For our gentrification project, we chose Barrio Gótico to examine a neighborhood known not only for old city ruins and cultural entertainment, but also for its shopping scene which ranges from it’s old antique-looking shops to the large commercial retail stores that live on el Portal de l’Angel.
We started this research already knowing that the neighborhood is unmistakably gentrified due tourism and therefore, based our hypothesis on a widespread assumption about commerce in the area to align with our research about the future of retail.
“Barrio Gotico is gentrified because of tourism and for that reason it has been a huge shopping destination.”
But our aim was to see if this is still true especially today and if so, how has it changed since the start of the pandemic?
We first looked at the overall living situation in Barrio Gótico to understand who inhabits the area. This neighborhood is probably the most well-known in Barcelona and for that reason has attracted many visitors from all over. And because of this high traffic, this area is the one most highly concentrated in guest accommodations.
However these days, there isn’t really any tourism. So we set out to observe and conduct short interviews with the people we encountered in the neighborhood to see how it’s changed.
Examining the spaces, we noticed that the streets were quite dead or not nearly as filled as they would have been pre-covid. Most of the stores were closed, and big retailers like Zara and Decathlon were only servicing customers for pickups and returns. Ironically, some souvenir shops were open.
Regarding people, most of whom we asked did not live in Barrio Gótico but lived in and around the city and were either passing by or socializing in the neighborhood. About half of them were shopping, but mostly all were enjoying their free time and leisure.
We see that this area still remains a place to shop and entertain ourselves, what has changed is the demographic of people. Whether that means these people were shopping here before or not, the neighborhood is almost only engaging with those already living in the city. We also understand that the development of this area was not prepared for a global pandemic or any event that would prevent tourists from coming and that can cause a problem in the future if it is not able to properly adapt.
But while businesses suffer closures, locals are taking advantage of the more quiet Gothic Quarter. Perhaps this is the start of a new shift in identity for Barcelon’s most famous neighborhood. Barrio Gotico represents the heart of the city, full of symbols of Catalan history and tradition. It is a place that represents the culture of Barcelona. Tradition and history are mixed with innovation and modernity thanks to its more modern and global shopping. All this combined was used to entertain tourists. Now, it still remains a place full of history and culture but is changing so that the story is being written by Barcelona locals!
In the end, we concluded that there is an opportunity for retailers to connect with the local community and encourage them to experience a more personalized shopping trip sans tourists in the old city by translating their identities into desires, building stronger relationships and experiences.