La Mina

Nicholas Socrates

Urban Design: Art, City, Society.

Project: La Mina, 2009


In the 1920s Barcelona was the fastest growing city in Europe. The population of Barcelona expanded by 62 per cent during that decade and adjacent blue-collar suburbs like Hospitalet and Santa Coloma doubled and tripled in population. Modernization and industrialization were proceeding at a rapid pace. Migrants from nearby regions were flooding into the city to take jobs. By the 1930s the province of Catalonia, with about 6 million residents, contained about 70% of the manufacturing capacity of Spain. Barcelona had become Spain’s largest city, with 1.5 million people.

The rapid expansion of the city led to a serious housing shortage and a rapid rent inflation that had rent rising up to 150% in many areas. The severe shortage of housing also led to serious problems of overcrowding and deterioration in the kind of housing available to the working class. There was some public housing — inexpensive concrete buildings — but only 2,200 units had been built. The city relied overwhelmingly on the private real estate market to provide housing.

When the 1992 Olympics arrived in the city it brought with it more than a few hundred runners, bikers jumpers and swimmers; millions of tourists flanked the city, certainly a monetary bonus for tourism sectors, but hotels, parking lots, restaurants and the like needed to be built to accommodate the millions of people that Barcelona would host. There was a problem with space! As the city is built between the sea and the mountains, urban sprawl is not an option. Meaning housing costs would sky rocket and Barcelonites, pushed out of their own territory. The games indeed did spank a suburban newness to the city, but did little in solving the city’s housing shortage.

In 2004 Barcelona hosted a different kind of Olympics — a five-month cultural and intellectual forum that was bent on solving the world’s problems.

La Mina


The neighborhood of La Mina belongs to the town of Sant Adria Besos on the outskirts of the city of Barcelona.

The creation of the district

Until the end of the 1960’s, La Mina was little more than an area of cultivated fields, livestock and La Mina, from the view from the motorway was scattered hamlets just outside the Barcelona city limits. At the time Barcelona was experiencing very high immigration from less developed areas of Spain, particularly Andalucia. The immigrants arrived in the city with minimal resources leading to the growth of some of the largest shantytown constructions in the country. Shacks sprung up in many peripheral parts of the city, including Montjuic, Campo de La Bota, Perona, Casa Antúez, l’Hospitalet and Hospital de St. Pau.

Barcelona had been looking for a solution to this serious shantytown problem since the end of the1950’s. A planned New Town in the district was approved in 1959 but not realized. It was not until 1968 that land was purchased by the Barcelona Council for the construction of low-rent housing in La Mina.

La Mina, was built at the beginning of the seventies as a part of a slum clearance project to rehouse the population from different urban slums in Barcelona.

Construction began in 1969 but was quickly brought to a halt after the completion of only approximately 500 apartments when the city council realized that the size of the blocks would not permit the relocation of all the shantytown residents. This first development in the district is subsequently known as ‘Mina Vieja’ (Old Mina).

A rapid remodeling of the development plan allowed for a far greater density of development on the remaining land with the construction of 2,100 further apartments, specifically for the ‘chabolistas’ (shanty town dwellers).

2,700 houses were built with official protection under a social housing project.

By 1975 there were already 15,133 people living in the neighborhood in the 1975 the figures were:

Municipal area of Sant Adria de Besos: 33, 473 people.

Neighborhood of La Mina: 11, 848 people ( 2,222 families).

The Surface area of the neighborhood of La Mina: 0.59 km2.

The surface area of Sant Adria de Besos: 3,87 km2.


The population was mostly made up of immigrants coming from other parts of Spain.

The population that came to live in the neighborhood lacked social and education skills.

The population also had a very level of income.

20% of the population was ethnically gypsy.

The first 5 years of the neighborhood

There was a high level of unemployment and of precarious employment.

Physical isolation.

High levels of heroin consumption.

Appearance of organized criminal groups selling drugs.

High levels of anti-social behavior.

Strong deterioration of public spaces and housing.

In April 1971, the Council offered the opportunity for the chabolistas to move to ‘Mina Nueva’ (New Mina) on the fulfillment of three conditions, that:

1. They already resided in an officially recognized Barcelona shantytown;

2. They paid 30,000 pesetas as an entry deposit;

3. They promised to pay a small monthly rent for 24 years, which would then give them the right to ownership of the property.

The number of applications received greatly exceeded the number of planned homes and the number of people housed in the district by 1974 totaled some 15,133 inhabitants, living at a density of 5.6 persons per dwelling.

A census at the time revealed some 20% of the population to be of gypsy origin. High levels of social deprivation, including very high rates of illiteracy quickly made the area infamous with newspaper headlines such as ‘La Mina: district without law’ and ‘La Mina: dangerous area’.

1980s and 1990s

Public intervention was unable to produce an improvement in the social situation.

Each public administration (state, autonomous and local) had their own intervention plan in accordance with their competencies.

The interventions without any long-term planning.

In some cases the intervention plans did not have sufficient resources.

There were action plans without sufficient capacity to provide an in-depth and long-term answer to the problems of the neighborhood.

This unfortunate legacy has left La Mina today with the greatest social deprivation within the Barcelona metropolitan area. It suffers from an urban layout, which has created enclosed streets within a fortress-like setting, marginalized from the outside world. Population and housing densities are very high; homes are of poor quality with very limited living space. It has above average numbers living in conditions of poverty, with illiteracy levels running at 25%. Unemployment, employment in the informal sector and absenteeism from school are all very high. The degradation of the community has been intense, with high crime rates and serious social fracturing.

As the residential quality gets worse so does the environmental quality.

La Mina has been caught in The Spiral of Decline and is now a Sink Estate.

The area of La Mina has attracted immigrants and people in a poor economic position, as they are able to afford the cheap life in the neighborhood.

When the lower social economic groups improve their economic situation they move into higher quality housing leaving the vacant lesser housing for lower class citizens.

Culturally based differences in attitudes towards civic responsibility, and the role of education and employment, particularly within the barrio’s large gypsy community, will take time to change. Support for social services will be provided as long as need and vulnerability remain prominent features of the neighborhood.

The Gypsies, (‘Gitano’s’ in Spanish) are a Roma people inhabiting in Portugal, Spain and Southern France. They are an ethnic group with highly controversial origin. Gitano’s are probably most well known for their Flamenco music.

In La Mina, it has been estimated that 35% of local population are of Roma origin – the legacy of mass migration from Andalucia during the 50’s. Because of their nomadic life style, there has been since then a great deal of mutual distrust between the La Mina Gitano’s’ and local Spanish. This is reflected in the stigma of the Gitano’s’ – La Mina dwellers are heavily, and perhaps unfairly, stigmatized. Views such as, “La Mina is the badlands, the outlaw territory or the district without law,” are common.

“For me there are two goals,” said a Consorci member. “The first is to change the image of La Mina from the inside, and the second is to change the image from the outside.”

The plan to transform La Mina follows the Barcelona Model of the ‘Change the area, change the people’ approach.

The Mayor of the district, Jesus Maria Canga says;

“(The project) assumes the entry of new people into the district which will not allow it to be a social ghetto… The creation of new open spaces within La Mina will create focal points for positive social interactions between people from neighboring streets and thereby promote social and community growth.”

The Residents’ Views

‘We first need to reduce the population density of the district’.

‘Unless the project reduces delinquency and the drug problem, it will have served no purpose’.

‘I like the project because it tries to eradicate the worst aspects of life in this area, yet maintain the best’.

‘The project will lead to more people living here in even less space. What next? A wall to keep us in?’

‘Is La Mina really compatible with Forum 2004? I hope that the solution will not involve fencing us in with security checkpoints’.

‘I have lived here for 30 years and things are worse now than in the shanty town I used to live in’.

‘The new Rambla and buildings will split the district into 3 very different areas’.

‘There are grave social problems here that will not be solved with new streets and corners’.

‘Very few people really understand the plan’.

The Students’ Views

The students of l’IES La Mina have sent letters to the Mayor of Sant Adrià requesting.

– A cinema, street drinking fountains a picnic area and park.

– More litterbins, chemist shops, and child play areas.

– A discotheque for the 12 – 16 years age group and indoor swimming pool.

– Public gardens, properly irrigated.

– Safe streets at night.

The Media Views

‘The plan aims to wash the face of the district and give it a stomach-pump’ (La Vanguardia, 28-4-01).

‘The change in image of La Mina is more important than the actual physical changes; breaking the stigma will assist its development’ (El Periódico 23-4-01).

‘The project is ambitious but achievable’ (El Punt, 28-4-01).

La Mina Development Plan

The plan has six main objectives including:

1. Combating delinquency.

2. Promoting economic activities.

3. Supporting the existing social and environmental structures.

4. Revitalizing the physical and living space.

5. Changing the negative image of the district.

“Connecting everything is important. When you improve the family life and life in general by putting lifts in buildings, improving security and public spaces, hopefully this enforces the change.,” stated the districts Mayor.

To transform La Mina neighborhood and to agree on and establish an integrated and global proposal for intervention to improve housing conditions, community life and coexistence, with the goal of strengthening the community in the short and long term and for it to become a fully integrated part of Sant Adria de Besos and Catalonia.

To revalue the urban environment of the district of La Mina and to improve housing conditions in order to turn the district into a ‘place of residence’ and not into a shelter or a temporary adobe to those who intend to leave the district looking for areas with better prospects.

To improve the perception of the district and its residents, both in La Mina and in the rest of the Metropolitan Area, particularly in the other districts within the Sant Adria de Besos area.

To recuperate underused plots, removing uncontrolled waste and encouraging its selective gathering and recycling, as well as setting the basis for civic behavior on the part of the residents in urban and environmental terms.

To structure, in a coherent way, the urban actions already existing in the district, by using a suitable tool of urban planning – the Special Reorganization and Improvement Plan (Plan Especial de Reordenacion y Mejora, PERM) – and gathering different reference points (by means of public buildings), in social terms and in terms of ‘landscape’.

To connect – in a urban and social sense – the district of La Mina with the rest of the Metropolitan Area and, particularly, with the rest of the municipality of Sant Adia de Besos.

To consolidate the already existing economic activity, both as a potential source of employment and due to its capability when it comes to social structuring.

To improve the employability factors of the active, or the potentially active, population in the district, by making insertion into the labour market easier, particularly for the less favoured collectives.

To reduce the incidence of the currently existing marginalization and exclusion dynamics, paying special attention to those collectives that are potentially more exposed.

To fight delinquency in the district, both from the point of view of prevention and penal mediation and also of the coordination and the improvement of the State security forces’ answer.

To promote civic behavior in the district by forming a Community Work Network that includes neighbours associations and NGOs and involves the residents in the flux of social life and coexistence in the district of La Mina.

The initial public consultation stage has laid out the following model:

1. Civic, social, education, cultural and sports projects aimed at preventing social exclusion and promoting equal opportunities. A new pedestrianised ‘Rambla’ was constructed through the heart of the district. The plan involves the demolition of 280 dwellings and the construction of 900 new apartments.

2. Employment projects aimed particularly at the young long-term unemployed, to assist them back into the job market.

Quality of Life.

La Mina District Renovation Plan is a global and integrating project centered on improving the quality of life and the public space. Socially, the project’s fundamental goal is the employment integration of groups at risk of social exclusion, through programmes that are adapted to respond to the different problems and needs of the local people. As regards the public space, the plan aims to remove architectural barriers for greater connectivity within the district and to open up the district to its surrounding environment. At the same time, the plan endeavors to improve peaceful coexistence and to generate public spirit among the local people.


There is a community atmosphere supported by local shops, entertainment centres and local radio.

People always appear in groups.

Strong community feel.

In both Old La Mina and New La Mina there are no gentrified services, such as a shopping centre, or any commercial shops. However in Old La Mina there are 37 local services, such as small supermarkets etc and 43 in the New La Mina.

This illustrates that the services and amenities in La Mina cater for the community rather that the wider, more intricate market, which has a wider spending power.

The Old La Mina does not lack in amenties but they are old and run down.

Roma community rejects outsiders. Visitors generally feel unwelcome.

People show very little environmental awareness, indicated by the amount of litter on the ground.

Street seating in the New La Mina are out of repair.

Lack of street cleaning in the New La Mina.


All of the aims of the plan are solutions to improving the Quality of Life.

1. Degradation of urban surroundings.

Solution: Turn the district into ‘a place of residence’ (not a temporary shelter.

2. Degradation of environment surroundings.

Solution: Turn the district into ‘a place of residence’ (not a temporary shelter.

3. Lack of education.

Solution: Improve the education level of the active population through constructing new schools.

4. Lack of regular source of income.

Solution: Consolidate the already existing economic activity as a potential source of employment.

5. Local people showing uncivil behavior.

Solution: Introduce the correct civic behaviour and educate the people.

6. Stigma.

Solution: Connect, in urban and social sense, the district with the rest of Barcelona and improve the perception of the residents.

7. La mina suffers from stigma. This is a possible cause of marginality and social exclusion. La Mina has been neglected, regarded as ‘a mini-state’.

Solution: Already the name La Mina is being changed to “La Gran Manzana”, which will reduce the stigma attached to the original name.

Area of action, 2000

The Consorci del barri de la Mina (the administration partnership) set up a Transformation Plan with a lifetime of ten years, acting on:




Socio Labour Insertion.


Public Spaces.

Crime prevention and security.

Economic development.

Urban development.

This Transformation plan was provided with an unprecedented 55 million euros to finance the project.

The aim of the Transformation plan was to provide solutions to the following deficiencies and problems that exist in the neighborhood:

Physical isolation of the area.

Social isolation.

Degrading urban and environmental surroundings.

Weakness of social networks.

Significant educational deficits among the population.

Nonexistent or low professional qualifications.

A high level of unemployment.

Informal and illicit activities.

Lack of civic-mindedness.

Social Action Plan

Rehabilitate housing and improve access to buildings.

Social, educational, cultural and sports facilities.

Urban development of public spaces.

Cooperation in improving personal safety.

New housing project.

Courses of Action (with 3 million euros annually from 2000 – 2009)

1. Training and occupational integration.

2. Balancing family and professional lives.

3. Development of the local economy.

4. Community participation and development.

5. Public space and civic-mindedness.

6.  Social and educational support.

7. Improving coexistence and civic-mindedness.

1. Training and occupational integration.

i. Create opportunities for training and insertion in an integrated way.


To train and empower people professional.

To make people better prepared to find work.

To improve core competencies for obtaining and keeping a job.

To incorporate the various local community groups in the La Mina neighbourhood in the training processes.

To foster opportunities for occupational integration.


Integrated itinerates for intersection.

Young people, women adults.

The mentally ill, those with disabilities and individuals with substance abuse problems.

Application of social clauses.

Carrying out occupational plans.

School project (Polydor workshop).

ii. Create possibilities for accessing the job market.


To facilitate access to information and orientation services.

To foster access to training and the use of new technologies.


To run the neighbourhood’s information and Job Orientation Service – Job Club.

Creation of the New Technologies Classroom.

Recycling of active professionals.

2. Balancing family and professional lives

i. To create opportunities to access the job market free of discrimination based on gender and personal situation.

ii. To release the school-age adolescent population and family obligations.


To provide early childhood services.

To offer space for families and children for purposes of education and socialization.

To prevent situations of social exclusion.


Morning child-minding service – CEIP Mediterrania.

Children’s play centre and summer recreational centre for children up to the age of 3.

Family recreational space “La Capsa dels Jocs” (The Toys Box).

3. Development of local economy.

i. To give new energy of the commercial infrastructure

ii. To regulate street trade

iii. To encourage new creative activities


To provide support to the commercial infrastructure.

To regulate street trade and make it sustainable.

To study labour market research in depth.

To strengthen and foster new economic activities.


Project to energize commerce.

Street trade project.

Project to support self-employment.

Project to do research.

4. Community participation and development.

i. To establish a process for community development between the residents and various social work and institutional services.


To reinforce local organizations and institutional projects.

To foster a favourable atmosphere for spaces for exchange and social interaction between people and community groups.

To establish systematic ways of providing information to the district.

To overcome the district’s stigmatization.

To bring athletic activities back in to the district.


Project to support organizations in the district.

Technical and economic support.

Technical support project to the neighborhood Association.

Workspaces for local organizations.

Magazine articles, brochures, an addition of the bulletin etc.

Support for organizations’ initiatives in cultural activities.

Support for community groups’ athletic activities.

ii. To reclaim and strengthen the local infrastructure


To establish social monitoring of the PTBM.

To involve and establish the social workers, services and residents of the district in the PTBM.

To promote resident participation in common uses of public spaces and housing.


Creation of a Participation Council for monitoring the PTBM.

Creation of committees with all of the stable services and local organizations in the district to carry out work as a network.

Plan for Community Communication.

‘European Roma’ in Network.

European Regenera Network.

6. Social and educational support.

i. Formal and informal education.


To ensure that obligatory school is taken advantage of.

To encourage parents to take on responsibilities.

To increase intervention with young people.

To expand the recreational education on offer.


Revitalization project with parent (PTA).

Parental educational stimulation.

Support projects in school classrooms and reinforcement.

Support progammes for recreational activities.

Support programme specifically for youths from the gypsy community.

Support system and monitoring of socio-economic organizations’ activities.

District Education Project.

ii. Consolidation of the community projects of the stable services in the district


To achieve unity of criteria, quality and efficiency in the work carried out by the different services.

To stabilize the services’ resources.

To tackle substance abuse in a global way.

To expand the athletic activities on offer.


Open centre for children.

Sport Program for all ages.

Youth Centre.

Damage reduction and prevention program.

Support to the Day Centre for people into substance abuse.

Project to give immediate attention to school absenteeism.

Project to support the step from primary to secondary school.

7. Public space and civic-mindedness

i. Promoting improvement of the urban environment


To design a sustainable model for the district with social and participatory urban planning

To improve waste management.


Street Maintenance Project.

Public Art Competition.

District action plan: Making infrastructural spaces suitable and improving them.

Environmental Orientation Centre.

Environmental Managers.

ii. Retaking public spaces by the residents


To promote awareness of the district and overcome regional barriers.

To improve the quality of the public space.


Campaign to increase awareness of civic-mindedness.

Actions to recover preserve and revitalize the public space.

District action plan: Creation, design and Improvement of vacant space.

Civic agents.

Facilities provided 2000 – 2010

Headquarters Mossos d’Esquadra.

Childhood and Elementary Education Centre.

Secondary School.

Library and cultural centre.

Sports facility and multi-purpose function hall.

Parish church and building for socio-educational activities.

Evangelical Church.

Completed Improvements in accessibility to housing and renovations from 2000 – 2010

Providing lifts to 300 apartments in La Mina Vella (2/3’s completed): 4.8 million euros

Providing lift stops on the plans which did not have them originally in a 200 apartment building: 0.4 million euros.

Improving and creating new access to 31 apartment blocks (1,241 apartments) in the district: 1.7 million euros.

Renovation of 40 apartments formerly belonging to the police department: 2.5 million euros.

Renovation of an apartment facade on Occident street: 0.3 million euros.

Continuing renovation of the housing in the district.

Urban Development of Public Spaces 2000 – 2010

Rambla de la Mina. Central Avenue will allow the Trambesos tram to travel through the centre of the district.

Reorganizing the neighborhood streets and interior mobility.

New urban development on existing streets.

Creation and urban development of new streets.

Creation of new squares and green areas.

Taking advantage of groundwater for the upkeep of public spaces.

Total: 21.8 million euros.

The district’s new facilities

Importantly, members of the community have been involved in the projects, forging a relationship between change within the neighborhood and the community itself. Existing buildings are being improved with lifts being installed in blocks of flats, particularly those

In Mina Vieja where aging residents urgently need such facilities.

La Mina’s new library, cultural centre and sports centre are now built, and the new primary and secondary schools became operative in 2005 and 2006, respectively, not just as a necessary public resource but also as an icon symbolizing the new La Mina. A central rambla has been constructed along the border, which traditionally served as the boundary between Vieja and Mina Nueva, to reinforce social harmony by providing a central meeting point to be used by all members of the community.

New Secondary School                          New Public Library

New Evangelical Church                                  New Cultural Centre


The new Rambala supplies benches and areas for seating so that people can comfortably sit, talk and relax.

Also the new Rambala exists in a very central position, ‘The Heart of La Mina,’ where friends who do not live in the same part of the neighborhood can come and join each other in a central position.

The new Rambala hosts numerous little parks for young children to play in. The parents, in the same area, can talk amongst themselves whilst their children are enjoying themselves.

The new Rambala leads people all the way up to the communal public park, which is always very busy, and well used, on the weekends.

Improving the areas social integration in the area – encouraging more community inclusion – providing a great place for the community to socialize together.

The Rambla connects to the park, however at its other end, it just comes to a stop, and is completely cut off, with tram lines enclosing it.

I Belive the Ramabala would be used more if there was a public service at this end. If somehow the Rambala led somewhere. Maybe the creation of an open public park on the Brownfield site to the right (the south east corner) of La Mina.

Streets have been widened and connected, trees have been planted and play areas for children have been installed where none existed before.

An extensive study by Francis Kuo & Bill Sullivan of the University of Illinois’ Human-Environment Research Laboratory showed that not only do trees strengthen urban communities, but they may also curb violence in the homes and streets surrounding them.

Open space and recreational facilities can significantly reduce juvenile crime rates in urban areas.

The construction of the district’s new facilities (schools, sports centre and library) is now complete, and in 2008 work began on the edification of 400 social housing flats in La Mina.

In summer of 2006 the Board of Directors of the Consorci del Barri de La Mina (La Mina District Consortium) approved the extension of the term of the consortium, which was initially envisaged for ten years (2000-2010). The agreement signed by the consortium’s administrations (Generalitat de Catalunya [Catalan Government], Diputació de Barcelona [Barcelona Provincial Council] and the city councils of Sant Adrià de Besòs and Barcelona) has now established a new horizon for the consortium, which will be as long as necessary to meet its objectives. It was the social issues that led the administrations to take this decision, in order to ensure the continuity of the programmes underway.

Replotting project. New housing (2000 – 2010)

Recovery of industrial land in new plots for housing, public and commercial facilities and green areas: 39 million euros.

In 2008 work began for the construction of 422 new social houses (350 due to relocating cause by affected housing): involving an investment of 53 million euros.

700 new private market apartments (300 owned by the administration)

Such housing is envisaged to be complete in 2010.

Identification details:

Approved budget for 2008: €14.7 million. The three most significant items of the budget are:

·Social housing: €5.3 million

·Urban development of public spaces: €3 million

·Social spending: €2.5 million

Signs and Signals in the area of La Mina

There is a great variety of sings and signals in this area, making the place very colourful.

However, a greater continuity and minimalization of signs would evolve the areas integrity.

Possible Future Developments

You Are Here Signs/ Maps

Introducing ‘You are Here’ maps and sign posts, will give locals a sense of awareness of their district, and will guide and direct visitors within the area.

These signs will be necessary in the coming years as La Mina attracts much more visitors to its area.

Welcome to La Mina

The above welcome signs already exist in the area. One being a large billboard type sign and the other being a public mural. These both give the residents recognisable symbols to acknowledge and generate pride towards their home district.

Also for visitors these signs act as public welcome from the city of Barcelona and from the local residents, making everyone feel much safer.

An installation of a much grander and permanent welcome sign would enhance these effects.

The Flow Traffic

Pedestrian Walkways connect to the main Rambala

Pedestrian Walkway


The district of La Mina is almost a warning: when the poor is cast aside, it becomes poorer and more dangerous. Fortunately La Mina has been noticed. Already the zone shows signs of big change. Such as, the construction of external lifts, new schools and police stations. One day, in time, La mina will be finally integrated into Barcelona society.

With the help of the Forum, the Barcelona Government hope that with increased gentrification, in years to come the upper class citizens will want to live in the newly developed area and will buy the older housing in La Mina.

The government’s planned regeneration scheme from 2000, to be completed by 2010.

More time is needed for the natural long-term positive changes to happen.

The proposed plans are spread out throughout La Mina, but will take numerous years to come into effect.


Consorci del Barri de La Mina, Transformation of the Neighbourhood of La Mina.


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