Rambla de Canaletes, Barcelona. 8:30 AM. The morning light is shining through the window openings of a façade that has been left standing all by itself. The façade originally belonged to a building that contained several floors of dwellings over ground-level shops; a typical, ordinary building. Behind this façade, a four or five story deep hole is being excavated out of the ground, allowing us to ascertain that the new building will probably not be residential, yet is being required to resemble a traditional apartment building nevertheless.
Actually, the façade is not standing entirely alone. The temporary steel exoskeleton that is holding the façade in place is covered with a giant advertisement for a Catalan multinational clothing company whose name in Spanish slang translates as “I steal” and whose products were found in the aftermath of the collapse, just over a year ago, of the Bangladeshi Rana Plaza clothing factory, a disaster which killed over a thousand workers and maimed many more. In the ad, a sensuously posing woman is wearing a light summer dress which sells for only 19€.
The revenue gained from this advertisement serves to offset the significant extra costs incurred by a property developer who is obligated by the city for reasons of heritage preservation to maintain the façade of a building that, in order to maximize profitability, has to be demolished to make way for completely different type of building, such as a corporate headquarters, a hotel, or luxury apartments for the super-rich. Architectural heritage is Barcelona’s top tourism draw.
Amazing how a caco-phon(e)y of skin-deep layers, when superimposed and retro-illuminated, is capable of revealing the complexity and contradiction of the way the global economy works. Or doesn’t work.