A post-capitalist industrial colony: The Calafou Collective in Catalonia



The Calafou collective defines itself as an industrial post-capitalist colony. It is a unique experimental spreading over 28 thousand square meters of an abandoned textile colony. The project is an off-spring of the Cooperativa Integral Catalana, an autonomous alternative economic formation uniting hundreds of people for conducting economic exchanges and reciprocal actions and using its own currency.

Calafou located just outside the village of Valbona, Catalunya, is a place for social, technological and political innovation and production, based on responsibility, cooperation, feminism and non-violence. Its terrains embrace 27 apartments and multiple working areas, among which spacious naves for industrial activity, crafts, arts, meetings and festivals. All these are accessible at below market prices and paid in conventional and social/local currencies. The factory and its apartments are being collectively acquired meaning that their residents receive a-right-to-use rather than certifications of private property.

Calafou contributes to the local solidarity-based alternative economy, uniting activities ranging from recycling and transformation of food, to production of furniture and detergents from recycled oils, reuse of computer hardware and creation of open-source software, doing textile work (dying, stenciling, sewing), as well as development of hydrogen-based motors for vehicles. One of its sub-projects, for example is the Collective Workshop Calafou, which is equipped with machines for processing recycled wood, iron, textile and plastic, shared among various users. Another interesting Calafou project is the Muntanger atelier, dedicated to mechanics, mechatronics, welding, hydraulic robots and various types of metal recycling. The Fundex project of Calafou, on the other hand, focuses on metal melting, using various recycled material and a smelting oven. The list of innovations for ecological and social sustainability which Calafou inspires and nourishes carries on even further. The Bio laboratory undertakes research in biology and chemistry, doing physical and microbiological water and soil analysis and developing a processor working on a living organism (biological slime) fed on cornflakes, rather than electricity.

At the same time Calafou provides sustainable self-managed living spaces, communal kitchen and facilities nourishing about 50 people with ecological and/or recycled food on a daily basis. Participation is based on sharing the political principles of the project and most importantly – on contributing to its functioning, from communal cooking to cleaning, construction and co-organization of public and outreach events. The complex scheme of activities and smaller projects within Calafou is managed through series of commissions and assemblies, where decisions are made through the direct participation and consensus-seeking. It represents a model where individual expression and community building search for mutual enforcement. For the purpose a minimum individual engagement in the project in terms of working days is essential, as well as participation in group assemblies, facilitation and conflict resolution techniques.

Bringing new life to the abandoned textile factory and its living spaces has been and continues being a challenge, not only physically but also socially and emotionally. The place is charged with a particular history of exploitation, inequality and gender violence. The collective is very much aware of colony’s historical charge and brings much of that memory to the public for reflection and analysis. The regular educational and open doors events have been good opportunity for sharing much of the industrial history of the region.

mural2The underlying principles of Calafou are ecology, sustainability and permaculture. At the same, unlike many ecological villages, Calafou has not taken the path of urbanizing virgin and remote territories. They have rather decided to recuperate land which has long been contaminated by the old textile factory. This certainly makes subsistence agriculture difficult. Located on the banks of Anoia, a highly contaminated river basin due to the exhausts of existing industries lying further upstream, Calafou works on the development of biological water and soil purification systems so that the ecological balance of the area is brought into place, at least partially. Nevertheless it is the spatial and historical configuration and set-up of the project, its horizontal organization, networks and experimentational spirit that provide a nourishing playground for social and environmental innovation which has potentials of being picked up elsewhere.

post by: Filka of UAB

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