Best practice in Spain / Bilbao / Barcelona Forum
Reference Dialogue: World Urban Forum
The Director General of the Ministry of Housing stated that: A Spanish committee was set up as part of the HABITAT programme which is working well and will be continued.
- It is an informal committee with irregular, flexible meetings.
- It is attended by representatives from the autonomous regions, ministries and NGOs.
- The work taken on has won several awards.
- HABITAT must have a multi-level effect on housing, the economy, society, infrastructure, etc.
- Best practices must be lasting rather than 'one-day wonders'.
- All stakeholders in Spain are informed of best practices: municipal departments, schools and so on.
- Best practices rejected by the UN are reviewed regardless by the Spanish committee.
- In order to avoid best practices being self-destructing and to make them more objective, proposals come from outside administration.
- The Spanish team is active in Latin America and, for instance, helped Chile to set up its own best practice programme.
Luis Mecati, from the Spanish Federation of Municipalities (FEM) made the following points:
There are synergies between the two UN programmes, Agenda 21 and HABITAT. Best practices are gathered and disseminated in other countries.
- One example is the outstanding bio-mass project in Cuellar, a town with 10,000 inhabitants.
- The FEM gives significant support to provinces and small towns.
- Creation of a ‘Digital Library’ of best Spanish practices.
- Although some projects are long-term, best practices have a 2 year time limit. A possible solution would be a longer time limit.
- Lack of best practices in accessibility, transport and governance.
- The HABITAT database is a unique forum for existing urban practices. The university representative said:
- The database itself is a best practice with the Ministry of Housing being its main backer.
- Everything is done using free software; no Microsoft is used.
- It is thought to be better than the English version.
- It was decided to make it free.
- Costs are very low. Ibon Areso Mendiguren, First Deputy Mayor of Bilbao, architect and man behind the Bilbao General Plan:
As a city, Bilbao was dying so the objective was to prevent this rather than improve the city.
- He outlined the city’s history since it was founded, mentioning economic problems, closures and sustained high unemployment in the 70s and 80s.
- The foremost urban objective was employment, which entailed boosting the services/tertiary sector.
- Two key points in city improvement targets: 1) as pleasant an environment as possible 2) well-paid jobs.
- A derelict city is not competitive so training, marketing and cultural affairs had to be promoted so as to improve the city’s image and attract employment by bringing in congresses and other similar events.
- Bringing together different administrations and public bodies was / is harder and more problematic than bringing together the public and private sectors.
Main targets for city regeneration:
Cleaning up the river.
- Transform derelict areas rather than grow.
- High-quality architecture where possible.
- Port enlargement.
- ‘Big name’ architects: Calatrava, Foster, Hadid, Gehry, etc.
- Preserving the city’s industrial feel in the regeneration.
The idea that Bilbao built a museum and everything else followed is wrong: the Guggenheim was part of a planned city transformation project which used culture as a tool and created a city brand.
- We live in a branded world rather than a world of good architecture or art.
- Regeneration in Bilbao was driven by need.
Xavier Casas, First Deputy Mayor of Barcelona and Urban Planning Councillor, addressed urban improvements from the perspective of the Forum:
The area was designed to become residential in the future.
- Keeping the ring road and sewage treatment plant within the urban space is a new concept in city planning; solving problems rather than pushing them out of sight for future generations to contend with.
- Giving the city more public areas and state-subsidised housing (41% of new housing).
- Promoting sustainability with the sewage treatment plant and solar energy; fostering use of this technology.
- “Cities either deal with their needs internally or push them out onto other cities” (water treatment plant, electricity generator, etc.).
- The new constructions are core elements of a strategic city image.
- He also mentioned the work and phases involved in dismantling the Forum. He explained how Barcelona Council’s Quality Committee works, vetting construction plans to guarantee aesthetic quality and suitability for the proposed location.