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Poblenou: from the industrial to smartcity

Poblenou, from Barcelona’s old industrial centre to new business, innovation and tourist district.

El Poblenou is a northern neighborhood of Barcelona, contained within the district of Sant Martí. Our BARCELONA & THE FUTURE is an urban walking reflection on the main aims of urbanism and how they have been applied in the 22@ district in Poblenou. This was once a neighborhood full of small factories that is now being revitalized in an attempt to recapture the spirit of it’s industrial heyday.

But, what makes Poblenou so special? Today we want to tell you something more about the history of this neighbourhood.

Historically known as the ‘Catalan Manchester’ for its role as the city’s industrial centre in the 19th and early 20th century, nowadays it is becoming a very attractive place to live for many young people. Strongly revitalised after the 1992 Olympic Games and currently characterised by a rich architectural landscape and vibrant artistic scene, it is the city’s new business and technology district, being also very interesting for tourists willing to step outside of the usual routes.


During the Industrial Revolution Poblenou became an industrial hub

The land that El Poblenou occupies was once marshy, which is recalled by Llacuna street and metro station (Llacuna is Catalan for lagoon). Between the 12th and 13th centuries, the area was used to farm cattle and some masías (farmhouses) were built. Until the eighteenth century the land was only used for agriculture.

During the Industrial Revolution, Poblenou played a central role, becoming the cornerstone of not only Catalan but also Iberian industry, particularly in the textile sector, so as to earn the nickname ‘Catalan Manchester’. Among the factors promoting this change were: the presence of extensive and cheap land and the proximity to Barcelona’s harbour. Poblenou became the industrial neighbourhood of the city and people started living here. A railway connecting Barcelona to Mataró was built” in 1848, the first railway in the Iberian Peninsula.


The 1992 Olympic Games triggered Poblenou’s rebirth

After a period of decay, Poblenou underwent a further dramatic transformation, with the 1992 Olympic Games being the main trigger for this, recovering the area and opening the entire city to the sea. Most of the factories and train lines next to the seafront were torn down while those in good shape and located throughout the district were mostly preserved. Many new areas were developed such as the Vila Olímpica (the residential area for the athletes during the Olympics), and new artificial beaches were built. The Vila Olímpica also became the first residential area built next to the city’s coastline, besides the old fishing neighbourhood of Barceloneta. Also, in 1999, the Diagonal Avenue, which previously stopped at Glòries Square, was stretched to the sea and the new Diagonal Mar and Fòrum areas.


The neighbourhood’s revitalisation continues with the 22@ Plan

Poblenou’s revitalisation continues with a new plan – called 22@ – aimed at reviving the entire area through the creation of a two-hundred-hectare technological and innovation district, which was definitively approved by Barcelona’s City Council in 2000. The aim was to attract local and international companies, mostly working in the technology and creative sectors, along with the development of residential and leisure zones.

Today the 22@ District plays host to universities, research and training centers, startups and cutting-edge technology companies alike.  Since 2000, more than 3,500 businesses have moved to the innovation district and, with the almost 100,000 employees working there, Poblenou has witnessed a nearly 25% increase in residents.


With our BARCELONA & THE FUTURE walking tour, you will discover so much more about this special district and we rub shoulders with architecture’s brightest stars, we’ll talk about independence, patents, parametric architecture, cradle to cradle, superblocks, the carbon footprint and, of course, Ildefons Cerdà, the Master and Founder of Barcelona’s gridded plan.

Book here

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