Reclaimed buildings of the Sant Martí district

Industrial areas from past centuries, including the former city waterworks, are just some of a series of emblematic buildings that have been given over to new uses

Sant Martí is one of the districts of Barcelona that has undergone most changes in recent years, and it is now one of the areas with the most significant economic and architectonic impact in the city. Many emblematic buildings including former factories and industrial complexes have been reclaimed and given over to new social enterprises and may be visited on routes of rediscovery throughout the city’s ten districts.

The former waterworks (Dipòsit de les Aigües), beside the Parc de la Ciutadella, were incorporated into the Pompeu Fabra University in 1992 and rehabilitation of the area began in 1993 when the building was joined to the Jaume I building via a subterranean passage. The building is a reproduction of a Roman prototype consisting of a labyrinth of parallel, 14-metre archways which previously served as a municipal asylum, the judicial court archives, a warehouse for the fire brigade and as changing and parking facilities for the local police. In 1999 the building came into operation as the university’s general library.

Also worthy of note are the numerous former factories which have been reconverted for a variety of end uses. For example, Can Framis, which is now a museum belonging to the Vila Casas Foundation, is located on the site which, towards the end of the 18th century, housed the local woollen industry. Beside this is the campus of the audio-visual department of the Pompeu Fabra University, formerly the Ca l‘Aranyó cotton mill. Can Saladrigas, close to the Rambla in Poblenou, used to be a textile factory and is now the Manuel Arranz Library, while the Can Felipa Civic Centre, a multi-disciplinary culture centre, was previously part of the local water industry.

Our route may continue in the Hangar and La Escocesa arts research and production centres, the former located in what was the Can Ricart industrial printing complex, the latter in what used to be an area dedicated to the manufacture of chemical products. The Sala Beckett / International Drama Workshop, a space for theatrical creation, training and experimentation, on the other hand, used to house one of the city’s cooperatives.

These are just some of the sites that allow visitors to discover both the past and present of buildings located in what is often referred to as the city’s tenth district.

Publication date: Monday, 28 July 2014
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