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CIUTAT VELLA IN THE HISTORY OF B.MM
by Joan-Anton Benach, managing editor

If at a future date an analysis is conducted of the matters which have been most frequently featured by B.MM to date, it will be seen that the rehabilitation of Ciutat Vella, which began in 1988, has been of special interest, throughout the history of the publication. The relationship between new cities and historic urban centres gives rise to an extensive and strongly felt responses throughout all densely populated areas in European industrial society, including those which during the course of this century suffered the devastation of the two world wars.

Reconstruction, in the most dramatic cases, or rehabilitation, more usually, calls into play a debate which goes far beyond mere technicalities and the conflicts to be resolved by urban planning. Culture, sociology, the sense of local identity, the confrontation of reform versus rehabilitation, the archaeological syndrome and the public perceptions of the concept of monumentality all give way to different considerations at the time of taking the political decision to undertake work in a historic centre. Moreover, there arises the dilemma, which in fact is illusory, between giving priority to the needs of the large agglomerations of dormitory cities, which are so much in evidence, or to those of the historic city centres, buried in their own problems and suffering silently from very serious and chronic pathologies.

The first number of B.MM, in October 1986, contained, in the Central Feature, an extensive report on different opinions, commencing with Joan Busquets, which dealt with "The rehabilitation of Ciutat Vella" from different perspectives, mainly urban design. Number 18, in winter 1990, again discussed this topic, after an in-depth review of the initial proposals. "Ciutat Vella: the decisive hour" was the title to this second feature, which was published during the administration of Joan Clos, then member of the City Council, primarily responsible for the transformation of the district and activator of the synergy between residents and business people, who experienced this process first hand, and the city as a whole, which acknowledged the effects. Xavier Casas, who at that time worked in conjunction with Clos and who is now assistant mayor with responsibility over Planning, finishes this issue’s Central Feature "The new faces of Ciutat Vella". This feature starts with an article by the historian Joan Fuster, member of the City Council for the district and cultural representative for the district in the fist democratic council in 1979. The feature also contain contributions by the architect Pere Cabrera, who had also written in number 18, and by Joan Busquets, who had commenced the lengthy discourse on rehabilitation which the magazine has pursued right from the outset. We cite these names, from among the many other contributors, to illustrate the continuity right throughout this process, which many cities recognise as being exemplary, in which every step has been taken in the light of a critical and analytical perspective. This is the only way to act in order to achieve a satisfactory solution to such an ambitious project.