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We visit Ca l'Alier: the urban innovation center of Barcelona

We visit Ca l'Alier: the urban innovation center of Barcelona

Ca L'Alier

The building houses the municipal BIT Habitat Foundation and the multinational technology company Cisco

Built in the mid-19th century as a factory and now a center for urban innovation, Ca L'Alier is located in Poble Nou, an area of Barcelona that has undergone an urban renewal program making it the heart of the city’s innovation cluster. Run by Barcelona City Council, the center promotes innovation and smart technology in the city.

Ca L’Alier started out life as a textile factory in 1853 and, prior to being completely renovated in 2011, it was derelict and run-down. It is one of the 115 listed buildings that benefit from heritage protection in the Poble Nou neighborhood, where new buildings are interspersed with evidence of Poble Nou’s industrial past.

Ca L'Alier takes its name from its last owners, the Alier family, who, at the beginning of the 20th century, acquired the site and turned it into a factory manufacturing sacks, linen yarns, and netting. In the 1920s, it was one of the most important companies in Poble Nou.

Today, the building is managed by the municipal BIT Habitat foundation, which has its headquarters in the building, and it is occupied by the telecommunications multinational CISCO.

A model of sustainable renewal

The rebuild was conceived from the outset as a model of imaginative architectural design that would honor the building’s past and employ innovative technological and construction techniques, an approach that is intended to be rolled out throughout the Poble Nou district.

Ca L'Alier is not the only run-down industrial building in the area; it is close to other listed industrial complexes such as La Escocesa, Oliva Artés, Can Ricart and several others, many of which are still waiting to be restored and repurposed.

The restoration of the building makes it a benchmark for a new intelligent and sustainable architectural model that is respectful of both the environment and the city itself. It is an energy-efficient, self-sufficient building that produces no emissions and manages resources intelligently by re-using gray and rainwater, employing renewable energy, and taking advantage of building materials and soundproofing techniques, etc.

"From the ruins of an old 19th century textile factory, a building has emerged that is a benchmark of intelligent and sustainable architecture"

The original structure has been respected in the restoration, and many of the old building’s original walls and vaults have been kept intact. At the same time, the new building was adapted for its new role and meets the requirements necessary to obtain the LEED Platinum certification, which recognizes the highest level of high environmental standards.

BIT Habitat and Cisco

Barcelona enjoys an international reputation that puts it in a privileged position in the international conversation around urban innovation. The BIT Habitat Foundation (a Barcelona City Council body) located in Ca L'Alier promotes and maintains an international network that works on urban innovation. It encourages communication between cities, institutions and organizations and the sharing of experiences and good practice in order to generate solutions and innovative techniques that improve cities.

A major partner in this network, CISCO has located its co-innovation center for digital transformation and the Internet of Things (IoT) at Ca l'Alier.

The Barcelona Urban Innovation Platform is a space for discussion and dialogue between different Barcelona City Council departments and those making up the four strands of the “quadruple helix”: citizens, university and research bodies, business, and public administration.

The platform’s aims are to drive forward urban innovation in Barcelona, encourage the participation of local actors from the urban innovation ecosystem, promote open and cross innovation, and define and prioritize future strategies for the urban agenda.

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