All that is solid melts into air: Karl Marx’s statement can be applied to the real estate market of a Spain steep in crisis. In the past, people counted on one day retiring from the same company that gave them the job of their life, after years of going to work in the same building. Nowadays, on the contrary, if they are at all lucky to land a position, in the best possible scenario employees operate in firms that change their names as easily as they do their locations.
That people and buildings fluctuate as much as capital itself does is perfectly illustrated by emblematic cases in Barcelona and Madrid. Shortly after Grupo Agbar struck an agreement for the sale of the Jean Nouvel-designed tower to the Hyatt hotel chain, the savings bank conglomerate Bankia rented out Torre Foster, Spain’s current tallest skyscraper with its 250 meters, to the big oil company Cepsa. Each of the two cases addresses a different situation. Whereas with Agbar the change of proprietorship will come with a change of use – from offices to a luxury hotel – which can be said to be coherent with the city of Barcelona’s own ongoing transformation into a hub for both business travel and tourists with high purchasing power, the rental of the Foster tower is a response to the problem of finding profitable use for the more than 400,000 square meters of office space created by the construction of Madrid’s Four Towers, as well as to Bankia’s troubles in the management of a building that it acquired from Repsol during the property bubble, and which now, in the wake of the bank’s rescue, awaits better times.