Encants III – Architecture in Blue

Two short galleries of very different architectural images, taken on a short walk around the area of the Encants market at Glories, Barcelona.

The area is undergoing a construction boom at present, with large modern developments for housing of all types, offices, hotels and additional space for schools and universities. Much of this architecture makes a complete break with Barcelona’s historical building styles, adopting a very modern glass-and-steel approach.

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In parallel with these constructions, the area is also seeing the emergence of chabolas (shanty towns), usually built in the plots of cleared land before construction starts on the latest edifice.

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These are being used by “chatarreros” – the people that you see roaming the streets using shopping trolleys to collect items for recycling. They cluster here due to the nearby Encants markets (both legal and illegal), and also the warehouses that pay for recyclable material.

The contrast and parallels with the adjacent new and very expensive constructions could not be greater. Both are being driven by sets of people with the aim of increasing their wealth, and both could be regarded as prime examples of capitalist systems.

The chatarreros form part of a complex social system that operates in parallel to the mainstream. Just as in real life, there are both exploiters and the exploited. Those at the top of the chain are well organised and do very well, profiting directly and indirectly from illegal economic activity. Those at the bottom do much less well, excluded from the mainstream support and protection that most in Europe take for granted.

It is a system defined and controlled by cultures of exclusion and nationality rather than by law and rights. It is not something that should exist in Barcelona in the 21st century.


  1. How the ‘have’ and ‘have nots’ live, can be found in almost all world cities, it is embarrassing to walk in some of the areas with an expensive camera round your neck . Interesting series, Mark.

  2. There is really nothing embarrassing about shooting these kind of subjects so long as the motivation is clear. In this case, we are trying to motivate the city council to take action, as the default reaction to issues such as this is to shrug the shoulders and dismiss any action as being too politically risky.

    Unfortunately, I can not post a lot of what we know about the situation in the area. However, the “exploiters” in this case are essentially an ethnically grouped mafia that are more than capable of buying very expensive cameras with the profit that they are making from a mix of the chatarreros and drugs. They are also directly and indirectly responsible for serious problems of damage and theft in the area – last week we had two break-ins in our street alone, both related to people trying to illegally rob and/or occupy properties.

    With the combination of mass tourism and criminality, it is becoming impossible to leave peacefully or safely in Barcelona. If the city is serious about building a future around education and high-technology this must change.

    There are numerous possible solutions, and there is plenty of money to implement them. Unfortunately, all the politicians seem to want to do here is make buildings – regardless as to whether or not they are needed. I can not imagine that this has anything to do with the current CDC (now PDeCAT) corruption scandal, where the dominant party had been illegally creaming off a percentage of public construction project funds for itself. There are some excellent people in local government here, but far too many politicians are little more than sophisticated versions of the mafias creating and exploiting the problems seen in this post…

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