THE COOPERATIVE MOVEMENT
COOPERATIVA OBRERA LA FRATERNITAT
From the fourth decade of the XIX century, political conflicts and imminent industrialisation with the growth of the working class and the social discontent, facilitated and encouraged the development of the cooperative ideal. The notion of cooperativism also reached the Barceloneta, mainly through the figure of Josep Torrelles who conceived the idea of establishing a consumer cooperative. This Cooperative was born on the first of December, 1879. The aim of the Cooperative was to improve the economic and social situation of its members, but also of the surrounding community. This would be achieved by the development of an enterprise with the collective base in which mutual services and the economic contributions of all members would allow the improvement of human relations, placing the collective interest on top of individual profit.
From the very beginning and even before being named, a sales section was installed in a portion of a shop located at number 39 of Carrer dels Pescadors. The rent payed was 32 rals per month and the first products sold at the store were spirits, aiguardent, canya, cigarette paper and matches.
LA FRATERNITAT In 1880 there is a record of a joint venture between the Cooperative and Societat de Comestibles La Fraternitat of Badalona, which suggests that the cooperativeâ€™s name derives from this initial presence of Badalonaâ€™s people. La Fraternitat was moved several times to different locations until its definitive settlement in a two level house situated at the intersection of Carrer Comte de Santa Clara and Carrer dels Pescadors. The antagonism of the local shop owners forced the Cooperativa to pay more taxes and due to this, the direction decided to keep the store open all the day, instead of just a few hours in the evening.
THE BUILDING The significant growth experienced by the Coopertativa La Fraternitat led to the architectural upgrading of the social building acquired in 1910. The improvements were based on hygienic and aesthetic considerations. The architect was Francesc Guàrdia i Vial, who was the disciple and son-in-law of Lluís Doménech i Muntaner (one of the main modernist architects in Catalonia) and had been strongly influenced by Vienna’s architect, Otto Wagner. The building’s design was inspired by The House of the People conceived by Lerroux. It had a store, and a warehouse on the ground level, a coffee bar and a library on the first floor, an assembly room on the second floor. The third floor housed the boardroom and the offices of the secretary and other staff members. The craftsmanship of the façade is worthy of special attention. Guardià chose the extensive use of uncovered bricks, a stylistic feature strongly present on the Arc de Triomf in the International Exhibition of 1888. This work also inspired the arrangement of the floors: the visual union of the upper levels by means of a sculptoric group half way between them, and the progressive enlargement of the windows as the ascend. A continuous balcony joins the three façades. Otto Wagner’s influence is evident in the three façades. Those of Carrer Comte de Santa Clara and Carrer dels Pescadors are identical. This device was used to suggest a building of larger proportions.
Both lateral façades are joined to the main façade by two shields which show the dates of the founding of the Coopertative –1879- and of the completion of the building –1918.
PAST AND FUTURE As time went by, the Cooperativa La Fraternitat increased its membership. It also endured several political changes through the years. In spite of everything, the Cooperativa went ahead and continued its presence in the neighbourhood’s daily life, until it ceased to exist in 1974. After that year, its ground floor was occupied by a bank office, and the others levels began to deteriorate due their lack of usage. At present, the rehabilitation of the building carried out by the architect Josep M. Rovira restored the building’s monumental character and gave the old Cooperativa its new identity as the neighbourhood’s public library.
BIBLIOGRAPHY Castaño Colomer, Josep. Això és el cooperativisme. Barcelona: Mediterrània, 1995. Informe sobre els patrimonis confiscats a les cooperatives al 1936. Barcelona: Generalitat, 1984. Pérez Baró, Albert. Història de les cooperatives a Catalunya. Barcelona: Crítica, 1989. Plana i Gabernet, Gabriel. El Cooperativisme català o l'economia de la fraternitat. Barcelona: Universitat de Barcelona, 1998. Rovira, Josep Maria. La Fraternitat: de cooperativa obrera a biblioteca pública. Barcelona, Ajuntament 2001. Thanks to: Marcia Tardito and Ellen Whelan February 2003
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