The last of the neighbourhood

Conchi Martínez

2018 - Ongoing

Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain

Barcelona and surroundings street markets began to roof in the middle of the XIX Century to adapt them to the demographic development.

Abacería Central opened in 1892 in the old working class Gràcia district, at the former Vapor Nou cotton factory site, as a necessary improvement to the street market stalls the farmers placed in the nearby Revolution Square.

As many other markets in the city, it had a metallic structure with three naves and an specially remarkable curved roof.

Being considered as a reference in the food commerce of the district, it had also immortalized in the famous Mercè Rodoreda’s La Plaça del Diamant Catalan novel.

It was restored in 1965, but the decision about its complete reconstruction, essential due to its considerable degradation, not was taken until July 2016. It was the last Gràcia’s market and one of the few, still waiting to modernize, in Barcelona.

Recently, customers’ descent and the high number of empty stalls transmitted an image of decline and sadness to what in other times had been a sea of sensations that kept the genuine popular market atmosphere alive.

After successive delays, the shopkeepers moved to its provisional location on July 20th 2018.

The design proposal will maintain the old exterior Abacería structure, fully reconstructing its interior and incorporating a supermarket and some multi-use areas dedicated to social economy and district associations, cutting in half the traditional stalls offer.

Originally the new building should have been finished approximately two years after the supposed starting construction in the spring of 2018, but its delay, together with the neighboring pressure to make the remodeling company aware of the high health risks removing the asbestos roof without the due security measures would provoke, stopped them again, until at least November 2019, to assure its correct insulation.

So, as of today, it’s more than likely we don’t see the work finished before 2023…

I’ve always been the kind of person that appreciates above all the fresh product quality and the pleasant treatment received in traditional markets, in contrast with the coldness of wandering along supermarket aisles to end queuing behind a cash register to buy expensive packed products with a high level of preservatives that lengthen their expiration date.

This is why, since I moved to Gràcia in 1995, I decided to stock up on food in Abacería Central, one of the two remaining traditional markets of the popular neighborhood.

I got sad after hearing the news of its closing to be reconstructed because I felt there like at home but I also understood the necessity of modernize the obsolete facilities the shopkeepers claimed.

Some of them had mixed feelings because on one hand it was painful to leave the place where they had spent most of their lives, in some cases there were family business that had been going from parents to children, but on the other hand they felt excited about enjoying much better facilities.

Complaints for the deficient thermal insulation that made them freeze to death in winter and suffer from heat in summer or about the pigeons’ plagues that had turned the market into their home were also frequent.

However not all the shopkeepers have moved to its provisional location with the intention of coming back to the new building when it’s finished. Some of them decided to advance the retirement age, others thought it was too expensive, some had doubts about recovering or not the clientele at their return and other got tired of the constant construction start delays.

Nobody knows what will happen in the future, but when I knew the Abacería was going to be demolished I was sure that, being a photographer from Gràcia, I had the moral duty of documenting the disappearance of the popular atmosphere it had.

I’ve sadly seen for several months how the original place, once full of life, was shutting little by little its stalls, turning itself into a depressing succession of closed blinds and disused premises where the abandoned merchandise increased even more its decadent appearance.

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