return to nē42

by Joan Clos

The writer Haro Tecglen says that his idea of Barcelona has always been closely linked to his emotions, and that he has often admired Barcelona. With his permission, we are taking these reflections out of their context, an interview, and applying them to ourselves, for our own good.
For our own good, but on an undeniable and tangible basis, awareness that the people of Barcelona's love and admiration for the city, and that of others, is based on its current situation and promising future.
This personality, and let us state it clearly, this balanced mix of safety, healthy ambition and defined aims is allowing us to accept sportingly that Barcelona will not be European Cultural Capital in 2004, and feel sure that in 2004, when the eyes of the world will be upon the Universal Forum of Cultures, we will meet expectations and show we are a model of quality and coexistence. And we will do this by mobilizing local participation and institutional involvement, in this case in the form of a three-sided Consortium.
It is this enterprising, farsighted and collective spirit that has convinced us to focus on cultural concerns (both present and future) from a strategic perspective, from a planning-based method deliberately called Barcelona Accent Cultura (Barcelona's Accent on Culture), that has now gone beyond the diagnosis phase and is ready to draw up specific and shared proposals. This is the culture Barcelona wants to create, a culture that is modern and plural, high quality, close to ordinary people, and both local and international. This idea is starting from a splendid past record, as shown by the articles in this number on the history of exhibitions in Barcelona, and enriched by bringing together diversity, as shown by the articles on North African society in Barcelona.
A city's success is increasingly closely linked to its ability to create a favourable environment for the development and spread of knowledge. Just as the information society is creating new needs and new opportunities, the cities (where most of these changes are taking places) have to be ready to attract a broad range of services based on the main nodes of the global economy, where intellectual capital is the key to progress.
In this framework, the key ideas are creativity, imagination and innovation. The fields needing a push are education, culture, art, science and technology, and the city is the setting that makes a successful formula possible. A setting that requires preparation, that needs carefully planned and imaginative new facilities, and the necessary support for them.
This is how we must understand the enormous possibilities of a space like the Poble Nou District. The many urban changes concentrated in the east of the city all intersect in Poble Nou. Barcelona's decision to promote the Poble Nou District as home for new generation industries and services, and its combination of residence, leisure, green spaces and innovative economic activity, means that it looks likely to become the city's new dynamic point of reference, a leading example of the sustainable Barcelona we want.
Our idea of sustainability is to make possible the combination of the centre with open spaces, density with quality, mobility with friendliness, growth with balance, city with metropolis. In a few years, few other cities will enjoy such a clearly defined central status, something Barcelona has every chance of achieving.
Suggesting that we consider this point is not just a theoretical exercise, but an essential first step towards understanding the keys to Barcelona's future and, probably, a way of confirming the optimism that the city makes us feel. Thinking about it is rather tedious in our summer heat, but even though the summer weather tempts us to rest, it also allows us to find the time to speculate with renewed enthusiasm on the space we want.