It is sweeter to wander with the wretched and outcasts than to sit crowned with roses at the banquets of the rich
Elisee Reclus

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Barcelona: Things to do when you're sick of Gaudi

Barcelona is an ongoing struggle like always. If you are sick of being inadvertanly photographed in Parc Güell and all that sickly Gaudi architecture, The Ruinist can send you somewhere to rise above the city and reflect once more on play, ruins and the military need for height.

Head to Parc Güell and ignore most of it. Find yourself just inside on the right-hand side (off Carrer d'Olot) and take the path that heads out the Parc and into Carretera del Carmel and walk east. Walk along until the road turns round on itself and find Carre de Pastuer and go up that one. At some point you'll see that the houses begin to end and there's tiny alley and stairs on the left going up. Take that and keep going. Stay strong as it seems like you're going nowhere but over rubble and crud but finally you'll end up right at the entrance to the Parc on Carre de Muhlburg. Here its best to scrabble up the cliffside because where you are heading is right above you. It's concrete and very colourful.

Carmel and Guinardo Parc are areas that are struggling against gentrification. Home once to bourgeois houses, after the War, the whole area, the 'peeled mountainside' (muntanya pelada) became a vast shanty town of self-built poor shacks and houses. Micheal Eaude's fantastic and radical book on Barcelona describes 'streets of dust or mud...home made houses without water, electricity, sewage or transportation'. Most of these have now been cleared by the Council since the regeneration wrought on the city since the 1992 Olympics but the area remains solid proletarian in feel and ambience and many houses sport banners proclaiming 'Park Yes, Eviction No!. These resistances refer to the gentrifying return of luxury houses and the threats to the park despite its mighty and new wooden footbridge over the quarryside. Over the last 20 years, the Residents Association and their newspaper The Voice of The Street (La veu del carrer) has fought many battles and The Ruinist hopes they succeed in keeping their area the way they like it.

One of the most amazing remnants of the Civil War still lies at the height of Carmel - an abandoned fort that housed anti-aircraft batteries. Built at one of the highest parts of the city, the view is astounding. It's really like being in a light aircraft above the city streets below. The Ruinist had heard that it was a good view but we were stunned.

Not only this but the outpost has become a playground for adventures, drifters, bunker spotter and graf kids. There isn't a surface that isn't covered in spraypaint. Surfaces or chamber you can access via stairwells. When The Ruinist happened by a loner graf girl was working hard on her piece, spraying, checking, spraying, filling in.

There were also a load of nice stencil works and wonderful old tile floors in states of disrepair and graf coverage. A feast for the eyes indeed. The Ruinist also found a long painted text that remembered the 20 years of love enjoyed by the named Judith and Toni at the fort (no doubt). We couldn't help but to amend with some surnames.

The Ruinist took it upon themselves to collect spraycan caps and archive them on one of the old gun emplacements, overlooking the city, protecting it and ready to fire on any approaching speculator or would-be authority.

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