What are the monuments for?

Journal of a gadabout 16 by Dr. A. Remesar

Lefebvre (Lefebvre, Henry, 1973) pointed out the contradictions inherent to the monument. He defends it insofar as it “projects on the ground a worldview and a transcendence, a beyond“; but he rejects it because when it “organizes a space, colonizes and oppresses its surroundings”, (… and) “full of symbols it offers them for contemplation (passive) and social conscience when they are out of date and have lost their meaning“.


Therefore, the Monument ” can not be reduced to a language or discourse or to the categories and concepts developed for the study of language.The case of spatial work (monument, architecture) has reached a complexity different from that of the text, in prose or poetry that usually consists of a sufficiently large space covered by networks and plots, where the monuments are its strong points, the points of fixation and suture, the acts of social practice, which can be said but can not be explained by the speech: they act and they are not read ” (Lefebvre, Henry, 2000)

The big problem is that public policies designed to inflate memory in public space, the so called memory spaces, are intended to combine history, a concept relative time, with memories that Harvey defined as a relational temporal concept. (Harvey, David , 2009). In addition, for Nora, memory spaces have their origin “in the feeling that there is no spontaneous memory, that we must deliberately create archives, maintain anniversaries, organize celebrations, praise and notarize the laws, because these activities no longer occur naturally” ( Nora, Pierre, 1989).


We must bear in mind that a “memory space” does not come from nothing. As a social space, it is a historical construction on the part of the members of a society. Following Lefebvre, we can affirm that spaces of memory, as lived spaces, arise from the convergence of representations of space in a specific point of the territory and time, loading this site as a space of representation.

So, “a monument is an object that helps to keep the memory of the past, referring to a character or a historical event, precisely because it is a memory of the past, it is a fundamental factor in the permanence of the city through in randomly ways of its physical and social transformation, this quality of permanence makes it cohesive and representative of the collective identity of a social group (…) Therefore, it is necessary to extend the concept of monument, understanding it as everything that gives meaning to a permanent urban unit, from the sculpture that presides and gathers, to the architecture that adopts a representative character and, above all, the public space capable of carrying meanings “(Bohigas, Oriol, 1985)

Today marks 15 years of the brutal attack in Madrid (2004) that killed almost 200 people. What official acts have occurred in Barcelona regarding the memory of these victims? A minute of silence in front of the city hall and some statements by the mayor.



Barcelona has monuments devoted to the victims of terrorism. The main one a beautiful piece of Sol Lewitt located in Can Dragó. The main one a beautiful piece of Sol Lewitt located in Can Dragó. A monument of black granite blocks that was inaugurated in 2003 at whose feet, a plaque contains the following text: “FROM THE CITY OF BARCELONA IN MEMORY OF AND AS TRIBUTE TO THE VICTIMS OF TERRORISM”. 

It is true that originally, the monument was intended to commemorate the massacre of Hipercor (1987), but the City Council at that time had the vision of dedicating it to “all victims of terrorism”. In addition, in 2017 the people in charge of the memory program of the City Council, planted a new plaque that says “With this work, Tall Irregular Progression, by the sculptor Sol Lewitt, dedicated to the victims of terrorism and inaugurated on June 26, 2003, Barcelona recalls also the attack of June 19, 1987 in the Hipercor stores

We could ask ourselves, why has not the memorial tribute to the victims of 11M been celebrated here? It may be that the more than 6 km distance between the monument and the City Hall building, is the explanation.

Only about 500 m away from the City Hall is the Plaza de la Villa de Madrid which, since 2004, hosts an inscription dedicated to those victims: “THE HOUSE OF MADRID IN BARCELONA AND THE PEOPLE OF MADRID IN GRATITUDE TO THE CITIZENS / OF BARCELONA FOR THEIR SOLIDARITY WITH THE VICTIMS OF THE TERRORIST ATTACK ON 11 MARCH 2004 “


What is more surprising is that just 200 meters from the City Hall, on the Ramblas, the plaque that remembers the victims of the 17A attack of 2017 is located. Perhaps it would have been convenient to celebrate the moment of memory here? The victims of Madrid and Barcelona were victims of the same exclusionary thought.

The mayor of Barcelona said shortly after the attacks of 2017 on the Ramblas “one of the things we must do is a memorial, on the Ramblas, for this horrible tragedy”, something that is “obvious for everyone.” If the sensitivity of the authorities of Barcelona in 15 years, is the same as today have shown, on August 17, 2032 nothing will happen in the monument to the victims of August 17, 2017.


  • Bohigas, Oriol. 1985. Reconstrucció de Baracelona. Barcelona: Ed. 62.
  • Lefebvre, Henri. 1973. La revolución urbana (1971). Madrid: Alianza Editorial.
  • Lefebvre, Henri. 2000. (1974) La production de l’espace. 4.a ed. Paris: Anthropos.
  • Harvey, David. 1990. The COndition of Postmodernity. Cambridge, Mass./ Oxford: Blackwell.
  • Harvey, David. 2012. REBEL CITIES. From the Right to the City to the Urban Revolution. London: Verso.
  • Nora, Pierre. 1989. «Between Memory and History: Les Lieux de Mémoire». Representations Special Issue: Memory and Counter-Memory (26): 7-24.
  • Remesar, Antoni. 2016. «¿Monuments vs Memorials? Some doubts, some reflections, No proposals?» En Ricart, N (ED) Public Space and Remembrance. Barcelona: Publicacions i Edicions de la Universitat de Barcelona.

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