Ideas, strategies and projects that give rise to pilot projects. They tackle the challenges raised by the stakeholders involved and which are found in particular places in Barcelona or Medellín.
Squatting is generally carried out directly and without mediation; it is an act of disobedience in a legal and administrative framework regarded as alien and contrary to the interests of those doing it. Occupied spaces are an arena in which a clash of legitimacies occurs between the particular uses to which they are now put and the preservation of the more abstract right of ownership.
Over the course of the phases of urban development, squatting has taken various forms and has been carried out by different groups of people. In Barcelona, during the time when there was an influx of people moving from the countryside to the city, the most common type of squatting was the occupation of plots of land for constructing self-built homes on. Later, the failings of the property market and the public authorities, plus the practices of property speculation, resulted in the proliferation of empty buildings that became squatters’ preferred targets.
Residents’ movements used squatting towards the end of the Franco era and during the transition to democracy as a tool in the struggle for amenities in neighbourhoods and for the right to a home. In the mid-1980s, young people in the punk and the do-it-yourself movements embraced squatting, which has been taken up by a variety of youth and local collectives, most of which are anti-establishment and anti-capitalist. In the current context of the difficulties people face in accessing housing and the new forms of cultural and political expression, a varied array of self-run social centres, cultural venues and collective housing has developed, all under the umbrella term of the ‘okupa’ (occupy) movement.
The occupations in Barcelona were initially inspired by their squatting counterparts in cities in northern Europe—where the phenomenon appeared earlier and came to fame, such as the mass takeover of the neighbourhood of Christiana in Copenhagen and the squatting in Bonnington Square in London—but gradually acquired their own character and dynamism, turning the city into one of the most active in Europe in this respect.
In the 1990s, people ‘without papers’ began to migrate to the city, where squatting provided one of the few possibilities for gaining access to a home and to spaces for self-employment activities, such as the collecting and recycling of materials. Nowadays, following the bursting of the property bubble, the rise in unemployment and increasing job insecurity, ‘kicking in the door’ has become a growing practice, carried out by individuals and collectively through organisations such as the PAH (Platform for People Affected by Mortgages).