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A CLOSE LOOK AT BARCELONA TODAY
by Josep Maria Montaner,
ARCHITECT AND CURATOR OF THE EXHIBITION "BARCELONA 1979-2004. FROM GROWTH TO SUSTAINABLE CITY

This is perhaps the first time that such an ambitious project involving a detailed examination of Barcelona as it is today has been undertaken. Barcelona’s town council and the professional associations most closely linked to the city’s construction (the Barcelona Quantity Surveyors and Technical Architects Professional Association, the Barcelona chapter of the Catalonia Architects Professional Association, and the Catalonia Industrial Engineers Professional Association) are working together to produce an exhibition, a catalogue, a video and a web page summing up everything that has been done since the establishment of democratic government, along with all of the perspectives for the immediate future —the Forum 2004— and an overview of the general programmes meant to make the city as sustainable as possible.
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The goal of the exhibition, initially entitled Barcelona 1979-2004. From Growth to Sustainable City, is to provide a didactic explanation of the phenomenon, the models and the urban management of Barcelona. (...)
The exhibition’s basic premise —shared by the catalogue and the web page— is an attempt to provide, for the first time ever, a multiple vision of the city’s evolution in recent times, showing that the model for Barcelona at present is characterised by the diversity of projects being promoted and the widely differing scales on which action is being taken. This is the reasoning behind an exhibition that occupies four different venues and a catalogue with contributions from a wide range of authors, offering contrasting views and opinions on the city’s evolution.
The exhibition is set up in four different halls, reflecting four major thematic approaches to presenting the city from differing points of view: Barcelona’s logistics, Barcelona’s infrastructure, Barcelona’s urban character and Barcelona’s ecology. As a whole, the exhibition consists of 13 modules, planned for distribution among the four different venues. These modules include an audio-visual component viewed on monitors or computer screens, a series of conventional panels, and an appropriate number of three-dimensional models.
The section on Barcelona’s logistics deals with the overall guidelines established by the town council and the major projects now under way, from river to river, from the Llobregat delta to the Bes˛s and the site of the Forum 2004. (...) This section, explaining how metropolitan issues have been extended to the regional level, is presented in the Sala Visions at the Town Hall, and shows how Barcelona has become a model for others, thanks to its achievement of a qualitative transformation in a very short time, based on the efficiency of its complex organisational mechanisms and on the ability to integrate each one of its widely varying actions into a unified plan.
The section on Barcelona’s infrastructure, presented at the headquarters of the Catalonia Industrial Engineers Professional Association, deals with precisely those components that are vital for a city’s functioning but are not generally seen, since they are either buried underground or have been de-materialised in communication via satellite or other media: water supplies and sewer systems, electricity, gas, telephone lines and fibre optics networks are energy and communication services that are essential in every modern city. In the more recent projects, the layout and construction of networks for transportation, communication, service and energy supplies have been paramount and account for a substantial part of the city’s efforts and investment.
The section presented at the Architects Professional Association exhibition hall deals with Barcelona’s urban character and analyses the major reforms of the existing urban fabric in terms of five criteria or three areas: Ciutat Vella; the Eixample; the renovation of the urban fabric in different hubs within the city as a part of the process of creation of edge cities; the more sweeping urban renewal in the north-eastern part of the city, forming a large Z, taking in the old Sagrera railway station and yards, the Plaša de les Glories, the new stretch of the Diagonal and the Poblenou sea front; the city’s sea front seen as a unified whole, as the city’s most representative characteristic; the sea front that has been rehabilitated in recent years, from Montju´c to the mouth of the Bes˛s. (...)
Lastly, the section on Barcelona’s ecology, presented at the Barcelona Quantity Surveyors and Technical Architects Profession Association, focuses on the elements that can make the city more directly sustainable, showing how the city’s construction has been and continues to be the responsibility of all of its citizens. The exhibition shows the contributions made to the city through the criticisms formulated by citizen and ecologist group, to a Barcelona that still has much to do to make itself more sustainable and lower its impact on its environment. (...)