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Making Neighbourhoods Resilient: The Social Construction of an Identity
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1  School of Architecture La Salle, Ramon Llull University


In the last three years, in the PROHABIT project ( we have carried out a study about the roles of communities in the urban transformations in three neighbourhoods of Barcelona: Plus Ultra, Trinitat Nova and Vallcarca. In all three districts, and after persisting in their claims during a long time, neighbours have gotten the city council to change their plans. Community resilience has overcome the contingencies associated to the economic and political changes over more than two decades. Neighbours’ associations, civic organizations and activist groups have defended what they considered to be the essential features of their neighbourhoods against the plans and regulations approved by the successive municipal governments. In this confrontation, neighbours had first to build an image of what they thought the neighbourhood really is and then defended against political and economic powers. This image is a social construction unique in each neighbourhood built with personal memories of their residents. In Plus Ultra and Trinitat Nova, the holders of these memories were the eldest residents who settled when the first houses were built. In Vallcarca, the leaders have been young activists who have made the memory of their neighbourhoods their own.

The research we have conducted to examine the process of social construction of an identity has been based on interviews with key actors, non-participant observations of public spaces, literature analysis and participatory actions. The analysis of the collected information has been carried out using an open quality data analysis tool specifically created for this research project ( With this system, the analysis carried out by researchers is available to the citizens. Navigating through this information system becomes enables experts and laypeople to understand the links between social and physical structures in the three studied neighbourhoods in a comparative manner.

Keywords: community resilience; gentrification; sense of belonging; identity