Designing for Difference in Barcelona’s El Raval

Authored by: Jeremy Németh

The New Companion to Urban Design

Print publication date:  May  2019
Online publication date:  June  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138302129
eBook ISBN: 9780203731932
Adobe ISBN:


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Can urban design affect immigrant integration? In this chapter, I explore why some places manage to become “arrival neighborhoods” for new immigrants. I begin by outlining the current thinking on the economic, sociocultural, and civic integration of immigrants and show that the opportunities and challenges that shape an immigrant’s acceptance and success in a host community rely on a combination of factors. Thus far, scholars have failed to adequately capture the ways in which the built environment might cultivate or weaken opportunities for immigrant integration. I turn to el Raval, a long-time arrival neighborhood in Barcelona, and find that spatial concentration, public space, and accessibility – three concepts very familiar to urban designers – are critical for building positive contexts of reception. When present, these physical features can foster social interaction, access to opportunity, and civic and political engagement, all fundamental mechanisms of immigrant integration. The intent of this chapter is to develop a framework for strengthening the complex relationship between urban space and the immigrant experience.

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