return to nē44

by Joan Clos
Mayor of Barcelona

We often ask ourselves what the Barcelona of the 21st century will be like. There can be no single correct answer to such a question, nor should there be. The idea of the city is synonymous with diversity and plurality, and in Barcelona this definition is confirmed on a day-to-day basis. The city – our city – is both a centre and an administratively established municipal area, but moreover it is a metropolitan hinterland and a physical environment. Barcelona is, in short, a combination of milieus, a rich mixture of scenarios, an urban and a natural framework at the same time.
The central supplement of this issue of B.MM provides us with insight into this Barcelona that feels complete yet is still being built; that can sense the new changes but still looks forward to them with the impatience of a discoverer. This is the Barcelona that is extending Avinguda Diagonal down to the sea, lengthening the sea front and regenerating the River Besōs, and on the River Llobregat side has got the go-ahead for the growth of the port and the airport. It is the city that we recognize in its streets and squares but is increasingly identified with the rivers that flow on either side of it.
This supplement is destined to become an almost compulsory point of reference for anyone seeking information on the Barcelona of the immediate future.
Barcelona acknowledges the solemnity entailed in the change of millennium, but above all it is aware that it can turn the page on the calendar with the confidence and ambition that comes with well-designed projects, and with the responsibility that the present and the future demand. We could safely say that Barcelona is already living the next century; that at the end of one exciting century it can already make out another even more thrilling one.
The end of a century is a time for reflection and at the same time for planning ahead. Barcelona has reflected at length, and is well acquainted with the formula for planning ahead; now is the time to act.
Those who lived through the turn from the 19th to the 20th century sensed the crucial nature of the moment that the great social, cultural, economic and technological changes were bringing about, but undoubtedly some time had to pass before these changes could become reality. Perhaps Barcelona has yet to fully confirm the decisiveness of the moment that is now unfolding, but we do have the almost tangible feeling that a large part of the future is at stake here. Our look at Joan Maragall in this issue may help us to interpret this feeling.
Barcelona is being transformed. The city is gaining in quality and in the creation of secondary cores, and its influence is spreading out towards a metropolitan region with two pressing needs: regional articulation and environmental preservation. Our physical environment has some unique features.
The variety of its spaces, the profusion of expressions through which it manifests itself, the system of cities into which it is organized, the natural capital by the sea and the ring of hills are all elements of a unique, differentiated whole that gives Barcelona a character of its own as a metropolis.
It is essential to preserve the unique features of this common space, and at the same time to have an overall vision of it. We have to develop it yet make it friendly, enrich it yet make it sustainable, help it to grow but with quality and rationality.
The challenge now facing Barcelona is how to solve this equation successfully. There is no denying that this is not an easy task, but we have the right tools and the right people to carry it out.
And talking of tools, I can’t help but be reminded of the procedure for the passing of the Municipal Charter (analysed in this issue by Eduard Paricio), which has now reached the parliamentary stage. Barcelona is on the verge of gaining its own unique "constitution", an all-encompassing law to govern itself, to feel itself to be recognized, and to understand itself as an city that is open to participation and founded on shared commitments.