Friday, January 8, 2010

Squatters and Graffiti at "La Otra Carboneria"

I doubted about the title of this post, as I'm not sure how to categorise the artwork on display in central Barcelona, Calle Floridablanca, 122 on the corner of Calle Urgell, 30, which covers the whole facade of the building. Graffiti? I think the term is extending and breaching borders with such work by the guys at axe colours for example.

la Otra Carbonería - Barcelonasights blog

What you're looking at, ladies and gents, is La Otra Carbonería (old link to wordpress blog, but the new link on top blog post doesn't work). This is a building in the centre of Barcelona which has been occupied by squatters for over a year. The fantastic artwork has not been up there as long, and sufaced around October last year.

The "Other Coal-house" describes itself as "A self-managed social centre, an open space for the neighbourhood and the city, occupied in civil disobedience to laws that perpetuate injust situations; from which to generate social activities such as debates, lectures, information points, artistic practices, workshops, knowledge exchange, etc."

There are many buildings in Barcelona which are occupied by squatters, and some are more open and political than others. For many, squatting is a big problem. I know from my own experience living in the old town and witnessing various evictions over my ten years here, that the "problem" very often returns. It's not that there are so many abandoned buildings in Barcelona, rather that the law seems to favour the squatters. In November last year, this story hit all the news channels after a normal apartment (not an entire building) was "occupied" by a young family who changed locks, etc. and the owners have not been able to access their own apartment for over 16 months. The Judge presiding over the case decided to leave the family in the occupied apartment - which the real owner is paying for in full - as they had no way of finding alternative accommodation. The real owners were forced to live with their daughter, and rightly complained that if they did not have family to fall back on, they would have to pay for their occupied apartment, and a hotel, too.

However, entire buildings such as La Otra Carboneria are there to serve as a constant reminder of how difficult it is for the young people in Barcelona to own their own apartment. The average size of a Barcelona apartment is 60m2, with an average cost of 4000 Euros per square metre, giving a total of 240,000 Euros for an average apartment. Given the fact that 99% of banks will refuse first time buyers who do not have a guarantee of (for example) a parent's property, or around 40% of the total amount as a down payment (who the hell has 96,000€ kicking around?!), you can understand the existance of social opposition such as "no vas a tener casa en la puta vida" - "You'll never have a home in your fucking life". I'm going to touch on this theme again this month, so subscribe if this is something that interests you, and please leave comments if you'd like to contribute anything.

Coming to Barcelona this month? Try apartments for rent in Barcelona for your own home away from home. And for a quick detail of the best sights to see, check out this Barcelona Guide.


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