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Architectural Heritage Protection

Cultural heritage is one of the most important witnesses of the national history and identity. Its assets are an irreplaceable legacy which must be passed on to future generations in the best conditions. Catalogs of heritage protection are the appropiate documents to protect all this legacy.

The previous document of the Heritage Catalog of the City of Barcelona is the Land Law from 1956. According to this law, towns must approve building lists or catalogs which could not be demolished becase of their artistic, historical, archaeological or traditional value. As a consequence, the Catalogue of Buildings and Monuments of Artistic, Historical, Archaeological or Traditional Interest was approved on October 30, 1962 as a Master Plan.

This document was the first to be drafted in Spain as a result of a very valuable legacy from the team led by Adolf Florensa, a local architect who directed the Department of Archaeological, Artistic and Ornamental Buidlings in order to preserve the monuments of the city.

However, since this catalogue was not related to those documents concerning urban regulation, it became just an inventory.The Catalogue was not useful at all, it was just another process to obtaining certain demolition permits. In practice, cataloguing didn't imply a respectful way of acting towards famous buildings nor protect them.

In the seventies —a period of a considerable construction work— it was almost impossible to find a balance between this dynamic growth and the survival of the elements of the past. The case concerning Can Serra was paradigmatic: it was the touchstone of a general awareness regarding the will to preserve the historical memory of a city which was outraged by the excessively usual loss of its most emblematic buildings.

The final approval of the Catalogue of Historial and Artistic Heritage of the City of Barcelona on January 18, 1979 was a step closer to valuing heritage. Nonetheless, it didn't solve the contradiction between urban uses and protection of a certain element. Regarding urban uses, it was considered to be feasible the elimination of a building from the catalogue as well as its demolition if there were "forecasts for plannings of public interest".

During the eighties, heritage protection was collectively assumed and historical architecture appreciation showed the evolution of the city. The Government of Catalonia, according to its exclusive jurisdiction in this matter, ligislated the Obrir document PDF Law No. 9/1993 of the Catalan Cultural Heritage. This law is based on a broad concept of cultural heritage of Catalonia and it is aimed for protection, conservation, research, dissemination and promotion of cultural heritage. Two categories are established (A and B) concerning personal property, real property, and intangible heritage. Besides, it also suggests another category.

The problem between protection and urban planning was supposed to be solved by writting Special Plans for the Protection for Architectural Heritage and Catalogue, which were adapted to the city districts and finally approved throughout 2000. This solution has enabled to coordinate protection and planning criteria, so that protection now more effective and suitable.

Special Plans set four levels of protection. The first categoy includes A Level elements (National Cultural Heritage), which are determined by the Government. The next category are formed by those elements of the B Level (Local Cultural Heritage), which are determined by the Council and ratified by the Government. The City Hall is responsible for elements belonging C Level (Sites of Urban Interest). Finally, there are also the Level D elements (Sites of Documentary Interest). For the first three categories maintenance is required and buildings can not be demolished, while in D Level demolition is allowed after presenting a historical and architectural research, which has to be approved.