Infrastructures under Transformation as Spaces of Collectivities.
Case-Study: Glòries, Barcelona, Spain (PhD project completed in 2021)

Prof. Dr. Kris Scheerlinck (KU Leuven)

Prof. Dr. Yves Schoonjans (KU Leuven)

Prof. Dr. Pascal De Decker (KU Leuven)
Prof. Dr. Tom Avermaete (ETH Zurich)
Prof. Jorge Perea (ETSAB, UPC)

Members of the Examination Committee:
Prof. Dr. Greet De Block (U Antwerpen)
Prof. Dr. Martino Tattara (KU Leuven)
Prof. Dr. Hans Leinfelder (Chair, KU Leuven)


Within cities, one can detect dynamics and spatial qualities that interact over time. This is particularly interesting when collective spaces are incorporated in infrastructure under transformation. This PhD-research investigates the emerging and temporal qualities of those collective spaces. They are embedded as part of the complex spatial dynamics of urban interactions. Collective spaces is a spatial category that bridges the public and the private spaces, incorporating unexpected qualities in the city. In times of long-term transformation of infrastructure, collective spaces with specific qualities are often generated. They possess the capacity to change rapidly and unpredictably. Although this makes categorisation difficult, it is an interesting phenomenon. In this PhD-research, they are referred to as “spaces of collectivities” that have only been partly investigated. This PhD-research seeks to produce new insights on those urban spaces of collectivities related to infrastructure under transformation. The investigations focus on those complex spatial dynamics of urban interactions anchored in changes and temporal arrangements, in non-traditional conjugations of spaces, as well as in boundaries, and territories. Unexpected notions of proximity, permeability, and critical boundaries are evaluated. This is accomplished through specific dimensions (‘expectations’, ‘materialisations’ and ‘appropriations’), articulating how they are manifested and interact over time. The concept of collectivities on the one hand and the concept of infrastructure on the other hand, are identified as important urban elements that are able to articulate new levels of complexity in contemporary cities around them. The temporal component is crucial. This is facilitated through the process of transformation in infrastructure, and by the intermittent, and dynamic nature of spaces of collectivities.

The case study under study is Plaça de les Glòries Catalanes, or shorter Glòries, in Barcelona, Spain. It is an area that was (and is up to today) for many decades under constant transformation. Originally conceived as the centre of the Extension Plan (1859), it was never completed, and has since then been a constant part of the changing discussions in Barcelona on infrastructure and urban centrality. After being a car-oriented open-space based on a variety of spatial manifestations, now undergoes a transformation into a park. This case captures a great variety of symbolic, physical, and social manifestations that are strongly linked to dominant expectations, pending implementations, and conflictive appropriations. Today, this infrastructure-based open space is turning into a formalised urban complex that will simplify urban complexity, and this risks overwriting present variety, leaving little space to alternative urban processes.

To achieve insights on infrastructure under transformation as spaces of collectivities, the case of Glòries is tackled from three dimensions defined as ‘expectations’, ‘materialisations’, and ‘appropriations’. This guides the methodology as well as the PhD-research structure. In addition to this, special attention is given to the relations between central and marginal actors and the implications of multiple scales. The research is executed by diverse research activities and work-packages where mapping, graphic explorations, and written argumentation are intertwined. After stating the theoretical position and inputs (Chapter 1), a broad historical overview of Glòries investigates the processes in time from its conception up to 2015 (Chapter 2). Then, the focus delves into the contemporary processes of Glòries in the period of 2015 to 2019 (Chapters 3 to 5). Each of these chapters unveils conditions which originate from each dimension (Chapter 3 ‘expectations’; Chapter 4 ‘materialisations’ and Chapter 5 ‘appropriations’). They are linked to inter-temporalities, inter-spatialities, and inter-territorialities. Through these investigations, it is illustrated that spaces of collectivities are transversal to them. The main finding of this PhD-research on infrastructure under transformation as spaces of collectivities, illustrates how infrastructure under transformation assists in the activation of complex spatial dynamics, creating spaces of collectivities as intermittent conditions of urban spaces that defy the often-used spatial categories.

Keywords: urban design, architecture, socio-spatial analysis, collective spaces, temporalities-spatialities-territorialities.