The Architecture, City and Culture research group has spent over ten years working on the conceptualisation and abstraction of urban fragility, identifying possible forms of representing and occupying a space based on its emotional, relational and material dimensions. With the aim of continuing to investigate the concept of fragility, the Barcelona Fragile City project has been set up to explore the condition of urban fragility during the COVID-19 pandemic, associating the city’s spatial dimension with the impact of social realities that are less visible but that can be decisive for the city of the future.
The main aim is to generate a cartography of the fragile city, an alternative map of the impact of the pandemic on the city of Barcelona that can be superimposed upon the map of the conventional city, allowing both images to be compared. The intention behind the project is to discover and make visible the hidden spatiality of the city during the first state of alarm, and to do this they propose creating a map that shows events and practices associated with space that are not transmitted by statistics, representing vulnerable spaces that are particularly associated with marginality and the fragility of life, and that reconsiders spaces already recognised as more complex places where experiences unfold in unpredictable ways, marking the consciousness and memory of space and of the private and shared imaginary. In turn, the project explores spaces of fragility, recognising realities that do not always represent negative experiences, but rather that have the power to create meaning and transform the urban environment, creative spatial practices and transformative poetics that we represent as ephemeral events but, at the same time, as an exercise in resilience and resistance.
To complement the cartography generated from the characterisation of scientific and quantitative data, the project shows experiences from qualitative social research, recording singular cases of the situations observed provided by witnesses, images, photos and graphic analysis of the spaces studied. In summary, the idea is to first reveal the most hidden fragility within space and put it into place, thereby producing answers that will offer a better understanding of the possible incidence of spaces in these realities that are now considered secondary.
To do this, the project has formed an interdisciplinary team with other research groups and a series of external expert collaborators. The analysis of space as the object of recognition of urban fragility is based on three areas of work or impact: firstly, spaces of healing, spaces of death and grief, spaces of solitude and experiences of fear; secondly, spaces of sociability and creativity; and thirdly, spaces that connect us with the natural environment and the landscape. Methodologically, the structure of the project consists of phases of prior conceptualisation, the characterisation of fragility based on indicators, experiential records, the specification of spaces from different scales, the analysis of results, discussion, proposals for action, impact/return and evaluation.
As the expected results of the project, this cartography materialises in a digital tool in web-documentary format as a dissemination channel and repository for both the process and the proposals. At the same time, a report of proposals and preventive measures based on architecture and urban planning is generated, identifying general, sectoral and specific lines of action for spaces that are most affected by the fragilities detected.
In terms of impact and transformative capacity, the project anticipates strong collaboration with a series of local institutions with similar aims. The knowledge generated is therefore expected to be analysed, discussed and returned with the main actors involved: collaborating institutions and organised citizens with the areas of work as well as the academic and scientific environment. The consolidated international network will make it possible to promote pertinent discussion and feedback on a global scale, in accordance with the nature of the pandemic.