Monica Degen – Sensing Cities: Styling a New Barcelona

Barcelona is famously claimed to be at the forefront of urban design after having radically transformed its urban landscape in the 1990s. As cities around the globe are re-designed and re-generated, new public spaces are emerging which foster a distinct urban aesthetic. By focusing on the transformation of el Raval in Barcelona from red light district into a cultural quarter, Monica Degen discusses an important yet neglected aspect in the analysis of urban change in the late 20th century, namely the significance of the senses in the constitution of urban life. She argues that urban regeneration is ‘made effective’ through the organisation of the senses, both in terms of the definitions of the problems in specific places and in terms of the proposed, and actual solutions to these problems. Examining regeneration as a lived and embodied experience helps to answer questions such as: what happens to public life when public spaces are restructured? How do people, whether it is residents, visitors or workers experience regeneration in their daily lives? What are the tensions between official views of the regeneration and lived reality?