Look up from your tapas and watch the flow of people—neighbors, tourists, artists and peddlers—stroll down the Rambla. They disappear down the metro to resurface in some vibrant plaza or hillside neighborhood, climbing stairs to high-ceilinged apartments with views over this walkable metropolis. Barcelona, celebrated as a model for contemporary urbanism, architecture, and landscape, is also a city with innovative housing models, strong community identities and a long history of activism.
For four weeks every summer, David’s students explore the relationship between urbanism, community, and housing—examining Barcelona’s history, planning models, housing policies, and grass-roots activism. With the city as a classroom, learning happens through daily field trips, guest lectures, design projects, and conversations at sidewalk cafes, where we will learn, synthesize, and apply knowledge to actual places in this Mediterranean city.
This summer we will work with local designers, activists and city officials on four dynamic case studies:
1. Vallcarca – Vallcarca is a hillside community in the district of Gracia, once at the periphery of the city. Over the past decades it has faced development pressure, and City efforts to demolish portions of the community for highway projects have stalled out. Community resistance has emerged in the form of alternative urban projects and proposals. In 2017 a competition was held to approve a new urban plan.
2. La Borda / Can Batlló – The former factory complex of Can Batlló has been the site of neighborhood conflict over development for decades, and is now an experiment in self-managed and self-built community space. We will learn about a project in the works called La Borda, an innovative model of cooperative apartment housing that his now expanding beyond this location.
3. Superilles – Cerdà’s grid has stood up to the test of time as an innovative model for urban development, but it diverged from its original design and has become less friendly to pedestrians, bicyclists, while using a large amount of public space for automobile transportation. The urbanism department is now experimenting with a new model to break up the grid into super-blocks.
4. PDU Gran Via – Delta de Llobregat – At the outskirts of the metropolis of Barcelona, the government wants to transform a big piece of 1 milion of m2 of farming land between the city, highways and the river Llobregat into a business district with towers. However a citizen movement and some political parties oppose to this urban plan.
Students can receive credit for upper-division courses in community development or landscape architecture. No prerequisites are required to enroll and the course is open to college students from any institution.
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