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The Barcelona model: and an original formula? From ‘reconstruction’ to strategic urban projects (1979–2004)
Francisco-Javier Monclús
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Departament d'Urbanisme i Ordenacio del Territori, Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya, Escola Tècnica Superior d'Arquitectura de Vallès, Barcelona, Spain E-mail: Published online: 01 Dec 2010.

To cite this article: Francisco-Javier Monclús (2003) The Barcelona model: and an original formula? From ‘reconstruction’ to strategic urban projects (1979–2004), Planning Perspectives, 18:4, 399-421, DOI: 10.1080/0266543032000117514 To link to this article:

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Planning Perspectives, 18 (October 2003) 399–421

The Barcelona model: an original formula? From ‘reconstruction’ to strategic urban projects (1979–2004)
´ S* F R A N C I S C O - J AV I E R M O N C L U
Departament d’Urbanisme i Ordenacio del Territori, Universitat Polit` ecnica de Catalunya, Escola T` ecnica Superior d’Arquitectura de Vall` es, Barcelona, Spain (e-mail:

Downloaded by [Open University] at 00:11 16 September 2013

The experience of Barcelona from the start of the 1980s up until the end of the 1990s has been widely described in academic and professional media alike. However, it is not easy to find global interpretations from an urban planning perspective. Some authors refer to the ‘Barcelona model’, focusing on design issues and the quality of public urban spaces. Others highlight the capacity to manage unique flagship events such as the 1992 Olympic Games, converting them into levers and strategic instruments of urban renewal and regeneration. Both versions tend to consider the Barcelona model as something singular, something almost unique in the panorama of international urbanism. To what extent can the Barcelona model, in fact, be considered as a unique phenomenon? Starting out from the diversity of the interpretations concerning the changes produced in the international planning culture and, at the same time, an approach closer to the processes and strategies developed in Barcelona during this period, this paper seeks to analyse the so-called Barcelona model, in order to reach a better understanding of its connections, the parallels and its specific characteristics compared with experiences in other cities.

Introduction Many architects, planners, urban designers and planning historians from different parts of the world have expressed special interest in the changes that have taken place in Barcelona in the last two decades. The experience has been widely cited and described in academic and professional media alike, although it is not easy to find global interpretations that take into account the different variables at play, even from a strictly urban planning perspective. Some have highlighted the formal dimension of these changes, the good design and the quality of the public urban spaces [1]. For others, the most significant element would be the capacity to manage a unique flagship event such as the 1992 Olympic Games, converting it into a lever and strategic instrument of urban renewal and urban regeneration [2].
*Francisco-Javier Monclus ´ is an architect and Titular Professor of Urban Planning at the Polytechnic University of Catalonia (Barcelona). He researches aspects of planning history and theory in Spanish cities and is convenor of the 11th IPHS Conference to be held in Barcelona in July 2004. He was co-editor of the Historical Atlas of European Cities and editor of La ciudad dispersa. Suburbanizacion ´ y nuevas periferias, published by the Centre de Cultura Contemporania ` de Barcelona. Planning Perspectives ISSN 0266-5433 print/ISSN 1466-4518 online © 2003 Taylor & Francis Ltd DOI: 10.1080/0266543032000117514

with the four Olympic Areas and other areas of urban intervention in the 1980s and 1990s (source: Atlas historico ´ de ciudades europeas.400 Monclus ´ Downloaded by [Open University] at 00:11 16 September 2013 In addition to these dual perceptions. an approach closer to the processes and strategies developed in Barcelona during this period. . 1). especially in the local literature referred to previously. between the approaches used by those who observe the Barcelona experience ‘from outside’ and the more local visions over the same process which have come forward ‘from within’. on the contrary. if one wishes to understand the degree of originality of the urban processes and the planning strategies undertaken in this period. this paper seeks to analyse the so-called Barcelona model to reach a better understanding of its connections and parallels with experiences in other cities. In addition. the originality Figure 1. at the same time. On few occasions has there been any attempt to combine the international perspective with the local perspective. In genera. vol. often from those managers and professionals directly involved in the said experience [3]. is it possible to consider this ‘model’ as a more or less original version of the discourse and urban planning practices experienced in other cities in the same period? Starting out from the diversity of the interpretations concerning the changes produced in the international planning culture and. it would seem clear that both perspectives need to be taken into consideration. it seeks to discover the specifics and relative originality of the said model. it is interesting to note a certain contrast in the extensive literature generated over the last few years. To what extent can the Barcelona model be considered as a unique phenomenon? Or. Barcelona and the first metropolitan ring. In one instance. However. the Barcelona experience tends to be seen as a unique episode.

The way in which the official British circles have embraced Barcelona’s planning is significant. it is suggested that ‘in the quality of our urban design and strategic planning. especially within the time frame of the 1990s. In contrast to these more local views. clean. In this document. . the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA). some foreign authors place it in the framework of the increasingly globalized planning of the 1980s and 1990s. for their ‘commitment to planning’. there seems to be an agreement in the recognition that what one is faced with is a unique case. On the other hand. the professional body of British architects. together with the singular role of the planners who had already formed the bases of the ‘new Barcelona’ in the 1970s [4]. The case of Barcelona could simply be considered as one more in a long series of formulae widely considered as a synthesis of ‘what should be done in cities’. representing two types of urban planning intervention associated with corresponding periods of the city’s renewal. for one of the key professionals directly involved in Barcelona’s planning. In 1999. In any event. the small-scale operations relating to public open space were highlighted as much as the larger strategic urban projects. to Berlin’s IBA (Internationale Bauaustellung – International Building Exhibition) in the 1980s. As McNeill indicates from a critical perspective. it appears clear that the Barcelona experience has become a type of reference point and model.The Barcelona model: an original formula? 401 of the Barcelona experience was attributed to the special situation of the city. different ‘formulae’ or models have been implemented in certain cities and in different time periods. also in 1999. . However. or whether Barcelona is simply the place where the model has been able to be applied more or less correctly and efficiently. Therefore. albeit as an internationally ‘unique thought’ [5]. a model of how the cities should look in the New Europe’ [6]. we Downloaded by [Open University] at 00:11 16 September 2013 . in the context of the then recently achieved democracy and of citizen movements. one of the most potent international models of urban planning of the late 20th century’ [7]. the ‘New Barcelona’ is a city considered as ‘efficient. What is less clear is whether this formula has been discovered by Barcelona. . . becoming ‘. Prior to this. This marked the first time that a city had achieved the prize. Of course. including ‘the combination of spectacular urban projects and of small-scale improvements of squares and streets’ [9]. in 1987. in the widely publicized report Towards an Urban Renaissance – prepared by a group of experts and co-ordinated by the leading architect Richard Rogers at the request of the then new Labour Government – there were significant references to the case of Barcelona. Other authors coincide in this consideration of Barcelona as an authentic ‘planning model’. previously awarded to architects. However. the important thing was that ‘urban transformations and the Olympic Games put Barcelona on the map and the Barcelona model was propagated as its modus operandi’ [8]. awarded its prize to the city of Barcelona. especially in the area of the local powers and for planners from other European and Latin American cities. in which a formula or model has been used which has shown to be ‘successful’. from Haussmann’s Paris in the nineteenth century to London’s green belt concept and the United Kingdom’s New Town planning in the post-war period. As much from the most critical assessments as from the most official accounts. the RIBA’s Royal Gold Medal for Architecture in 1999 was given to the politicians and professional architects of the city council. there are different ways of understanding the meaning of a model. Furthermore. the concept of a planning model has been drawn upon frequently in urban and planning historiography in the last decades. the city had achieved the American Harvard prize for its good design. cultured . Furthermore.

but rather complementary: Today. The initial small-scale operations were followed by large-scale strategic urban planning projects. to varying degrees. even more. promoting the international spread of the Barcelona model [12]. . it seems important to . however. adapted in both the post-industrial and Hispanic developing worlds. to clearly differentiate between these two components – and two phases – in the elaboration of the Barcelona model. If one wishes to understand Barcelona’s planning during this early democratic period. therefore. Neither the ‘green urban planning’ nor the metropolitan planning of Barcelona is considered as a relevant ‘model’ in these works. from Baltimore) and. What. attention is focused on two types of planning intervention in Barcelona: the capacity to regenerate or treat central spaces through small operations of urban reform but also ‘strategic’ projects characteristic of later intervention. paradoxically. In the texts previously referred to. quantity after’ [11]. just as in the observations from the Rogers Report. two dimensions of urban planning which have attracted international attention stand out: ‘qualitative urban planning’ and ‘strategic urban planning’. and the generalized weakness of the corresponding initiatives in Barcelona – as in other cities of Southern Europe – is striking [13].402 Monclus ´ Downloaded by [Open University] at 00:11 16 September 2013 are probably 20 years behind places like Amsterdam or Barcelona’ [10]. Barcelona’s planning and other lessons are being widely studied. such as controlling suburban growth. What is absent from the report cited above. . therefore. Of particular significance is the fact that the former mayor of Barcelona. that far from corresponding traditions of international planning culture. borrowed and. Furthermore. is reference to the metropolitan processes that in these same twenty years have transformed the wider structure and form of the metropolitan Barcelona – the ‘real city’ to which Maragall often refers – into a metropolitan region ever more dispersed and less ‘Mediterranean’. is the originality of the Barcelona experience? Is it basically a question of a process of adaptation from these urban planning traditions? Or can it be better described as an elaboration of such importance that it represents a ‘model’ from which other cities are learning? In a recent essay. Maragall has played on the world stage. These two lines of action are not. importing and adapting external planning models (for example. such weaknesses seem to be a sufficient motive to explain this lack of interest or the more critical visions of other British authors. Maragall’s message is clear: ‘It is critical to understand that improving public spaces is relevant to solving social and economic problems’. Pasqual Maragall (1982 – 97) was also asked to provide the foreword to the said publication. In the report. The contrast which some authors observe between the important involvements of the British planning system in some of these aspects. It proves necessary. . The ‘reconstruction of the city’ and ‘qualitative’ planning: the projects of recovering public space during the 1980s In addition to considering the specific features of the city of Barcelona in the first half of the 1980s – corresponding to a special historical moment (the change in the political situation with the recovery of democracy in Spain) – it is important to understand the extent of this complete revision and change in the planning ‘cycle’ at the international scale. Stephen Ward suggests the possibility that both hypotheses are not mutually exclusive. ‘The trick in Barcelona was quality first.

All this tended to bring an overall vision to situations that. or above all. those of the IBA in Berlin [16]. because the movements that question conventional planning and functional urbanism based upon the Athens Charter actually date from the 1960s and early 1970s. but which revealed the renewed interest for the existing city. as to the atmosphere and the conceptual references in which urban planning practice developed in the new period. Despite different meanings in each cultural and national ambit. as the grands projets and operations remodelling parts of Paris. In particular. with Barcelona in the lead [14]. squares and parks). All of this occurred. with different variants. gained ground gradually everywhere [17]. Downloaded by [Open University] at 00:11 16 September 2013 . the integration of urban planning and architecture as a reaction to the abstraction of an all-encompassing planning. France and Spain (especially in Barcelona). reflected diverse historical and urban circumstances. It is not difficult to find similarities and affinities in the ideas that dominate even the most distinctive operations during the 1980s in different cities: as much those produced in Barcelona. It is certainly not possible to establish a simple and mechanical relation. closed street-blocks. with different meanings. logically. the formal aspects of urban planning were emphasized. but also from a current with a particular echo in Italy. the idea of tackling urban problems through specific projects. etc. as a more or less architectural alternative to the generalist planning that. had become consolidated in the years of high urban growth. while fundamentally architectural ‘urban projects’ were also seen to be successful. various discourses and their corresponding slogans seem to run through architectural and urban planning culture. This contrasted with the negation or the abstract role of public space and a proliferation of blocks in the schemes of modern urbanism. in Europe as much as in North America. The first of these is that of the ‘architecture of the city’. especially the regeneration of public space and community facilities. there grew a new appreciation of the traditional city and its traditional collective components: streets. The shared elements are clear: new appreciation of the ‘historic’ city (especially that of the nineteenth and early part of the twentieth centuries). squares. stemming from the book of the same title by Aldo Rossi (1966) [15]. It is possible to speak of a new generation of plans and projects and of a whole cycle of urban planning – during the 1970s and early part of the 1980s – interested in context and in restoring the links between architecture and urban planning. It was in those years when. also in Spanish cities. In the more instrumental sphere. it is important to point out the parallels between the spread of the new planning ideas and the substantial changes that were produced both by the slowing of demographic and urban growth in European cities and the effects of the economic crisis of the 1970s and early part of the 1980s. the reclaiming of traditional public spaces (streets. which had dominated the actions carried out during the years of significant urban growth (1950s – 1970s). In relation to urban planning. It is also in that period when detailed morphological analysis of the city and identification of the architectural types began to be adopted. it is interesting to note the progressive importance of the ‘urban project’.The Barcelona model: an original formula? 403 refer as much to the new conditions deriving from the final stages of earlier urban growth. It is necessary to recall the energy with which these new urban planning conceptions were spreading as a reaction to the abstraction and limitations of modernist urban planning. Another of these slogans was the ‘reconstruction of the European city’. Without excessively stressing economic determinism. from the 1970s up to the early 1980s. making consideration of the urban context the starting point of any small-scale project or planning development. with certain variants.

port and railway facilities. Certainly. along with others concerning with the ‘artistic construction of the cities’ [22]. However. The fluid dialogue between Barcelona and the different ‘schools’ of urban design (Venice. closer to architecture and urban design [19]. Although the more historicist versions of the discourse of the ‘reconstruction of the European city’ – led by the Krier brothers – have not had a direct impact in Barcelona. others from ‘Urban Art’ from the start of the twentieth century. reflecting both the nature of each movement and the historical circumstances of the different cities. It is certain that the roots and trajectory of this movement are many and varied. such as former industrial areas. It proved to be significant in the return. Some have centred their attention on the deregulation of urban planning and the decline of the conventional plan [18] while others have been more interested in the formal dimension. Versailles and Paris. action on public space was conceived as requiring economically viable projects capable of relatively simple management. The situation recalls that at the end of the nineteenth century. the texts of Sitte. etc. along with those of Raymond Unwin or Werner Hegemann began to be reconsidered. to see this return to a more architectural. therefore.) is a clear manifestation in this sense. was pursued as a means of improving urban quality. The re-issue in different languages of certain ‘classic’ texts – from the urban planning of the nineteenth and early part of the twentieth centuries – is clearly indicative of this. though. there is an element that has a central role in the interventions of Barcelona and also has an important place in the discourse of the ‘reconstruction of the European city’. all contributed to this change of vision. but all predating the formulations of the Modern Movement [21]. and that they develop over a longer period than that of the crisis (from Jacobs in the 1960s to the Krier brothers in the 1970s and early 1980s). Finally. there are those who consider all these changes as part of the emergence of so-called ‘post-modern urbanism’ [20]. part of the movement of regeneration relates to the city’s own needs and approaches so that excessively simplified visions of lineal diffusions of thought and architectural practice from other countries make little sense. qualitative and contextualist urban planning approach in considering the possibilities offered by actions in Barcelona’s public spaces in the wider relationship to these cultural trends in European urban planning. The results. one finds a notable dissatisfaction with and mistrust of the principles and methods of modern urban planning. nearly always. as demonstrated by the translation of a number of their most important texts and projects and the interest which some of them gained in the local planning culture [24]. Following a long period of disinterest in this theme. when Camillo Sitte’s culturalist conceptions of urban planning were dominant. the differences are not that great. However. Brussels. In a similarly pragmatic fashion. hitherto ‘empty’ spaces in housing developments. It is unusual. actually show extremely varied forms. Milan. more or less directly to the principles of previous urban planning: some from the nineteenth century. to consider the affinity between these international currents and the attention to the existing city and its possibilities of ‘reconstruction’ in the specific case of Barcelona. The progressive obsolescence and abandonment of extensive properties in more or less central city locations.404 Monclus ´ The problem posed in the urban planning historiography is that the same phenomena have been interpreted from somewhat specialized or sectional points of view. in Barcelona and elsewhere. This relates to the renewed interest for the role and the formalization of public space. with new prologues authored by renowned contemporary theorists [23]. In effect. Downloaded by [Open University] at 00:11 16 September 2013 . Geneva. from the mid – 1970s the need to recover streets and squares. It is interesting. in a cyclical historic or pendular movement.

At the same time the public spaces of the historic city. It is not necessary to think in terms of a literal adoption of the principles .The Barcelona model: an original formula? 405 Downloaded by [Open University] at 00:11 16 September 2013 Figure 2. ‘Del Liceu al Seminari’ Project for new public spaces and cultural facilities in the Old City (source: Barcelona City Council). it is in the well-known book by Oriol Bohigas – Director of Planning between 1980 and 1984 – titled significantly Reconstruccio ´ de Barcelona. are recovered. In the book the efficacy of small-scale urban projects as an alternative to the abstraction of conventional planning was proposed. The message is simple but strong: to overcome the limitations of planning one has to give way to architecture. The so-called ‘culture of the urban project’ was highlighted in the City Council’s first publications. in which the principles of a new architectural and contextualist form of urban planning are put forward [25]. However. etc. albeit in an absolutely empirical fashion.. its squares and streets.

It is also important to bear in mind the special role played by the architects. a number of the convergent elements are clear. formally adopted in 1976. the conjunction of the recovery of democracy and the important role played by the neighbourhood associations has justifiably been highlighted [28]. or starting point. one should not forget the unique historical circumstances of Barcelona. However. Yet. Above all. In particular. that the PGM became converted into a mere framework. Parallels can also be found in the ideas which dominate the urban transformations of other cities during the 1980s. of the ‘reconstruction of the European city’. in particular. It seems true. This conception struck a chord as well with the visions of the fragmentary construction of the city or ‘city collage’ of Colin Rowe [26].406 Monclus ´ Downloaded by [Open University] at 00:11 16 September 2013 Figure 3. there is an understanding of the city essentially as architecture and an extraordinary emphasis on its morphology. were consolidated. though. enabling the actual . Bohigas himself cites Berlin as the clearest reference in affirming that an interesting way has been experienced there: a city in which ‘a reconstruction of the centre starting from the absolute respect for the road and the traditional form of the street’ [27] is carried out. View of the Old City (Raval) and Museum of Contemporary Art (MACBA). This was possibly one of the most distinctive aspects of the Barcelona experience during the 1980s [29]. in relation to other professionals and civil engineers. despite this apparent similarity between the discourses of the ‘reconstruction of the European city’ and that of the Barcelona model in its first phase. in Barcelona this was precisely when urban planning actions that were based upon the Plan General Metropolitano de Barcelona (PGM). Excessively generalized interpretations have tended to see a progressive abandonment of overall planning in this period. However.

passing from ‘projects of the urban sector’ to those at city and metropolitan scales [30]. In reality. it is appropriate to highlight Barcelona’s urban planning in relation to other cities which shared the same general principles about necessary improvements.The Barcelona model: an original formula? 407 Downloaded by [Open University] at 00:11 16 September 2013 Figure 4. New urban public spaces: Via Julia and Parc Nord (source: Barcelona City Council). through plans and municipal projects. it is possible to analyse and explain the way these discourses were implemented in relation to urban form and the importance of the treatment of public spaces as a key strategy in the regeneration of the city. Within Barcelona. Through the City Council’s numerous publications (another characteristic of Barcelona). as a way of redefining the urban structure. Finally. . but where comparable urban planning operations were not carried out. operations of qualitative urban planning to be carried out. approximately 150 operations of creating or recovering public space were realized during the 1980s. it is possible to see the different actions. bringing international attention and awards.

urban planning underwent a substantial modification during the 1970s: planning turned from regulating urban growth. Here. the gamekeeper turned poacher. the intention is not to refer exclusively to the so-called ‘Strategic Plans’. it recalls the change produced at the start of the last century in North American cities. those ideas would not necessarily be novel. In a certain way. when the ‘City Beautiful’ was replaced by the ‘City Efficient’ slogan [32]. the urban ambitions of the 1990s. Downloaded by [Open University] at 00:11 16 September 2013 . therefore. the new message rang loud and clear. coherent with the conversion of an industrial economic base into one of services. with some components returning to important elements of a previous cycle. developed in different North American and European cities. what occurred subsequently in Barcelona can be understood as part of an international movement that. At first. then. that the crisis of the models of conventional urban planning and the new ‘strategic’ activities occurred long before the economic recovery. modern urban planning grew out of the idea of the city factory and sought to apply Taylor’s thesis in its proposals. It was then that ‘urban marketing’ became general. in which the city would acquire the character of a ‘company’ [31]. at the start of the century. though. A discourse directed at improving the competitiveness of cities and their ranking in the ‘international urban league’ and so widespread that some commentators have even interpreted it as a ‘unique urban planning thought’ which would continue to have an effect throughout the 1990s [34]. In reality. Yet the city’s success. One has to remember. This discourse was encouraged as a variation of the ‘Eurocities’ conception. Once again. the first and chief aim of planning must be to oil the machinery. a pendular or cyclical movement is apparent. to encouraging it by any and every possible means. Later. with distinct temporal rhythms and technical variations. particularly by socialdemocratic local governments [35]. Similarly. Understood in this way. including Barcelona. Thus the late twentieth century planning trends recall the great city aspirations of many European cities. seeking to convert Barcelona into the ‘Capital of the West Mediterranean’. The quickening experienced with the economic regeneration from the mid – 1980s relates to a trend that was obviously not exclusive to Barcelona. Now. As indicated by Peter Hall. can be seen as a realization of the much earlier dreams of the Great Barcelona as ‘Paris of the South’ [33]. in winning the 1992 Olympic Games marks the fundamental difference between Barcelona and other locations. but to a more generic attitude centred in the functional and productive dimension of the city. All of this can be seen as a reaction to the architectural urban planning of the previous period. This manifests itself in the roles of a diverse range of large urban projects and infrastructures. during the crisis of the 1970s. the imposition of the new ‘strategic’ visions associated with the urban planning culture of the 1990s resulted from a process initiated earlier. the different variants of urban promotion. a number of projects were undertaken as a mechanism for the recovery and ‘re-launching’ of cities. a process that accelerated in the 1990s and from which no large city would want to be excluded. Cities. were machines for wealth creation.408 Monclus ´ Strategic planning: infrastructure and major urban projects of the mid-1980s and the 1990s As in the early 1980s. it sought to adapt the city to the pressures and opportunities derived from economic globalization. in October 1986. the developer. The planner increasingly identified with his traditional adversary. the large projects were seen as an antidote to economic and urban decline. Again. and the renewal of the image of the city. though.

based upon the conviction that urban planning interventions must be selective and orientated towards improving the economic and functional efficiency of the city. Yet. A particular typology of the new urban strategic projects comprises those corresponding to the planning of large international flagship events. there is an important contrast between the Olympic Games of Los Angeles (1984) and those of Barcelona. there exist different roots and versions: from the more traditional urban projects with certain strategic components to the socio-economic Strategic Plan. one of whose principal objectives would be that of facilitating ‘the consensus and compromise of the actors’ [37]. within this new cycle. The Olympic Games constitute a clear example of such events [38]. As in the previous case of qualitative urban planning. in the fundamental respect of using public capital to encourage private investment [36]. References appeared to ‘third generation plans’ and to ‘strategic urban projects’. as opposed to public leadership in the case of Barcelona. it is possible to distinguish those led by the public sector from those resulting more from business initiatives. Also. Portas characterizes these ‘third generation’ urban projects in terms of the mediation processes involved in their realization and the preference for these large projects. It is rather a case of a new attitude. it is important to stress that the strategic conceptions of planning dominant in the 1990s cannot be mechanically associated to the neo-liberal ideas of urban planning associated with British Thatcherism or its international homologues (although neither can it be understood without these precedents). Most commentators have stressed the differences between the largely dominating private logic in Los Angeles.The Barcelona model: an original formula? 409 Downloaded by [Open University] at 00:11 16 September 2013 Figure 5. The art of ‘leverage’ was the formula that spread in the form of the ‘strategic urban projects’ throughout all Europe (with a clearly North American source). In this way. A two-fold objective is pursued in all of them: the renewal of the image of the city and the use of the events as catalysts for pursuing specific operations of urban redevelopment. Hall explains that the London Docklands followed the US model. The originality of Barcelona lies in the efficiency of public . Place promotion (international press advertisement 1986). some planners invented diverse slogans to characterize this new form of urban planning. In this sense.

In both cities. It is important also that the redevelopment of the Barcelona waterfront within the former port area was the responsibility of the Port Authority. However. Besides Port Vell there is about six kilometres of seafront. If Port Vell has a clear pedigree. In particular. a wider view gives a more complex picture. in contrast to what happened in the Port Vell. the respective strategic plans were conceived in contexts of economic growth. reflecting the significant political and social consensus of the moment. in which a more ‘Mediterranean’ variant of the international waterfronts was applied [41]. In addition to the formalization of this urban area. Some commentators have argued that the Strategic Plan of Barcelona was presented in a rising economic cycle. View of Barcelona waterfront. more akin to that of Los Angeles than to other cities affected by economic crisis [39]. there was a sort of ‘project-plan’ that sought to reconcile the global scale of the plan with the demands of the Figure 6.410 Monclus ´ Downloaded by [Open University] at 00:11 16 September 2013 sector leadership. The Barcelona waterfront includes a wide variety of operations. it was not a question of finding an antidote. the remodelling of Barcelona’s Old Harbour (Port Vell) reflects these influences: the conversion of former port facilities for recreational. rather than the economic crisis that was usual in most cities. according to its different sections. Boston and other North American ports [40]. whereas the redevelopment of the section stretching from Barceloneta to Poble Nou was the responsibility of the City Council’s Planning Department. 1992 (source: Atlas historico ´ de ciudades europeas. James Rouse). 1). but a tool to motivate and guarantee growth. leisure and tourism uses in the ‘Rouse style’ (after the developer of Baltimore Harborplace and Boston’s Quincy Market. Effectively. vol. Therefore. certain parallels exist when consideration is given to the other conceptions beyond the scope of the Olympic Games. On the other hand. . In this area. it is useful to compare other cities that have concentrated their renewal strategies on a ‘strong idea’: that of the renewal of river frontages or waterfronts. the conception of the Olympic Village (between 1982 and 1987) reflected a more complex vision of the generalized conversion of port and industrial facilities into thematic parks. some have found more or less direct inspiration in the models from the USA: Baltimore.

associated with the implementation of the ring roads and road accesses (Fig. there was another series of large projects in the city. these more ‘strategic’ visions were imposed and the message of leverage was better understood. etc. [45]. as in the inter-municipal Plan of Milan [43]. it must be said that these developed ideas already foreseen in the PGM of 1976. Their novelty is that they were now extended with a view to achieving a redistribution of central land uses. These were developed and formalized from the mid-1980s and also fell into this category of ‘strategic urban projects’. These include the so-called ‘areas of new centrality’. the airport. using the Olympic Games as an occasional catalyst for these strategic projects. To these the two new Olympic sectors were also added (Montjuı ¨c and Diagonal). the high speed train and the Sagrera area. making a total of 12 areas. Meanwhile. In addition to the coastal and waterfront projects directly linked to and spurred on by the Olympic Games. Barcelona was not an exception in the context of European planning. Barcelona’s urban policy was focused on converting it into a more competitive and dynamic city. 8). there would also be operations associated with the remodelling of the port. Undoubtedly.The Barcelona model: an original formula? 411 Downloaded by [Open University] at 00:11 16 September 2013 Figure 7. This can be seen as an example of these ‘intermediate scale plans’ or ‘complex projects’ reinvented by the Barcelona architects and planners [42]. in spaces with obsolete uses but with good accessibility [44]. dominated as it was by ‘city entrepreneurism’ during the 1980s and 1990s [46]. the transport hub in the Delta del Llobregat. During this last phase. This strategy proved so convincing that another major event currently underway – the Forum of . in the period leading up to the preparation for the Olympic Games. In relation to the ten ‘areas of new centrality’. These benefited from special planning conditions to attract the new types of management and tertiary uses in the services and facilities sectors. They borrowed from the Italian ‘Centri Direzionali’. View of Port Vell redevelopment (source: Barcelona City Council). urban context. the ‘Diagonal Mar’ operation. the interventions in the city road system and other projects centred on large infrastructures.

commercial). Port Urba/Port ` Vell (Operating surface: 12 ha. 1. hotels. commercial). Carrer Tarragona (Operating surface: 12. commercial). Functional Program: residential. commercial).5 ha. hotels. hotels. and its not being linked to a more typical and formally recognized urban event [48]. offices. RENFE-Meridiana (Operating surface: 30 ha. Functional Program: residential. commercial). 11. industrial).Av. commercial). hotels. Cultures 2004 and the ‘second opening to the sea’ – has been planned on lines not dissimilar to those of the international Olympic Games [47]. 9. 7. commercial. Functional Program: residential. Functional Program: residential. commercial). 3. offices. offices. 4. Sagrera (Operating surface: 80 ha. Diagonal-Prim/Diagonal Mar (Operating surface: 35 ha. sports and recreational. 1986 (source: Barcelona City Council). Plaça Cerda ` (Operating surface: 11 ha. industrial). La Vall dЈHebron* ´ (Operating surface: 72 ha. ‘Arees de Nova Centralitat/New Downtown in Barcelona’. Icaria* ` (Operating surface: 55 ha. What also stands out in these years is the efficacy of the Barcelona model in its ability to deploy all sorts of political and planning instruments to motivate the large-scale projects. Functional Program: offices. Diagonal-Les Corts* (metropolitan facilities). 5. hotels. 8. This is despite its exceptional nature. Functional Program: residential. Diagonal-Sarria ` (Operating surface: 34 ha.412 Monclus ´ Downloaded by [Open University] at 00:11 16 September 2013 Figure 8. 10. Functional Program: residential. For the majority of observers. 12. Functional Program: offices. Functional Program: offices. offices. 6. Montjuı ¨c* (metropolitan facilities). hotels). offices. Barcelona has been converted into a ‘winning city’ in the new . Plaça Glories ` (Operating surface: 67 ha. Functional Program: residential. Carles I. 2.

that are contracting the consulting services of the Catalans and their disciples. Arantes refers to the fact that ‘the increasing number of cities. New Strategic Projects with the Forum of Cultures 2004 and new Seafront (source: Barcelona Regional). or using their teachings. more correctly the weaknesses therein – in this ‘real’ and metropolitan city. Such is the extent of this that the Barcelona model has also been identified with this second ‘strategic’ component of its planning development. as indicated by some Brazilian authors. it is necessary to consider some differential features. On the other hand.2 million inhabitants in an immediate area within a radius of 30 – 45 km of Barcelona). is impressive’ [49]. This metropolitan Barcelona has more than 4 million inhabitants and occupies a territory of more than 3000 km2 (4. It would seem appropriate to refer briefly to the initiatives carried out – or. As well as the task of advising on large-scale urban projects (for example the waterfront redevelopment in Lisboa ExpoЈ98 or in Puerto Madero. the only one with which other large European cities can effectively be compared. perhaps. the new waterfront of Buenos Aires) and ‘Strategic Plans’ for many other cities [51]. Its diffusion or export to different Latin American cities is a truly curious phenomenon. international economic and urban order. in which the virtues of the model were presented [50]. It is in this sense that one can observe the maximum extent of the promotion of the Barcelona model: from publications edited by the World Bank to reports prepared by Jordi Borja and Manuel Castells for the Habitat II Conference (Istanbul). in Brazil and in Latin America in general. . and not the real ‘metropolitan urban region’. Thus. indicating the limits of the Barcelona formula.The Barcelona model: an original formula? 413 Downloaded by [Open University] at 00:11 16 September 2013 Figure 9. Up to this point what has been referred to is the ‘legal city’ as defined by its municipal limits.

It is better to think in terms of a progressive . The idea of Barcelona as a ‘compact city’ seems to have been converted into another slogan associated with the strategies developed in recent years [52]. [55]). it seems excessively forced to think of a repetition of the traditional processes characterized by the improvement of urban centres. op. declining from 1 752 617 in 1981 to 1 508 000 in 1996. 1994 (source: J. However. in which the central renewal forms part of the reconversion of the traditional cities in renewed urban regions? This is one of the most significant and important debates that has been developing in recent years. is it a matter of similar processes to those that take place in other North American or European cities. In the author’s opinion. E. contrasting with the proliferation of peripheries ‘without quality’. The traditional process – especially in southern European cities – of opposition between the centre and the peripheries would thus seem to be persisting in the renovated structure of the metropolitan Barcelona. If it were certain that the model were dual. true? Can it be explained by a simple change in scale to the metropolitan ambit? Conversely.414 Monclus ´ Downloaded by [Open University] at 00:11 16 September 2013 Figure 10. and coinciding with the decentralization of a significant number of jobs and economic activities [53]. the limits of the Barcelona model would be much more evident. Urban renewal and suburbanization: metropolitan perspectives One of the pretensions of the Barcelona model lies in the formulation of a ‘European’ alternative to the North American models characterized by the processes of central urban renewal and the increasingly extensive suburbanization. in the traditional sense of the processes that characterize European cities from the nineteenth century. a period in which the municipal local authority of Barcelona lost almost 250 000 inhabitants. Sanchez. Decentralization in the Metropolitan region of Barcelona: location of big companies. To what extent is this. In this context some have put forward the hypothesis that Barcelona would be ‘expelling its problems’ to the rest of the metropolitan region. cit. in fact. what is certain is that the processes of metropolitan decentralization experienced a spectacular acceleration precisely in the last 15 – 20 years.

T. by way of environmental. In any event. On the one hand it suggests decentralization and on the other. There has also been an exponential increase in mobility – the daily entrances and exits of private vehicles in Barcelona increased from 600 000 in 1988 to 1 200 000 in 1998. This is a ‘Latin – European’ version of the processes of decentralization and sprawl. 64. the decentralization phenomena alluded to previously are common throughout other large Spanish cities [56] and continue. changing to 59. The question posed here is that of the inevitability. In reality. The first process proves difficult to avoid. the problems arising from the new forms of metropolitan growth are increasingly demonstrated. this is associated with processes of decentralization and integration of the metropolitan region – in 1990. However. in which the argument is made ‘that suburbanisation can best be seen as part of an urban growth developmental model . However.4% of the population worked within the same locality as their place of residence. Whether it be called an urban region. The dispersed city turns out to be more costly than the compact city. As O. . a ‘metapolis’. which extends the urban area far beyond the diffuse limits of the ‘real city’ of Barcelona. Jackson do not appear out of step. what is certain is that a substantial modification of this urban reality is being produced which finds its most notable expression in the proliferation of the so-called ‘new peripheries’. economic and social costs. albeit not necessarily in phase. Clearly. the urban realities of the decentralized North American cities are still a long way off. but not as original as the excessively local interpretations at times seek to assert [55]. . The consequences of this substantial change in the ‘real city’ of Barcelona have been widely stated. A number of researchers have highlighted the complexities and the paradoxes of the ‘anti-sprawl’ campaigns [58]. All of this has taken place in the Metropolitan region. On the contrary. Nel. with what has happened in other large European cities. a metropolitan region or a ‘city of cities’.4% in 2000 (according to the most recent Metropolitan Survey 1995 – 2000). or not. Some of the more significant indicators include those relating to the occupation of land – from 21 482 hectares in 1972 to 45 036 hectares in 1992. The theses enunciated by K. it does not seem that one is facing a simple expansion of the compact and traditional urban structure of Barcelona. extreme physical and uncontrolled dispersion.5% in 1995 and 52. of the new forms of ‘sprawl’. What can also be witnessed is the clear incorporation within the overall metropolitan region of areas of formerly second homes now for first residential use. it faithfully follows the path of metropolitan transformation found in the majority of large Spanish and European cities’ [57]. without taking into account the phenomena of ‘seasonal suburbanization’. in this sense. Not Downloaded by [Open University] at 00:11 16 September 2013 . with a negligible overall growth. There exists a certain degree of agreement in relation to the positive aspects associated with the reduction of excessive densities and the general improvement of the metropolitan territory. derived from the outward shift of former centrality and the creation of community facilities. The abundance of available data concerning recent metropolitan growth and transformations indicate an accelerated process of change. This already historical debate in English and North American cities is now becoming increasingly familiar in the Southern European setting. both sides of the phenomenon have to be distinguished.The Barcelona model: an original formula? 415 convergence with the most advanced models of ‘sprawl’ in the North American cities and which increasingly affect the European cities.lo indicates ‘it is necessary to note that this evolution is in no way original. American cities are not so much different from those of other countries as ahead of them’ [54]. In turn.

With regard to the maintenance of a sustainable. Downloaded by [Open University] at 00:11 16 September 2013 Epilogue and conclusions The main point to highlight is that the so-called Barcelona model has been extremely successful in the renewal and redevelopment of the existing nuclei of the city – the centre and other metropolitan nodes. increasingly. consolidated city. the reverse of the environmentalist movement’s maxim (thinking globally and acting locally) which has tended to prevail in recent years. In effect. Decentralized growth can be produced in a more or less controlled and compact manner.e. Seen from this perspective the Barcelona model can be considered more a ‘follower’ than a ‘leader’ [60]. undergoing central urban renewal and a conversion into an increasingly less ‘Mediterranean’ urban region. relating to qualitative and strategic urban planning. may be tackled with certain possibilities of relative success. other European cities. There exists an important scope with regard to the accelerated occupation of land. a less compact and more dispersed urban region. the ‘green urban planning’ which constitutes one of the most important components of any advanced urban planning model of recent years. urban structure with a progressive integration of metropolitan growth in the agricultural. from the application of formulae outlined in other locations. has been relevant in understanding the lack of capacity to control these types of processes. above all. Barcelona has a considerable amount to learn and little to show. to the emergence of suburban residential. In this sense it seems that a certain lack of concern for what would occur beyond the existing. What is being faced is not a . or simply a ‘reasonable’. from the metropolitan perspective it is more a question of an urban planning that appears to be ‘thinking locally (in the legal city) and implemented “globally” (in the real city)’. Good examples of these are offered by the English cities.416 Monclus ´ even the countries benefiting from a firmer planning system have achieved this. however. with a long tradition of strategies of containment and green belts [59]. It is. the dominant concern is now with maintaining the vitality of the central areas. forestry and natural environment. as in the case of the Netherlands and the decentralization of the Randstad. What has taken place in Barcelona is an urban planning resulting from the original re-elaboration and. The second aspect. with or without indifference to the precise limits between urbanized areas and natural surroundings. is still somewhat far from the comparable maturity found in other Northern and Central European countries. In other cities in which these same dispersal processes are in a more advanced phase. i. One could imagine that at this point what lies ahead is a ‘Latin – European’ variant of these processes [61]. Certain urban planning strategies have proved decisive in other countries. Barcelona has followed a path common in other cities. At the same time. Nevertheless the ‘unordered’ nature of the new peripheries in these Latin – European cities is also notable. industrial and commercial models of low-density development and the consequential unnecessary fragmentation and ‘artificialization’ of open spaces. it has limitations as an alternative to the extensive and dispersed form of urban planning so characteristic of North American and. It seems clear that Barcelona still has a considerable amount to learn from certain green and metropolitan urban planning traditions. therefore. in contrast. However.

allows one to consider the possible reorientation of its objectives and urban planning strategies over the next few years. With regard to the former component of the model – qualitative urban design – it seems clear that the ‘reconstruction of Barcelona’ initiated strongly in the first part of the 1980s. it involved an intrinsically interesting model of urban design that. For its quality and integration. In the case of the Illa Diagonal development.The Barcelona model: an original formula? 417 reference in the struggle for a greener and sustainable urban planning. These large-scale shopping centres have experienced a genuine boom. constitutes an improved version of what has been carried out subsequently in other cities. but also all the central nuclei of the metropolitan region of Barcelona). In any event. especially those in Spain and Latin America. can help to explain not only the scant consideration for the wider metropolitan problem. the Downloaded by [Open University] at 00:11 16 September 2013 . This is despite the greater importance given in the last post-Olympic phase to the logic of the private sector and ‘flexible’ planning. La Maquinista and Glorias. according to the optimists) the urban quality of the traditional squares and streets. Turning to the second component of the Barcelona model – the strategic planning associated initially with the preparations for the Olympic Games – this has been subsequently maintained with as much. in the more private and autonomous sense. This has promoted Barcelona into a high position in the international urban ranking. it is important not to lose sight of the nature of these successful new public/private spaces. so much denounced in other cities. The negative consequences. In this sense. such as marketing and theme labelling of the city. especially in its exterior. that those who analyse Barcelona’s experience from the outside have focused on the impressive results of qualitative and strategic urban planning. do not appear to have been produced in Barcelona. the operations associated with the Forum of Cultures 2004 will probably indicate Barcelona’s capacity to tackle the challenges that are still outstanding. if not more. have accelerated. even though they may be interesting palliatives. These correspond to a highly ‘globalized’ type of planning – especially that associated with Strategic Plans – which at the same time has converted Barcelona into a reference for other cities. maintaining and increasing the vitality and urban quality of the different urban ‘centres’ (taken to mean not just the official central business district. relating to polarization and social exclusion. Not even examples of high quality landscaping can detract from a lack of effective control of the new periurban landscape and of the ‘new peripheries’. such as Maremagnum at Port Vell. Until now. It is precisely here where the most creative and novel aspects of the ‘model’ have been demonstrated. It is understandable. the design also facilitated the development’s redefinition in use. but also what occurred at the same time in the city’s new recreation/leisure and cultural commercial areas. energy. Yet. adapt and elaborate original syntheses relating to the most advanced formulae of international urban planning culture. contrasting with (or complementing. the capability demonstrated by the ‘new Barcelona’ to borrow. despite the perhaps excessive trust in the ‘good design’. linked to the new ‘symbolic economy’ or ‘cultural economy’ and based upon urban tourism. All of this. was somewhat removed from the rhetoric of the Mediterranean city. A vast number of high quality redevelopments and urban improvements have been carried out in the central areas. whereby certain processes of a clearly North American origin. Richard Rogers’ affirmation regarding the ‘20 year time lag’ in relation to the British cities does not seem exaggerated. the notable success of city marketing strategies. therefore. In particular.

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lo. See the website of the Forum of Cultures 2004: www. clearly points in this direction: ‘L.S. Barcelona: Aula Barcelona.’ op. N.) A cidade da ExpoЈ98. O. 51. Diagonal Mar e Besos. Meyer. Castells. the present Mayor of Barcelona at the 2002 Eurocities meeting: [notes-ext]Culture is An interesting discourse which could be also seen from a more critical perspective: S. L.420 Monclus ´ 37. Aquapolis 3 – 4 (1999) 50 – 6. Esteban. Busquets. Ciudades 5 (1999) 85 – 96.. 2000. Portas. Barcelona: Ajuntament de Barcelona. Ciudad y acontecimiento. . Maricato. Changing relations between public urban space and large-scale infrastructure. Urban planning as a cultural venture in London. Arees de nova centralitat /New downtown areas. 45. Una nueva etapa del urbanismo barcelone ´ s. London: Earthscan: 1997. 38. O. The challenges posed by globalisation. Barcelona. Clos. J. (J. we must also consider culture as a priority strategy to create cities as real shared civic spaces . A.A. M. ` in V. require answers to achieve the management of Vainer and E. 36. Barcelona: Ajuntament de Barcelona. Font. op cit. M. F. For this reason. 41. Santacana. op cit. 44. [3]. Utrecht: Utrecht International Books cop. Planning Perspectives 6 (1991) 125 – 138. 1999. 1995. a new discourse on the ‘culture of cities’ is now emerging as can be seen in the words of Joan Clos. 50. New York and Rotterdam. Zukin. more and more. Clusa. 1999. Bohigas characterizes this new stage as ‘the second phase of the Reconstruction of Barcelona’: O. J. Barcelona New Projects. 49. Indovina (org. Castells. 2002 (website: www. op cit. Urbanismo COAM 27 (1996) 32 – 37. Bohigas. Calavita and A. the multiculturality of our societies and the technological trends of our economies. Garcı ´a-Espuche. Ferreira and F. Borja and M. MA: Blackwell. C. 1987. In addition to this continuity in the visions of economists and architects. Arquitectura Viva 84 (2002) 23 – 27. The Cultures of Cities.’ A. . Barcelona Metropolis ´ Mediterrania ` 15 (1990) 121 – 128. op cit. City and port. . Ward. Reforma del Port Vell de Barcelona. Spanish Waterfronts. Sola-Morales. Planning Perspectives 14 (1999) 369 – 394. [7]. J. B. Guardia. ‘Re-examining . . [3]. La recuperacio ´ del front maritime. which is why we have been more interested in knowing about it . Urbanistica 110 (1998). Nel. Cidade olı ´mpica. . ` La ciutat i el port: la historia ` continua. M. McKay. N. [4]. J. p. 43. La explotacion ´ parasitaria de la centralidad urbana. Chalkley and S. 39. D. The Barcelona economist Antoni Castells (director of the Commission supporting the Economic and Social Strategic Plan Barcelona 2000). 40. BARCELONA REGIONAL. International Exhibitions could be seen in a similar perspective: A.barcelona2004. 42. Essex. Downloaded by [Open University] at 00:11 16 September 2013 . [5]. cit. El planejament strategic. H. Barcelona City Council. Cambridge. it is also interesting to show the use of a ‘culturalist’ discourse as a replacement variant in the urban strategy adopted by the City Council. Oyon. Lisbon: Bizancio. Arantes. La experiencia urbanı ´stica de Barcelona 1986 –1992 y las expectativas del Forum 2004. F. A transformaçao de frente de mar de Barcelona. Barcelona. J. 2000. Ferrer. Barcelona Metropolis ` Mediterrania ` 1 (1986). cities with the case of Barcelona. Aula Barcelona. Borja. 48. opening of Eurocities Conference. ´ Modernization and urban beautification: the 1888 Barcelona World’s Fair. [2]. S. O. 47. Urban development through hosting international events: a history of the Olympic Games. T. Los Angeles 2000: a Model of Strategic Planning. shares more similarities than other U. . Monclus ´ and J. Local & Global. Marshall. op cit. LЈemergenza del progetto urbano. J. a strategic instrument for our cities’ development. Replacing the usual discourse on Expos or Olympics. 1999 46.

La descentralizacion ´ del empleo y de la residencia en las areas ´ metropolitanas de Barcelona y Madrid.lo. See also: O. J. [55]. p. F. 1998. R. J. J. K. Sanchez. Suburbanizacion ´ y nuevas periferias. Oxford C: Oxford U. Barcelona: A. V. ´ Decentralization. 59. E. Papers. Ciutat de ciutats. Empuries. T. 2000.. op cit. 57. 55. ciutat difusa.. 60. S. 53. Area Metropolitana de Barcelona.VV. comparisons with Madrid show many similarities: J. O. LЈurbanisme de la diversitat. op cit. 58. Angelet. Dinamiques ` metropolitanes a lЈarea i regio ´ de Barcelona. ibid. 61. Different studies consider that the ‘legal city’ of Barcelona is increasingly becoming converted into the CBD of the metropolitan region: see T. Jackson. Mancomunitat de Municipis del Area Metropolitana de Barcelona. LЈocupacio ´ de en el sistema metropolita ` central durant el perı ´ode 1980 –1998. Monclus ´ (ed. Vidal. Torres Capell.). pp. La ciudad dispersa.lo. 115. Nel. Sydney: University of New South Wales. Again.) Urban Planning in a Changing World. F. Monclus.. in AA. 158 –70. ´ (ed. Ciutat compacta. La formacio ´ de la urbanı ´stica metropolitana de Barcelona. 1998. p. . [2].P. 54. especially. 647– 53.) The twentieth Century Urban Planning Experience: Proceedings of the 8th International Planning History Society Conference and 4th Australian Planning History Conference. Freestone (ed. Barcelona: Centre de Cultura Contemporania ` de Barcelona. in R. See.The Barcelona model: an original formula? 421 Downloaded by [Open University] at 00:11 16 September 2013 52. Barcelona. 1856 –1999. 2001. 1999. [13]. 56. in Autores varios. pp. Hebbert. Barcelona: Ed.M. in R. J. Freestone (ed. op cit. 81. in F. M. Barcelona: CCCB. Mancomunitat de municipis de Barcelona. J. [3]. Other studies by a key actor who was Head of Planning at the Generalitat (Regional Government of Catalonia) during the 1980s and 1990s adopt different perspectives: J. containment and green corridors: Compact city strategies in Spanish cities. 1996. Ward.). Urban 4 (2000). The paradox of anti-sprawl reform. pp. Busquets. The twentieth century experience. Contemporary Barcelona. 1995. For a global view of metropolitan planning in Barcelona: M. Solans. London: E & FN Spon. Nel.B. 1985. Monclus. 303. Barcelonians: from 1996 into the future. A. Regio ´ Metropolitana de Barcelona 36 (2002) 51–72. Efectos sobre la movilidad urbana. op cit. Bruegmann. Crabgrass Frontier: The Suburbanization of the United States. Barcelona: transformaciones en los sistemas productivos y expansion ´ metropolitana.

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