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School of Geography

Daniel Caparros Torres Daniel Caparros Torres

Contact details

School of Geography
University of Leeds
University Road
Leeds LS2 9JT   UK



Project title

Regeneration and Gentrification in Madrid’s Public Markets

Project overview

Born in the XIX century as symbols of progress, modernity and civism, Market Halls represented a true urban revolution and, for decades, occupied a dominant position in the urban retail environment of Spanish cities (Jones, Hillier and Comfort, 2007). However, after this Golden Age (Schmiechen and Carls, 1999) the suburban expansion that characterised the second half of the 20th century, together with the personal mobility afforded by mass motor car ownership, the concentration of retail in the hands of supermarkets (Jones, Hillier and Comfort, op. cit.) (Lee, 2009), and the neoliberal urban restructuring designed to create a privatized and commodified city centre space (Gonzalez and Waley, 2013) undermined the traditional city that had supported markets and pushed them into a long period of disinvestment, decline and in some cases, abandonment. Markets became, in some sense, redundant in the eyes of cities authorities.

It isn't until the last decades of the 20th century that urban, economic and social changes, such as the rediscovering of the virtues of city centre and the 'urban renaissance' (DETR, 1999), the experiencialization of the economy (Pine and Gilmore, 1998), the emergence of ―food quarters‖ (Parham, 2012) and the growing focus on sustainable consumption (Mayer and Knox, 2006), gave place to a certain nostalgia for the ways of consumption associated to the market (Lee, op. cit.). The emergence of a social context in which food and drink are accorded a great significance as formative of a desirable urban landscape led to a surge of interest in the possibilities of Market Halls ―as a new regenerated commercial space that brings together various policy areas: urban renaissance, healthy living, community cohesion, urban sustainability, re-localization of the economy and tourism (Gonzalez and Waley, op. cit.).

As a result of these changes, the narrative presenting Market Halls as poorly-managed spaces, obstacles to urban regeneration and unable to catch up with the times, coexists with an increasingly influential 'revival' narrative focused on the social, economic and urban possibilities of regenerated Market Halls (Dines, 2009)(Morales, 2011)(Gonzalez and Waley, op.cit.). The idea that 'regenerated' Market Halls can be employed as a driver for urban economic growth and regeneration —supported by the perceived ―success stories of markets such as La Boqueria in Barcelona— has certainly found a devoted audience among urban planners and politicians, becoming part of transnational ideologies of planning.

As Pratt (2009) states, given the rate at which changes occur in urban policies, policy-makers tend to pay special attention to those cases perceived as best practice, first movers or success stories, copying them with little or no variation from one place to another with no acknowledgement of the different social and economic contexts. As a result of these travelling truths (Peck, 2005) or, less poetically, policy transfers —-and especially since Mayor Trias of Barcelona defined the regeneration of Market Halls as one of the most cost-effective investment cities can make— hardly any Spanish city has been exempted from regeneration projects aiming to refurbish, redesign and renew its Markets.

The cause-effect narrative that new refurbished Market Halls can become the new engines for the city has certainly become part of the new orthodoxy by which cities seek to enhance their competitive position. But the time has come to ask ourselves: Is there any empirical evidence supporting the idea that regenerating Market Halls can effectively bring economic, social and urban benefits to the city or are we rather witnessing an enduring myth? Are these interventions acknowledging the uniqueness and particular social and economic contexts of different cities or just being copied with little or no variation from one place to another? Are longstanding traders and customers benefiting from the regeneration programmes or rather being displaced by them? How (and why) are some traders, residents and activists resisting the transformation of traditional public markets into gourmet markets, more effective at attracting affluent customers and tourists? Are there any alternative, more socially-just ways to regenerate market halls?


  1. To gain a better understanding of how these ‘successful’ market regeneration policies travel from one city to another.
  2. To contextualise the emerging interest in ‘rejuvenated’ public markets within the particular trajectory of recent neoliberal urban political economy.
  3. To assess the impact of regeneration and re-branding of traditional public markets as specialty markets for longstanding traders, customers and the commercial gentrification of surrounding areas.
  4. To critically examine how the institutionalization of the consumption practices of more affluent middle and upper classes might challenge the ‘right to the city’ of lower-income residents.
  5. To analyse how traders, customers, local residents and civic organisations are opposing some of these regeneration schemes and challenging neoliberal urban policies.
  6. To explore alternative, more socially-just and inclusive ways of regenerating municipal markets.


Research Affiliations

Conferences/training courses attended

  • The Politics of Equity: Who Owns the City?. London School of Economics. 25 November 2015.
  • PostCapitalism: Envisaging a Shared Future. St Paul’s Cathedral. 3 November 2015.
  • Connected Streets: What will make the character of city streets in an increasingly connected age?. Victoria and Albert Museum. 6 September 2015.
  • Defining Forms of Control in the Contemporary City. RIBA. 11 August 2015.
  • Post World’s End Architecture. Serpentine Pavillon. 25 July 2015.
  • Divided Cities: Urban Inequalities in the 21st Century. London School of Economics. 6 May 2015.


2011. Mutua Madrileña Posgraduate Scholarship. King’s College London (United Kingdom).

2010. MUNDE Scholarship. Universidad Nacional de Quilmes (Argentina).

2008. ERASMUS Scholarship. École Superieure de Gestion de Paris (France).

Short Curriculum Vitae


MA in Cultural & Creative Industries. September 2011 - September 2013
King’s College London (London, UK).

BA in Media and Communications. September 2006 – June 2011.
Rey Juan Carlos University (Madrid, SPAIN).

BA in Journalism. September 2006 – June 2011.
Rey Juan Carlos University (Madrid, SPAIN).