Modern urban planning in Barcelona is a reflection of historical processes that have defined the city, as well as rapid political and metropolitan development after Franco's regime. Barcelona is rather transparent city, its neighborhoods, development and extreme complexity are discourses testifying social tensions and turbulences Barcelona lived through.
In the last couple of decades Raval residents were very dissatisfied because of the government’s lack of attention to their problems, such as increased crime rates, unemployment, drugs, poor quality housing, as well as negligent enforcement of sanitary protection. Raval was marginalized through history for a long time, and under diverse political regimes. Due to all those reasons Raval’s residents started protesting in 1987, which led to reconstruction of Raval and critical clarification of urban culture planning.
Modern Barcelona contains the remains of the planning of the Roman era, and Roman foundations set the basis for urban planning of Barcelona for centuries to come. During the Middle Ages the construction of fortresses and ports was dominant. From 19th century, urban planers endeavored to make projects that will make Barcelona look more like industrial city, pretty popular model in Europe in that time. In this period, population has grown rapidly, and in the end of 19th century Barcelona’s population was half of a million, and in 1930 there were more then a million residents. However, Barcelona’s fast development was interrupted with The Spanish Civil War and Franco’s regime. In this period a domination of speculators in the city left its trade. They made profit out of post-war city renovation while downgrading city urbanization. Although urban development planes were suggested, urbanization proceeded with the abuse of norms. Under the circumstances Raval continued to change and spread. This process led to difficulties and during the peak of the post-war expansion there were 100.000 residents in 1 km2, which contributed the poor quality of life in the district.
In Barcelona, each political party alternated, had its own urban development suggestions. After socialist party won the elections in 1987, they came with urban development plan focused on Raval rehabilitation. They were focused on increasing the quality of housing, social services, security and the establishment of social space, completion of the bypass, the extension of subway lines, etc. The most important part that led to change of Raval’s image and the way of life in more positive way, were cultural changes they made, such as transferring faculties in Raval, as well as Cultural Center of Modern Barcelona CCCB (Centro de Cultura Conteporánia de Barcelona) and the Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art MACBA (Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona). This changes launched a series of events that will make Raval cultural, artistic and educational centre of Barcelona.
Cultural and artistic reorientation of Raval led to opening of significant number of art studios and schools, music schools, galleries, modern bookstores, small theatres, concept stores, chic boutiques, markets, bars, music clubs, tapas places and small workshops from bohemian artists. High concentration of foreign populations like Moroccan, Pakistanis and Africans gave the area multicultural note, and made of it place with even more character and personality. Multiculturalism in Raval is not referred only to variety of different nations, but as well to array of cultures and subcultures present, such as urban, hippie, chic, grunge, modern or traditional. Raval’s spirit is also enriched with many cultural events and film festivals such as Culture Free Festival, International Auteur Film Festival, Kosmopolis – International Literature Fest, L’Alternativa Film Festival, etc. Culture is around every corner in Raval. All the ongoings justify the slogan ‘Raval is culture’.
Case of Raval is an excellent example to show the way culture can contribute to the development of a place, city, even a country. Raval’s position and reputation of marginal area, paradise for all the dropouts of the society, is changed with the process of urbanization, but even more with the process of ‘culturalization’. Culture, art and cuisine led to change the image of Raval from marginalized to center of creativity, cool, hippie and urban place. All of the concepts and events designed and organized helped creating a new, more positive image of Raval and its re-branding. This case can be highly inspiring for the urban planners, politicians and social scientists involved in the questions of the city to requestion and analyze social, cultural and political impact on urbanization and development of city. It is also inspiring as a model, for other cities and countries with similar problems to find potentials and new ways of progress through culture and creativity.