The mostly ugly, ponderous and traffic-laden Via Laietana cuts the old quarter of Barcelona in two, It was built between 1907 and 1926, with the declared aim of communicating the Eixample with the waterfront, amid much controversy and claims of corruption. A large number of old houses were demolished causing severe housing shortages among the poor residents. Via Laietana was named after the Laietanii, an Iberian tribe who inhabited the region around Barcelona region. In 1937, it was renamed Via Durruti, after the death of the anarchist leader during the Spanish Civil War.
As some of the traditional guilds of the city, some dating back to the Middle Ages, were located there, they had to be relocated in different parts of Barri Gòtic, notably Plaça de Sant Felip Neri. Francesc Cambó, a prominent politician of the time, built his personal residence in the avenue.