House prices in Spain continued to rise from 1985 until they were halted by the 2008 crisis. During the real estate boom, construction soon became the most important economic sector in the country, yet widespread corruption in urban development and planning and the resulting regional deterioration decisively impacted cultural manifestations and social structures in contemporary Spain, as depicted by Rafael Chirbes and Bigas Luna. The Valencia Community was one such region to smart from the aftermath of the housing bubble, and the irrevocable effects on local ecosystems and the associative networks in cities. Opposition to this type of avaricious urbanism was spearheaded by networks of neighbourhood resistance, which gathered significant momentum in the city of Valencia. Architects, for their part, began to show a growing fascination with the dense urban form and social processes that these same urbanist logics had nurtured in Benidorm.
One of the earliest approaches to the phenomenon of the housing bubble and its impact on contemporary Spanish culture and society can be seen in Bigas Luna’s film Huevos de oro (Golden Balls, 1993) and its portrayal of real estate developer Benito González (Javier Bardem), who makes a killing from the first cycle of the boom, to explore the connection between classic Spanish masculinity — the myth of the Iberian male — and euphoria over the vertical constructions that would stand for the wholesale transformation of the Spanish coastline in the 1990s. Some scenes from the film were shot in the imposing Grand Hotel Bali (1988-2002) being built in Benidorm and designed by the Albacete architect Antonio Escario. If, during the 1980s, Benidorm symbolised the urban development exploitation of the coast, then its density — represented by the city’s distinctive skyline — would be, from the 1990s, a subject of fascination between disciplines, for instance in works by Federico Soriano and Dolores Palacios for the Benidorm Cultural Centre Tender in 1996, or the study on tourism in Spain’s Mediterranean, carried out in 1998 by the Dutch architect’s office MVRDV and students from the Architecture School at the International University of Catalonia. Both projects revisited the sociological and spatial research on Benidorm conducted by Mario Gaviria, José Miguel Iribas, Françoise Sabbah and Juan Ramón Sanz Arranz in the 1970s.
Between 1991 and 2015, Valencia was also the setting for major speculative operations in a bid by the local government to turn the capital into a global brand. Events such as the America’s Cup (2007 and 2010) and the European Gran Prix Formula 1 race on the city’s street circuit (from 2008 to 2012) were an excuse to build mammoth facilities such as the Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias and the Marina Real Juan Carlos I, and to execute urban development plans that also included transforming the city’s port into one of the largest areas of port-related activities and logistics in Europe, the partial urbanisation of L’Horta and the demolition of historical urban networks such as the El Cabanyal neighbourhood. Architecture and urbanism would be key in certain excluding processes in these events, which are documented by photographer Alejandro S. Garrido. Moreover, this predatory urban development would face opposition from a network of neighbourhood resistance movements and other initiatives of solidarity with those affected by such actions, as mapped out by artist Rogelio López Cuenca in 2015.