Spring is a synonym of vitality: the moment
to turn our back on the cold and visit places that seemed hidden to us. Barcelona, like
its people, is pulsing with life and friendship, and this year it is specially beautiful.
Barcelona is a dense and built-up city, but it now has more natural
spaces than it used to. Barcelona has not given up on the idea of green spaces, and is in
fact seeking to create more and more green spaces in every part of the city. The drab and
colourless Barcelona of only a few years ago is now a mixture of shades and colours, a
mosaic in which the blue of the sea contrasts with the new green spaces. The figures speak
for themselves: in just four years, we have increased the area of green space by eighty
hectares (equivalent to eighty city blocks in the Eixample district), 28% of the area of
Barcelona is green space, and the amount of green space per inhabitant has increased from
15 to 18 square metres. And this is confirmed by the growing use the people of Barcelona
are making of the city's parks and gardens.
Barcelona wants to have more and better green spaces, and is getting
them. Quality is an essential condition for the future of the cities, as was clearly shown
at the Metropolis congress and the congresses of the IULA and the CIDEU, which have made
Barcelona the world capital of the cities for two intense weeks in March.
The turn of the century is being characterized by a reexamination of
the city's structural and material role, which is more and more apparent. The cities are
increasingly the point of reference for the world's people (two thirds of whom will live
in urban areas by 2010), and are being redefined and strengthened. We live in a global
village, but people's problems and needs occur at the local level, and this is where they
have to be solved; the local approach is essential to have a global effect.
Barcelona is affected by this change, and favours a model in which the
city takes the initiative and acts as a motor. And this means a quality, balanced, city
that is coherent and competitive but sustainable.
This is the horizon facing us twenty years after the first democratic
city council elections in Spain following the death of Franco. These elections were in
April 1979, and the councillors were elected by universal suffrage to represent a wide
range of aspirations, demands and longings, something that changed the direction of
politics, our way of understanding politics, and especially, the way politics was
Two decades later, we can say that we have got out of a tricky
situation, and that the town councils and citizens, by protecting and providing each other
with support and opportunities, have successfully fulfilled their basic aims. This is,
however, not the right place to list the positive results - which are clear enough - but
it is correct to recognize the work that has been done and to say that we are legitimately
proud of ourselves for having been able to work and progress while contributing to recover
the ethical approach, motivation and individual and collective values that the Franco
dictatorship had eroded.
Looking back over these twenty years we can say the ability to
stimulate and promote, to create enthusiasm and stimulate initiatives and to extend them
has been as relevant as the work performed. This is how we have to understand, among other
things, the process of revitalization of the Ciutat Vella (Old City) district of
Barcelona, now tangible and almost irreversible and which in this issue is subjected to
analysis, revision and commentary by qualified authors.
Rigour and an entertaining style are the defining features of the new
sections that B. MM. is starting.
One section deals with the questions raised by the "Day without
Cars" on April 29, a day when we are inviting everyone to think about the effects of
the car. Slogans apart, on April 29 we can show that reducing private transport and
increasing public transport improves mobility in Barcelona, and this form of mobility is
more sustainable and favours activity, growth and speed but ensures respect for the
environment, life in common and efficiency.
This number sees the start of our decade-by-decade review of the
twentieth century, which also seeks to be thorough but interesting. The first decade of
this century was marked, as the authors explain, by the riots of the "Semana
Trágica" in Barcelona, and the transformation of the political organizations, but it
also saw the birth of Art Nouveau in Catalonia. At the beginning of the century, Barcelona
shook to the blast of bombs, but also resonated to the sound of music from the newly built
Palau de la Música Catalana. And ninety years on, at the very end of the century, we have
opened the Auditori (the Auditorium), a scenario for creative activities and for musical
and cultural training.