Culture-Led Urban Transformation: The Example of Barcelona

Thesis Type: Postgraduate

Institution Of The Thesis: Istanbul University, Faculty Of Literature, Department Of Sociology, Turkey

Approval Date: 2021

Thesis Language: Turkish

Student: Umut Deniz Öncel

Supervisor: Mehmet Ali Akyurt


Deindustrialization processes in the old industrial cities cause the formation of ruinious areas in the cities. City administrators implements various strategies to develop these locations which negatively affect the city image and economy. In this context, the effort to increase the share of the service sector in the city economy, which first started in the US cities, was followed by the managers of the European cities after successful examplesIn many European cities, a city brand was created by strengthening the urban identity, and it was aimed to bring tourists and international white collars to the city. Among the service sectors that have gained importance in the deindustrialization process of cities, business areas related to culture come to the fore, and culture assumes economic and political functions in the transformation of urban space.

Barcelona, which this thesis focuses on, is one of the European cities that are trying to overcome the problem of deindustrialization and depressed regions through culture-based urban transformation. The research examines the manifestations of the economic and political functions of culture in the urban space of Barcelona, in other words, the role of culture in the urban transformation process of Barcelona.In the study, the document review method has been preferred as the basic data collection method. Scientific articles, books, blog posts with observations and photographs about the transformation processes, newspaper news, statistics and reports prepared by regional and central official institutions are used as data sources.

In the thesis, Barcelona's 30-year culture-based urban transformation experience is examined by limiting it under the titles of neighborhood, international event, actor, project and old industrial facility. With the economic and political functions it undertakes to produce culture in Barcelona; cultural consumption gains importance as it allows for individual and class distinctions; culture rises to the position of the main tool of the transformations in urban space. In this context, the claim in the thesis that the "Barcelona model" provides an example that can be applied to other cities in transforming the slum areas in the city center with the help of culture, is evaluated from a critical point of view based on historical realities and this model is compared to cities such as New York, North Adams and Glasgow, which are undergoing a similar transformation.

Raval Neighborhood, located in the city center of Barcelona and having a negative image, has been transformed due to cultural policies.  The name of the neighborhood was changed first, and then the clustering of cultural institutions in the neighborhood has been ensured. Urban transformation was not limited to Raval Neighborhood, international events held in the city were seen as an opportunity and the process continued. The urban transformation that started in the Poblenou Neighborhood with the aim of developing the information economy has brought various actors to face to face.