portada de BMM

by Jordi Font

The need for a metropolitan cultural space is felt in both the centre and the periphery of Barcelona. That is to say, both within the municipality of Barcelona and in the other metropolitan municipalities.
Barcelona municipality needs to be seen in the international showcase as a real city, a conurbation of four million people. This is not only true of its population and infrastructure. It is particularly true in the cultural and symbolic field, where the city should be seen as an integrated system, allowing it to sell itself as a potent platform, as a seat of European and universal currents. In turn, the metropolitan municipalities desperately need some regulatory cultural understanding to prevent everything from being sucked towards the centre, and to allow them to make best use of their own possibilities. This is what the phrase "common metropolitan market for culture" means, a much-repeated phrase that has not really been put into practise. The metropolitan cultural space should arise, in the first place, from the coordination of what is done by local public bodies. This coordination should advance in the following areas:
Social cohesion demands cultural references based on local settings, and which are porous, integratory, as well as competent and present in the whole of society. They should help to develop a cohesive local identity. The closeness of the setting is essential. In the large municipalities within the metropolitan area this function has tended to be played by the districts rather than the municipality (Bellvitge, La Florida, Fondo, Pomar, etc.). A multicentre approach to Metropolitan culture should make it possible to establish and improve channels to share these realities, and has to become an important mechanism of social promotion and cohesion.
This multicentre approach to culture has to be based on a framework of cultural infrastructure, a network to ensure all citizens have equal access to basic cultural services. The discontinuous distribution of cultural facilities is largely because they were created from local resources. There is one exception to this rule, the library network in Barcelona Province, because Barcelona Provincial Council has had the will to develop it, and has reached legislative agreements to do so. Metropolitan Barcelona suffers particularly from this deficiency of cultural infrastructure. To overcome this, progress should be made towards a Metropolitan Plan for Cultu-ral Infrastructures, with the establishment of the corresponding maps and standards, with responsibility shared between the Autonomous Government and local government.
A multicentre approach to culture, however, goes beyond this. It is essentially based on the capacity of each municipality, of each of the parties involved, to acquire its own personality within the whole, to act as a centre and a magnet in one or more branch or segment of cultural activity. This is a valuable mechanism of integration and acts as a generator of local synergies, unlocking processes of cultural promotion, and as a platform for local-global interaction.
The metropolitan cultural space also has to imply a Coordinated Cultural Agenda, that has to develop the idea of the "Common Metropolitan Cultural Market", trying to ensure that the offer in the different municipalities complements each other, and to ensure the citizens perceive what is on offer in the metropolitan area as a whole as of equal quality. To sum up, the idea is to teach the citizen that if it is worth spending 20 minutes travelling from Cornellà to a theatre in the Eixample district, it is also worth spending the same time travelling from Cornellà to Badalona or vice versa, and particularly from the Eixample to Cornellà or Badalona. And the operators in the tourist sector should consider the metropolitan offer as a whole when creating their circuits.
There are now stable cultural diffusion circuits in Barcelona Province, fostered by the Office of Artistic Diffusion (ODA) of Barcelona Provincial Council. There is a lively circuit of municipal theatres, and the beginnings of a visual art circuit. Though it has not been reported by the media, there is also an important school circuit adapted to the different levels of education. This implies a very considerable market share of cultural diffusion in Catalonia, and thus a growing ability to influence what is produced.
Artistic educational centres are a reality in the metropolitan area. Promoted by some town councils, beyond their strict obligations, they include such interesting and diverse centres as the Badalona Music Conservatory, the Pubilla Casas Arts Workshop, and the emblematic Raval Musicians Workshop. Their future potential is great and they are shaping up as authentic nurseries for creative activities, with major social implantation.
It is known that the cultural heritage is a valuable factor in local economic development. The old style of local museum is developing towards the "heritage interpretation centre" model, which has been pioneered here by Gavà Town Council. This brings together the entire local heritage into an interesting whole, sometimes even including natural history, offering the potential for growth in tourism from Catalonia and from abroad, with the consequent economic activity.
The whole heritage issue also needs a metropolitan-scale logistic approach to restore and conserve the heritage, by making best use of the existing services and allowing their systematic use throughout the metropolitan area.
The metropolitan cultural space has to become a privileged platform of relation and cooperation with the cultural enterprises and with the creators in each sector, a framework for powerful coordinated initiatives seeking to encourage the creation and consolidation of Catalan cultural industries, and more favourable conditions for creative activities.
A Metropolitan Cultural Observatory should be established as a platform for analysis of culture and future trends, in contact with other realities in other countries. It should be in a position to systematically monitor and assess cultural dynamics in the metropolitan area, on both a territorial and sectorial basis. Its purpose should be to share information and assessments, to promote reflections, to create models and proposals, to promote pilot experiences, etc. To sum up, it should be a basic and common instrument of reference and a factor promoting the construction and functioning of the metropolitan cultural space.

How can a metropolitan cultural space be created?
Culture is the main challenge facing Barcelona in the 21st century. The city and its metropolitan area are starting to live a new reality in which its inhabitants show less territorial, racial and cultural uniformity and in which the appearance of a new multicentre approach requires an increase in cultural innovation and the creation of a new cultural network more closely identified with the metropolitan reality of Barcelona. A network covering the metropolitan area and seeking to ensure provision of the same basic cultural facilities for all the citizens and to encourage cultural consumption not only in the centre but also in the peripheries. Manuel de Forn, an engineer and the managing director of GFE Associates, and Jordi Font, the commissioner for cultural relations and studies of the Area of Culture of Barcelona Provincial Council, analyze a challenge that requires a clear policy response from all the different levels of administration involved.