The destruction of the protected houses

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Of a total of 774 protected buildings within the district, the Plan reduces the protection to 560. Not only does the quantity but also the quality of protection decrease. Of the 300 buildings which presently benefit from protection level 2 (structural protection), the number drops to only 10 with this status. The rest of the protected buildings within the plan go to level 3 (visual protection)

Figures referring to the protected zone declared as Asset of Cultural Interest in the neighbourhood of the Cabanyal:

Existing buildings Buildings to be demolished % buildings to be demolished
649 184 28%
Protected buildings Protected buildings to be demolished % protected buildings to be demolished
263 100 38%

As well as the protected buildings which would be demolished, we should consider 55 other buildings which would lose their status of protection under the council plan, which means that the % of buildings which will be unprotected in the zone declared Asset of Cultural Interest comes to 55%.

One building which should be the object of particular attention is the Lonja del Pescado (Fish market) – this is not taken into account in the planning and is also destined for demolition. Built by the architect Victor Gosalvez in 1909, it is a building of singular architectural typology. (It consists of two courses of double roofs with living spaces on two floors. There is a central space common to all the living spaces, with a high roof covering full of interesting constructive solutions and metalic structures.) It was founded on the social, cultural and economic history of the district, with a strong presence both real and symbolic of the origins of the maritime people.

Social mobilization in favour of conservation of the neighbourhood

During the drafting of the 1988 General Urban Zoning Plan the various projects of destruction weighing on the Cabanyal are paralysed due to a lack of decision as to whether to opt for the conservation and rehabilitation of the district or to transform and spoil it with the extension of Blasco Ibañez Avenue. Finally a resolution is arrived at to defer planning in the area for four years. During these four years there is a change of government as the Popular Party (P.P.) wins the elections. The threat of the prolongation begins to materialize. Neglect, deterioration occur, private initiative is halted and blatant lack of institutional responsibility predominates.

The Plataforma Salvem el Cabanyal (made up of various neighbourhood associations) is formed on 22nd april 1998, to oppose the extension of Blasco Ibañez. The Plataforma begin their activities and 4000 briefs against the municipal plan are submitted. The neighbours begin to mobilize with a series of protests, ‘caceroladas’ (banging on pots and pans), civil demonstrations, submission of written documents to different national and European bodies, and most notably 110,000 written complaints against the project approved by the City Council on February 26th 1999.

Cultural activities are also organised, notably Cabanyal Portes Obertes (Open Doors). This project brings together artists of different disciplines who exhibit or perform their work in the streets and in the houses of the local people who open their doors to the public every weekend for a month. A relationship is created between public and private worlds, between the artistic activities and the everyday context of each house; between artist, neighbours and spectators, it brings together art and life at the same moment in a way seldom seen.

Up until now there have been four festivals – in 1998, 1999, 2000, and 2001, in which fine arts, music, photography, video, performance, theatre, dance and literature have reached out through the houses, streets and theatres of the neighbourhood. The primary objective was so that the citizens of Valencia and elsewhere could get to know the neighbourhood, walk about the streets, go into the houses and see and understand its value as artistic heritage. They could speak to the neighbours, realize the gravity of the situation and the terrible loss which the destruction of this historic district would imply.

If the plan were to go ahead, the Cabanyal would not be visited, it would only be crossed by traffic impatient to reach the sea. In the World Cultural Report released last December by UNESCO emphasis was placed on the importance of cultural diversity faced with the phenomenon of globalization. To safeguard the special identity of this maritime neighbourhood would be a vindication of a city capable of embracing what is different.

The social cost of an intervention as proposed by the PERI (Special Internal Reform Plan) would be an attack on the humanistic values of the area and of Valencia, and on its architectural heritage, as it would destroy part of the social wealth and diversity on which urban and patrimonial values are nurtured.

The social relationships between the present inhabitants would progressively deteriorate, leading to their rupture and substitution by other types of more tenuous and mechanical relations. The future position of the least advantageous population would be the most affected.

If the approved council plan were to be carried out a gradual deterioration of the social fabric of the Cabanyal-Canyamelar is foreseeable. This kind of process is irreversible. There is little hope of a spontaneous regeneration. The social cost it would create is inmeasurable in monetary terms.