The Montbau district, located below the Tibidabo, next to Passeig de la Vall d'Hebron, has a total area of approximately 31 Ha. The part built today, or in a very advanced stage of construction, consists of two basic residential units. The garden and the neighbourhood park are also practically finished.
A group of about 70 single-family homes in the upper part of the slope is currently under construction, a group that we will not include in the present analysis because it is in a very little advanced phase and, therefore, without specific data. The architect of this group is Joan Bosch.
Who are the authors of Montbau? Here is a first concrete problem that can lead us to general considerations. Due to programming requirements, the Municipal Housing Board decided to commission the architects Guillermo Giráldez, Pedro López and Xavier Subías with the urgency of a very few weeks as a matter of urgency. By what criteria were these architects chosen? Probably for simple reasons of proximity, administrative relationship, circumstantial insufficiency of the technical staff itself, etc.
But was there a concern to choose a good team precisely for one of the largest projects that were then being developed? At least, or was there an awareness that, by chance and for reasons of bureaucratic convenience, he had fallen into the hands of a good team, then with a promising youthful push?
* The original Partial Plan was altered, both in its first phase, slightly, and in the second one, with a change of drafting team and urban planning that substantially modified it.
The Montbau neighbourhood is part of a new stage of urban action by the Municipal Housing Board (PMV) in which it is proposed to create complete urban centres perfectly differentiated from the rest of the urban fabric, instead of building isolated buildings in a dispersed way, as they had done so far. This made it necessary to act on a large area of land that was only found on the outskirts of Barcelona. Another important change compared to previous actions is the clear commitment to modern architecture. The Montbau project resolves the relationship between the city and the mountain with isolated buildings and segregation of pedestrian traffic from the road. Coinciding with the dates of completion of the project, a congress of municipal technicians was organised in Germany in 1957, in which some members of the PMV participated; they traveled to Frankfurt, Cologne, Bonn and Berlin, and they visited the Interbau and other reconstruction zones. One of the differentiating elements with respect to the previous actions of the PMV and other public promoters is the provision of social facilities and the desire to create a neighbourhood of a certain complexity that reflects social diversity, which involved the construction of a varied housing program with 2, 3, 4 and 5 rooms grouped in towers, blocks and single-family homes. Public and collective spaces also respond to this intention. The initial project was drawn up by the architects Xavier Subías, Pedro López Iñigo and Guillem Giráldez, who followed the postulates of the CIAM. However, the second phase was modified in 1962 by a heterogeneous group of architects who doubled the housing density and defined a more closed urban fabric, with rectangular squares limited by L-shaped blocks. This group of architects was made up of Manel Baldrich, Bonet Castellana, López Iñigo and Soteras. The set of single-family homes on the highest part was designed by Joan Bosch. In 1963 and after Le Corbusier, who was already very old, rejected the commission, a competition was held to build the church of Montbau, which was won by the architects Vayreda and Montguió. According to the architect Fernando Marzá, the impact that the ideas of Bonet Castellana had on the architect Oriol Bohigas when proposing this second denser and more closed plot of urban space would be the turning point that would lead him to propose a new urban planning that was more compact than that of the CIAM.
In 1957, when the planning of the first basic residential unit in the Montbau district was approved, the population of Barcelona was 1,466,937 inhabitants, but only 7 years before the municipal census put it at 1,280,179. These unprecedented levels of growth required a strong response from the city council to the demand and location of this entire population. Since 1927, the Municipal Housing Board has been in charge of promoting, building and managing the city's public housing stock, so it seems logical that this body should be in charge of dealing with this new and urgent issue requirement. It should also be noted that around these dates the so-called International Congress of Modern Architecture arises, better known by its acronym CIAM, founded in Switzerland and led by Le Corbusier. This is a meeting place and debate on such important issues as modern technology and its consequences, standardisation, economics, urban planning, youth education or architecture and the state. One of his proclamations concluded that the problems cities faced could be solved by functional segregation and the distribution of the population in high blocks of flats at widely spaced intervals. The construction of the Montbau housing estate is framed within this local and international context and, thus, reflects this. It is therefore appropriate to recognise this intervention within its historical context along with the many contradictions, the multiplicity of authors and a certain cultural anachronism in which it took place. Planned in two basic stages, the first one (SO) was drafted by Giráldez, López-Iñigo and Subías and approved in 1957. The second stage (NE), approved in 1962, was drafted by Baldrich, Bonet, López and Soteras. Later, in 1964, the construction of detached houses was approved by the architect Agustí Bosch. The parish centre and the church were the buildings that were completed later, in 1975. A competition was called and Monguió i Vayreda’s project won. In terms of planning, and although now the city would not consider an isolated neighbourhood from this point of view, perfectly limited and differentiated from the rest of the urban fabric; at that time it might have seemed logical to adopt a criterion of no retreat in free areas, cheaper and easier to process. From this point of view, we could say that this precise distribution of blocks, towers and single-family homes with large squares, a "commercial strip" on the ground floor and different facilities, built on the slopes of Tibidabo, is presented as a representative example of post-war Barcelona town planning. But this is precisely why its modernity is gaining even more value, as well as its important commitment to the provision of social facilities and the ex-novo recreation of a neighbourhood with a rich complexity and social diversity. The project represented an alignment with the international avant-garde architecture and the present shows us a good experimental reference for future actions in newly created neighbourhoods.