunger. I will return.

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