The Development Of Democracy In Barcelona

Democracy started as a piece of paper and just so happens to be one of the most important documents in the world.

The Magna Carta, meaning “The Great Charter” has inspired people across the centuries. This document can be traced as far back as 1215 in Medieval England where the ruler was King John and was known widely as “one of the worst kings in history”. From torturing his wife, his opponents and murdering his nephew, he has also forced his barons to pay heavy taxes in order to pay for his own expenses and if they refused, he would punish them, or he would take their property. The barons had enough and stated that King John should also follow the law, so they decided to turn against him and captured England which forced the king to negotiate and sign the document, written by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Stephen Langton.

The Magna Carta was supposed to keep the peace, but it caused England to go into war when the pope declared the charter as invalid. When King John died in 1216, another king sat on the throne and to keep the peace decided to reinstate the document once again. The document was reissued several times across the 13th century until it was put into the English law.

No matter how many times the Magna Carta was changed, it still had one important rule and that was everyone, including our leaders, must obey the law and have an equal say in what happens in the economy.

Spain’s Democracy

It was not until 1978 when Spain made a full transition to democracy. The transition started with the death of Francisco Franco in November 1975. In October 1936, the Nationalist indicated General Franco as the head of states as all the leaders had died. He ruled over with a brutal military dictatorship which caused the execution of thousands as well as imprisoning them during the earlier years of his leadership. Franco delegated Spain a monarchy in 1947, but did not appoint a monarch, instead enjoying many privileges of a king without taking such a title. When he died, Juan Carlos ruled over and although many expected him to continue the way Franco did with the country, he immediately began a process of democratisation, appointing a prime minister in 1976 who became the first democratically elected prime minister of Spain in over 40 years.

Barcelona

There is no doubt that Barcelona is one of the most visited cities in the world. The city’s architecture is an attraction itself. If you walk around the city, you will encounter an endless amount of captivating buildings and hidden beauties. Barcelona is a dream city for someone who loves urban spaces. When one pictures the city in their mind, it is always the elegant streets lined with attractive houses and countless outdoor cafes and art museums.

Barcelona has combined a special relationship between the private and public spaces. This is due to “the uses they are put to by residents in accordance with their needs”, the organisation of the venues, the location of squares, which is the key and act as magnets drawing the life of the city towards them, and the significance of open spaces, as well as adding parks and gardens.

In the 19th century, urban planner Ildefons Cerda had the opportunity to turn a massive land of market gardens and orchards into a city but decided against it. He is now responsible for the classic grid-lined look as part of an extension work for the city called the “Eixample”. Many years after it was designed, Eixample still has its chamfered street corners, diagonal boulevards, wide avenues crisscrossing at right angles, and the nearby park. It remains efficient and has adapted with all kinds of change. These changes include filling-in all the gaps of all four facades and the current use of the inner courtyard which enabled them to increase the height of the buildings.

One of the famous areas in Barcelona is the Placa de Catalunya. In the 19th century, after the old city halls were demolished, an idea to create this area into a public space for the city came up by being pitched by the residents. It was first urbanised in 1902 and since then the square has been renovated several times due to increase in population, with a total increase of 7 million people as of 2017. The square contains attractions to fit everyone’s lifestyle and to appeal to everyone in the area. Travel and tourism play an important role in the economy, with the industry having a major effect on economic growth and employment; making a significant difference in the developments in the area as well. Due to the large amounts of people constantly visiting, and each year the number of tourists increasing, people who live in Barcelona are feeling more and more claustrophobic and in need of an open space to go to.

Placa de Catalunya is considered the most famous square in Barcelona, surrounded by some of the city’s most popular attractions, making it a great environment where people can relax and gather whilst also having everything in plain sight. By having a large open space for people to do whatever they want makes the area appealing to all ages, whether it is youth and their outside activities or the elderly coming out to sit on the benches to socialise. With its large shopping centres and department stores, the square is constantly filled with people which is why the large space, multiple benches and areas for people to sit and relax, is needed. It is Barcelona’s most central area and a favourite meeting place for locals, it also appeals a lot of tourists making the area even more of a sociable gathering place. The square was decorated and has been a place for student projects where students from Escola Massana decorated its underground walls with a unique and colourful mosaics.

The Barcelona Municipal Home for Seniors

As urban development increases rapidly, a bunch of necessary infrastructures had to be built. The health and socio-health centre of the Municipal Healthcare Institute was added in the city. The building having an area of more than 375,000 square feet, and being larger than the Eixample block, is able to hold a considerable amount of offices. The architects wanted to design this home for seniors in an unusual manner in which they used the characteristics of a hotel to change the atmosphere; from having a gloomy and impending atmosphere where they feel like they are waiting for death, they changed it to a livelier and more exciting time of their life. They wanted the seniors to not miss out on the outside world whilst they are living inside, making this experience feel more like a holiday and them wanting to be there rather than them feeling like they need to be there. The infrastructure is surrounded by big windows, reminiscing the design of a hotel and giving them more connection to the outside. By letting more light and life into the building, it gives them the ability to see the city life from the inside. This shows the amount of consideration they put in for the elders and their needs, so they will not feel lonely as they will still feel like they are living their normal lives.

Elders are one of the most commonly prone to depression due to some factors of loneliness. The majority of seniors in a care home are more likely to be there because they have no one else to look after them or their families have no space or time for them in their own lives or homes, especially with the increase of the working woman in today’s society. Another factor I found from research is that the elderly could be feeling depressed due to social networking and a solution could be “Increasing social interaction may be more beneficial than strategies based on improving maladaptive social cognition in loneliness to reduce the prevalence of depression among Spanish older adults”, therefore, the community felt the need to improve on the home for seniors as it will also improve their social life.

Barcelona en Comu

Beginning in June 2014, Barcelona en Comu is a citizen platform created by citizens, organisations and political organisations to give more power to ordinary people. Its main priorities are defending equal rights financially and socially, introducing mechanisms to tackle corruption, and developing a new model of tourism for Barcelona. From the group’s website I have found their priorities and how they want to make Barcelona a democratic city, “We are promoting measures that blind the institution against corruption, guarantee, transparency and enhance direct participation and accountability, four necessary conditions for a healthy democracy“

In coordination with groups and movements that function in the neighbourhood and know the reality, meetings with the neighbours of Barcelona are organised to present the principle and basic commitment of the platform whilst sharing the urgent problems that is going on in the area.

The Barcelona Botanical Gardens and Institute

Whilst Barcelona is trying and getting closer and closer to being a fully democratic city, there are still examples of how they execute projects and spend money on things that may not have been as urgent or as helpful to the public.

The botanical garden is one of the most fascinating amenities the city can offer to its residents and tourists. It is located right beside the Mediterranean Sea and on the opposite side the hills of Collserola. The site is set up with triangulated concrete lines that form a zig-zagging network of paths that run up and down the area. This is to allow the visitors to see as much of the 35 acres of the gardens as possible. The routes were strategically made to connect the various buildings and other amenities in the entire complex whilst combining the open spaces. These act as natural squares offering different services for the comfort and convenience of visitors.

Barcelona is one of the most successful city magnets in the world and more and more buildings and facilities are made every year. It sure is great to travel and learn more about the city itself, but one can be tired of seeing buildings wherever they go, so building a botanical garden on the seaside can be great. You get a sense of freedom from the busyness of the city, which is a great idea for people to go and visit and take a mental break, although, there are other issues that could have been dealt with rather than this being built.

Conclusion

Barcelona has come a long way with democracy, the development of everyday spaces and experiences in the city. It has taken into consideration the people’s issues as well as what needs improving and developing within the city. Although, some of the projects they have done could have been improved or thought through; for example, I personally think that the idea of the botanical gardens could have been postponed or could have been planned better by focusing on more important issues that needed to be addressed such as housing shortages due to the increase in tourism.