To be honest, the title here is not entirely accurate: I knew about the landscape interest of Gata (Cáceres, Spain), and in fact I was in a visit preceded by a quite complete briefing. The unexpected being here to which extent I liked how the different elements fit. And largely, the pines to the right of the church in the first image, just a handful, but clearly leaving a good imprint on that landscape.
Rules are not just established by planning, but also by building codes or the demands of the market and the technology of the everyday products. Nearly every car is created with similar dimensions, but each home has particular conditions.
Recent posts have been a vision on what you can buy with a given amount of money in different European cities, with a plan to show what you get for that money, are a reminder of how relative money’s value is. Using the same method for the 48 coterminous and Balearic Spanish provincial capitals, and using data about second-hand housing from idealista.com, you can see that the crisis context, which really has touched the whole country, has different impacts.
Sure, average real estate prices for a sq m of housing have fallen in all the capitals, but there is a difference between Barcelona (-7%) or Madrid (-10%) and Guadalajara (-27,4%) or Tarragona (-22,2%). Despite these corrections, the hierarchical order of cities largely remains: San Sebastian is still the most expensive capital (high per capita revenue, small territory, attractive city), while areas with lower revenues or activity are usually in lower price ranges.
According to January 2014 data from idealista.com, in Madrid and Barcelona 200.000 € would buy you about 60 sq m, while in Lleida you could get some 200 sq m, and in Caceres some 160. It is worth reminding that per capita revenue in Caceres is almost half that of Madrid.
It is also worth reminding that these are average prices for the whole area of each municipality, hiding strong variations among neighbourhoods. And keep also in mind that prices reflect a balance between offer and demand, as real estate bubbles have shown so well.
New Orleans organised in 1984 its Louisiana World Exposition, Seville its World Exposition in 1992, and Marseilles has used its 2013 declaration as European Cultural Capital (in a joint declaration that also included Kosice, in Slovakia) to promote its urban regeneration projects.
Large international events (world fairs, Olympic games, or cultural capitals) are coming under scrutiny not just for their cost or their financial balance, but also taking into account their legacy. Legacy encompasses the investments that are made for a short period of time that can later find a use adapted to the real permanent needs of the citizens. Expect such debates to raise by summer this year as the Brazil World Cup becomes the season’s issue. From this point of view, the large events balance is varied, often just because socio-economic dynamics in these cities cannot absorb some uses.
1984 Exposition in New Orelans did not attain a financial balance. Its legacy includes the rehabilitation of the harbour front and some port buildings.
Expo 92 in Seville did not either get to an economic balanced result. A relevant surface of gardens was built, which created a problem of maintenance costs for the city, and a high speed train station was built to operate just for a few months. The urban conversion of the site and the theme parc that was created have only found a limited successs. But the large hydraulic works on the Guadalquivir river are still there.
Marseille’s project includes a relevant transformation of the seafront, with relevant projects as the European and Mediterranean Civilisations Museum of Norman Foster’s works on the Old Port. It is still to early to judge the results.
This is the kind of map we use often in urban planning. Flood risk due to river overflow can be really important in some cities, and this is not just the case in Spain, as they know so well in the Mississippi valley or, these days, in the Thames valley. The cartographic portal of the Spanish government for these risks can let you understand the amount of information that is available, but also the amount of work still to do to have a complete national map.
A mid-sized city can be such as a result of growth until reaching that status, or it can be the result of a certain downgrading from higher ranks. I am fully aware that some of the things I’m going to say could be unpleasant, but this is a long-term vision, and history is made every day, so nothing is unavoidable.
I’ve chosen four cities that, as in the first case, are seaports, but with quite different roles. They have been high places in the European colonial adventure (that could receive other names in different places). Seville as the main port in the first times of the Spanish empire, Marseilles as the French gate to the African and Asian empires, New Orleans as the gate to the Mississippi Valley, and Havana as the capital of the last jewel of the Spanish empire. These are by no means small cites, and they are rather relevant in their states, as to make many think that I’m not fair saying they are mid-sized cities; but they are no longer cities with a continental reach. They have sure gained population, but have lost rank.
Yet they are very interesting places. How does a city evolve when the technological- economical-social (you name the issue) wave that propelled it to its highest position disappears? The rise of these cities is linked to their network of relations in colonial worlds, and their evolution is related to the fact that new models appear that are more successful. There is a scent of Detroit here…
The Ministry for Education, Culture and Sports hosts this interesting resource on the internet. It is curious to see on the heading image the “Thorns Crown”, a work by Higueras in the Ciudad Universitaria, Madrid (it has a logic, since it is the HQ of the Spanish Cultural Heritage Institute).