Rambla del Raval
The palm-lined Rambla de Raval is in some ways today more authentic than the more famous older Rambla. The avenue was opened up at the turn of the 21st century as part of the Council’s policy of esponjament (literary “sponging” = creating open areas in dense areas – see below). This swept away two paralell streets of tenament blocks and left a number of people homeless, though urbanistically the result has been positive, as it has linked the top and bottom halves of El Raval, and provided an much needed space for strolling and leisure. What is awful and contradictory is the building of an ultra modern four star hotel half way down the street, utterly out of tune with the history and residents of the area.
At the corner of C/Cardona is an easily overlooked unofficial plaque to the legendary anarcho-syndicalist leader Salvador Segui, who was gunned down here. Just down from here is the expensive but classic Casa Leopoldo, an essential point in Barcelona’s literary scene. A few doors down C/Cardona the delightfully decorated El Cafetí is a very good mid-priced option.
Most of the plethora of bars and restauants are what they are. Moving seawards near the end on your right there are a series of mostly unremarkable kebab shops, except for the superb Moroccan xxxx, often with considerable queues outside.
Further down la Rambla del Raval is my favourite public sculpture in the city, Botero’s cat. Opposite for nostagic Brits missing a bit of grease and carbohydrates Barcelona’s only chippie is here. That said they aren’t bad at all.
The origins of the Rambla del Raval at least on the drawing board lie in the desire of the authorities to control El Raval as is noted by Chris Ealham in his seminal Anarchism and the City through the work of GATCPAC and the architect Le Corbusier:
Growing official concern at ‘Chinatown’ culminated in the drawing up of the Plà Macià (Macià Plan), which formed part of the Generalitat’s modernist plan for rational urban development and regional planning.182 Plà Macià as commissioned in the spring of 1932, a collaborative venture between the catalaniste planning think tank, the GATCPAC (Grup d’Arquitectes i Tècnics Catalans or Catalan Technicians and Architects Group) and Le Corbusier, the Svengali of modernist urban technocratic utopias; following a meeting with Macià in Barcelona, Le Corbusier’s admiration of authority obliged him to name the project in honour of the Catalan president.183 Inspired by his maxim Architecture or revolution. Revolution can be avoided’, Le Corbusier’s ideas can be looked upon as the perfect urbanist foil to the ‘republic of order’.184 Unveiled in 1934, the Plà Macià contained the promise of modernity, of a ‘new Barcelona’, remapping the entire region in accordance with the most advanced principles of urban planning as embodied by the GATCPAC. The crux of the Plà Macià revolved around the demolition of the Raval, an area visited by Le Corbusier during one of his trips to Barcelona that left him appalled by its unsalubrious and dilapidated housing stock and urban density. The solution, he felt, lay in the ‘mopping up’ (esponjament) of the Raval’s streets, which would give way to a series of straight roads and major thoroughfares capable of aiding the movement of goods throughout the Barcelona area.
Places in El Raval