Barcelona

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Barcelona is the second city of Spain, after Madrid. Barcelona is the capital of the Autonomous Community of Catalonia and, at the same time, the nucleus of a large Metropolitan Region which represents slighgtly over 13 per cent of the territory of the Autonomous Community. The successive urban dynamics, basically, in terms of mobility,  have enlarged the territorial basis of interdependence not only with the city of Barcelona but also among the different municipalities, that is, the policentric urban Metropolitan Region.   Around 74 per cent of the Catalan population (7 milion)  lives in this Region which accounts for 4.320 square kilometres and 162 municipalities.

Three levels of government gather in the city; first, the national government with its headquarters in Madrid, second, the government of the Autonomous Community of Catalonia, the Generalitat de Catalunya and, finally, the local government placed in two pillars:  the province, Diputació de Barcelona, and the municipality, the Ajuntament de Barcelona. Besides, other administrative institutions participate in the political life of Barcelona such as the Metropolitan government, in force during 11 years and abolished in 1987.

 

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Since the Roman Barcino, Barcelona has been inhabited by different cultures and traditions creating a cosmopolitan  environment  which is open to newcomers.  The city has gone through different stages;  after the great role performed as Mediterranean commercial centre in the XIV and XV centuries,  years of decay and abandonment followed.  It was not until the process of industrialisation in the XIX century and the simultaneous economic growth that Barcelona took off as an important political, economic and cultural centre.  

 

During the forties and fifties, Barcelona was the destiny of internal migration because of its industrial development. The peripheral areas of the city sheltered most of the new construction for immigrants.  The terciarisation of the city coincided with the arrival of the democratic local governments after the dictatorship by the end of the eighites.

 

In 1992, Barcelona hosted the Olympic Games which were the catalyst for a new urban development 

and restructuring of the city.

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The scope of such an event was broad:

  • The beginning of new forms of cooperation between public and private bodies 
  • The conformation of the “Barcelona model” as a symbol of the city abroad
  • Several initiatives with the aim of renovation and restructuring of the built environment.

A remarkable example of collaboration between agents are the different Strategic Plans of Barcelona which have taken place since 1990.  It represents a change in the concept of the city, stressing its links with the whole territory and officially creating the Barcelona Region in 1995.

 

The culmination of this new path of city-event development was the Forum of Cultures in 2004.   However, certain differences can be noticed. In fact, the celebration of the bcn3Forum of Cultures visibly shifted the path development of the city towards a knowledge-oriented one. Other long term initiatives such as the creation of the knowledge-based area 22@ in one of the districts of the city mirrored in a day-to-day basis the new orientation of the city towards the knowledge-based society.

 

The present and future of Barcelona are specially determined by the evolution of  five key facts which should be considered as real challenges for the city:

  • Foreign immigration
  • Housing
  • Tourism, fairs and cultural events
  • Technology, communication facilities and infrastructure
  • Large projects of urban transformation

In 10 years, foreigners as a percentage of the total population have increased from 10 per cent in 1996 to 16 per cent in 2006. The capability of the city to accommodate these new families at different levels (housing, education and culture, among others) represents one of the major issues to achieve. Definitely, this phenomenon will influence both the urban equilibrium and the design of strategies to reconvert short term difficulties into new opportunities.

 

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The prices of dwellings have dramatically increased in the city of Barcelona and its region during the last decade.  This situation jointly with the lack of affordable housing in the rented sector has badly affected certain collectives such as young people and low income families. Efforts have been done in order to facilitate housing access but still, this represents a crucial element for those living or planning to live in the city.

 

Lately, tourism can be found among the most dynamic sectors in the city.  It is intimately  related to the  image of Barcelona that want to be “exported”. Cultural offers or gastronomic events are designed to qualitative stimulate this sector.   Besides,  tourism related to business increased in 2005 about 26%.  It is closely linked to other activities such as the promotion of fairs and international events which directly influence the economic dimension of the city and reinforces the international expansion of Barcelona. 

 

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City competitiveness requieres a complex network of infrastructures to make it possible.  Airport, port and high speed trains are the main mechanisms to put Barcelona in the map.  The strategic position of the city favours contacts at an international level. However, the next few years requiere of great investments and  efectiveness in the solution of problems.  Besides, many projects in the city are dealing with technologies and innovation.  As the 22@ project considers: Barcelona has set itself a new landmark venture: to become a fully integrated player in the new technological revolution, to meet the challenge of the knowledge-based economy head on. Poblenou, the main industrial centre of 19th century Spain, stands to become one of the main economic and technological platforms of both Barcelona and Catalonia.

Since the 90’s,  large urban transformations in Barcelona have played an “engine” role to activate and stimulate the metropolitan development of the city.  Nowadays, three interventions are worth to mention, especially because of their volume and amount of investment:

  • Construction of the new High Speed train station in the neighbourhood of La Sagrera. This project involves the building of 8.000 dwellings, 300.000 square metres of green areas and parks and 6.000 square metres for services.  An additional output of such a big project is the change of the centrality of the city; from the present central location – inner old district- to the Plaça de Les Glòries –Estació Sagrera axis.
  • City of Justice in the South-East part of the city – Gran Via- which involves more than 213.054 square metres and also predicts the location of economic actitivities and national and international business in the area – City Metropolitana.
  • The enlargement of the Airport as an example to improve the connectivity of the city, internationally and with the rest of the country.

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