Some days ago I was in Barcelona for a meeting of the Association of Urban Planning Architects. The program was interesting, and the chance to meet excellent professionals and to discuss many issues. The next posts will be about what I saw these days.
Barcelona’s urban planning has a singularity: it is governed by a 1976 plan, an unusual thing as plans for cities this size are usually reviewed each decade or at most each 20 years. This has not prevented the city to rise as a reference in urbanism in many senses, but it has led to over 1.000 variances to the plan, turning it into a palimpsest. There is a certain logic in the timing: Narcis Serra was elected as Mayor in 1979 and was in the seat until 1982, when the plan was still new, and under his mandate, the definition of an urban project under the cover of the Olympic alibi was started. Does this mean that the ongoing revision will change Barcelona?
Barcelona is an exception in the Spanish context: The Plan General Metropolitano defines the rules for Barcelona itself and for several nearby municipalities that are part of the “dense” metropolitan areas. This means that there is an overall vision of the whole (even if it was drawn some 40 years ago) articulating this territory, avoiding so the problems of other areas (I have previously commented such cases in French cities as Bordeaux or Lyon).
Let’s get a different perspective: the Area Metropolitana de Barcelona (an administrative body for the planning scope) covers an area of 636 sq km, with some 3,2 million residents; these are nearly the same numbers of the Madrid municipality, but there are 36 mayors, while in Madrid there is only one.
Barcelona’s Plan is being revised to use another format, still to be defined, but that will likely split into a structural instrument for the metropolitan whole (Plan Director de Urbanismo) and 36 closer-to-the-ground municipal plans.