A sense of place trail through Barcelona

From the site of the Republican Army’s Spanish Civil War gun placements and shelters.

Working through Nick Lloyd’s Iberia Nature and Spanish Civil War tours I was able to take some visitors on a rarely-run, long Barcelona walk at the weekend.  We ventured through some of the city’s particularly meaning-laden places, as well as other places less well-known, applying a kind of sense of place framework as we went.

Here’s a quick run-down of the morning-into-afternoon:

The sober splendour of Santa Maria del Mar at the start of the day.

— How built places can nourish and inspire awe in the extraordinary endeavors of our predecessors.

Imagining the last stand of the Barcelonins against invading Bourbon forces in 1714 and the subsequent oppression of the city, its cultures and institutions (at Fossar de les Moreres and the Mercat del Born).

— How places can be so steeped in meaning and identity-defining for particular groups (“locals” perhaps) and yet not for others (e.g. oblivious passersby).  How places become politicised because of this, and what this means for planning, heritage management, conservation and other decision-making processes.

To Gràcia town on a local bus through the Eixample, talking about socialist engineers and meeting Sr. Rovira i Trias (in his bronze form)

— How designs can be made for better lives through planned places–from drawing board and Greenfield site to reality, albeit a reality subsequently “compromised” by privatisation of space, property speculation, and the onslaught of motorised traffic with its accompanying noise, hardware, stress and contamination.

Skirting Park Güell, the gated community that was never to be.  But what now, gated tourism?

— How open, public places must be shared by different groups, despite their differing interests, appreciation and forms of attachment, and despite the differing costs and stresses they impose on a place.

Leaving the crowds behind amidst the spring flowers, shrubs and fruit trees of the more workaday Parc Carmel.

— How the “ordinary” in places can also be a source of enjoyment and reflection.

The legacy of “barraquisme” (shanty towns in Barcelona) and the systematic bombing of Barcelona during the Spanish Civil War.

— How the history of places is multi-layered: there is always more than one source for the stories a place can tell. 

360-degree views to inspire further conversation, particularly on the landmarks that attest to Barcelona-style boosterism (or exhibitionism), 1888 to 2004.

— How power seeks to inflate places with mythology, project place images and foster place imaginings along flight pathways and fibre-optic cable–but to serve whose interests?

Wandering wearily down to the neighbourhood of Horta in warm sunshine talking about the injustices of “el crisis”, particularly in Spain, and the future for young people in general–is a better, fairer society possible?

— How places are indeed multi-sensorial–they tire and inspire you, and passing through them encourages you to think and converse.

A 6-hour Barcelona walk, grazing at local cafés along the way and hearing about Oakland California too.

— How places never exist as islands.  However tenuously or infrequently, different places and their people interconnect and inform each other.

If you’re interested in going on a Barcelona tour like this or similar please get in touch via Nick Lloyd’s tour pages.  His Spanish Civil War tours in Barcelona are highly recommended, by the way.

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