THE EVOLUTION OF THE COMMONS THROUGH THE TRIAD OF DWELLING, SOCIALISATION AND PRODUCTION

A methodology applied to the area of influence of the Llobregat River (Catalonia)

Lecture at the the 17th Biennial IASC Global Conference “In Defense of the Commons: Challenges, Innovation, and Action“, PUCP, UNIVERSIDAD DE LOS ANDES and IASC, Lima, PERÚ (July 2019)

The Llobregat River crosses the Province of Barcelona (in the north-east of the Iberian Peninsula) shaping an important territorial axis. It has always been a common resource of great relevance that ensured the subsistence of several communities that inhabited its area of influence.

The river also played a key role in the industrialisation of Catalonia, which paradoxically caused the enclosure of part of its course (or at least its uses). Especially since the 19th century, private rights to use the river have prevailed over several of the traditional common uses. The old communal mills were disentailed or sold at low cost to become factories. Water became the main source of energy to feed the industries (mainly textiles) settled along the course of the river. Despite the enclosures, the process created a sequence of industrial complexes, which broadened the common heritage legacy.

When the crisis of the industrial model hit Catalonia (at the end of the 20th century), neither the owners of the factories, nor the public administration were able to find a solution to stop the social and heritage decline. Nevertheless, when new commons started to rise globally, this industrial heritage began to be vindicated by grassroots as a common landscape.

This historical round-trip back to commons transformed the territory and the architecture around the Llobregat River. This article analyses this spatial evolution, emphasising the relationship of the commons and three fundamental needs of humankind: dwelling, socialisation and production. Finally, the investigation draws some conclusions about the relation between changes in cooperation and the functions of space.