The old city and the walls

The progressive and intensive process of industrialization that Barcelona underwent throughout the entire nineteenth century was a key factor in defining the modern urban structure of the city.

The historic centre that was still developing within the medieval walls was filling up with factories, many of which occupied the large sites of convents and monasteries that had become empty as a result of the process of confiscation of Church lands.

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    Soon, however, this space within the walls became too small and it was necessary to set up new industrial establishments outside the old centre, specifically in the agricultural villages of the plain of Barcelona (Gràcia, Sant Martí de Provençals and Sant Andreu). These underwent considerable growth due to the effects of urban development (workers' houses) around the factories. At the end of the nineteenth century, these villages, with populations as large as that of the city itself, were integrated into Barcelona.

    From the last years of the eighteenth century and throughout the entire nineteenth century, actions were carried out to reform the historic centre: new streets were opened up (Carrer de Jaume I, Carrer de Ferran, Carrer de la Princesa); squares were created (Plaça Reial); markets were built (Concepció, Boqueria, Born), and La Ciutadella was demolished in 1869 and turned into a park, where the Universal Exhibition of 1888 was held.

    Popular demands and the need of the city to expand pushed the Progressive central Government to authorize the demolition of the walls, which was carried out between 1854 and 1856. The population living within the city walls had increased so significantly throughout the second quarter of the 19th century that the situation led the inhabitants to demand that the walls should be pulled down. In 1841, Pere Felip Monlau wrote an article under the headline "¡Abajo las murallas!" (Down with the walls!) in which he proclaimed this option using health and town planning arguments.

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