La Ribera neighbourhood
The construction of the Ciutadella citadel (1716-1748), according to plans drawn up by Joris Prosper van Verboom, entailed the demolition of one-fifth of all the houses in Barcelona. One thousand homes were knocked down, the equivalent to all the housing in cities like Mataró, Girona and Reus in those days. The demolition zone, which covered 17% of the total area of the city, was also an important, highly active economic and social centre in Barcelona. The destruction affected the course of the Comtal irrigation canal, as well as a considerable proportion of the city’s industries, the market area and the port services zone. Tanneries were lost, as were string makers’, the city’s slaughterhouse, fishmongers’, dozens of warehouses, taverns, salt, sumac and tobacco works, etc. All this had a serious effect on the development of these and other activities. The loss of infrastructure in the area was accompanied by the elimination of the entire Born commercial sector, an area occupied by grocer’s shops, hostels and taverns, in such streets as Bonaire, Joc de la Pilota and Pla d’en Llull; part of the Rec industrial zone. Also demolished were the dense blocks of buildings dedicated to activities relating to the sea and the port, industries, pelota courts and market gardens watered by the canal in the Fusina neighbourhood. Buildings with religious and social care functions were also pulled down. These included the convents and monasteries of Santa Clara, Sant Agustí the Clergues Menors, the Hospital of Santa Marta and the chapels of Montserrat and the Sant Esperit.
The city’s nerve-centre for economic and social activity was Plaça del Born, an authentic town square that served as the venue for countless purposes. There was a daily fruit, vegetable and poultry market here, and the square was also the site of religious celebrations, exemplary punishments meted out by the authorities, glass and wax fairs and bullfights. The destruction of La Ribera neighbourhood to make way for the Ciutadella complex turned Plaça del Born into a marginal space that had lost one whole side and parts of two more. The site now looked onto the Ciutadella esplanade, over which rose the silhouette of the fortress, or citadel.
The destruction of much of La Ribera neighbourhood affected the city’s capacity for growth, as it entailed the loss of the space where the most important economic activities took place, and drove families into poverty, condemning them to live in terrible conditions due to the piles of rubble in nearby streets or forcing them to live outside the city walls, in the beach area.