“The influx of tourists exceeded the ceiling of the city’s capabilities, turning it into a turbulent place that even the sector could not accommodate. Barcelona residents needed a quick and effective solution to bring back a friendly city. From the outset, the new paradigm was seen as a threat to the hospitality sector, which it strongly opposed, the main reason being that the project involved a series of ramps that reduced tourism to a minimum as we understood it until then.
Utopian Barcelona is the result of conversations with 5 local architects. Each conversation revolves around a specific topic, but the result is a comprehensive vision of the city, which includes comprehensive concepts. The idea for this series of 5 articles on the Barcelona utopia was born to give wings to those architects who maintain a close attachment to the city, some for years and more, on a daily basis. The creative field of municipal architects is limited by budget clauses, adherence to deadlines, and current government policies. There is, but we can imagine that.
Articles have a look ahead. However, not everyone turns to science fiction. Readings call for imaginative places and angles. For the discovered city forms. Above all, they seek to give the reader a good time for the projections of Barcelona society, far from the current one. Except for the text in italics, which is part of a conversation or transcription of the research process, the rest is a product of imagination.
* Guest architect: Armand Fernández Prat, Municipal Architect of the Barcelona City Council.
Armand invited me to the restaurant that is now in Plaza Sant’Jaume, but in the context of Barcino, Roman Barcelona; Virtual reality things make it possible, today, to replace the present with such moments in the history of the city. Nothing out of the ordinary happened in Barcelona today. From the beginning of May the weather is sunny and pleasant. We both drank wine with mediterranean herbs. The glasses are made of clay. We comment on the activity around us: the stark distinctions of passers-by by class or sexual status, the group of men resembling senators chatting nearby, the death of the Praetorian Guard. It is a mistake to maintain traditions under these conditions for decades, armand dice. Because traditions are often associated with the past, but this does not necessarily mean the past. Heritage gives an identity to a particular site. In Barcelona, as elsewhere, tradition is implicit. It could represent a building, it could be a landscape, it could be a habit, it could be a mindset…all that is alive. Tradition accumulates. It also allows us to identify and communicate with the rest of the world. Because this is not a local issue but a global one. This is why we love to travel and see places, because we consider heritage as our own, and as a result, even if we were born somewhere else, we make pilgrimages. The origin is a firm but universal favorite.
The change in the Barcelona model and the commitment to virtual reality, as the number of tourists exceeded the ceiling of the city’s capabilities, making it a transient place that even the sector could not accommodate. The people of Barcelona needed a quick and effective solution to bring back a friendly city. From the outset, the new model was seen as a threat to the hospitality business, which was met with fierce opposition. The main reason is that the project involves a series of derivations, which is the least we understood about tourism up to that point.
Barcelona remains one of the most impressive destinations around the world. However, about 75% would visit without traveling. On-site visits have been reduced to the current level, where only 25% of visits are made face-to-face compared to the big hit. The fees charged compared to virtual access, as well as the high cost of accessing the heritage in person, have made a trip to Barcelona unaffordable for everyone. This filter provides a permeable barrier. The project represents a significant increase in the quality of life in the city. It is the concentration of investments in new icons and new assets in the medium or long term that are placed in a virtual race rather than in the traditional construction industry. Hotel beds have been discontinued and many of the existing beds have been repurposed as co-living and co-working spaces.
On the other hand, Barcelona was the first city in which art galleries, museums and institutions of famous architects chose to create virtual spaces. In this way, the new Barcelona was built, in which the intangible heritage – fashion, port or brand as standard of Mediterranean heat – also gained importance. Individuality is also part of the tradition. These disciplines define the character of the city. They are layers of structures and ways of being through time. And you will continue to do so, because Tradition is the present that is constantly being falsified.. For this it was necessary to rethink the relationship between heritage and visitors, so that it becomes an important ally against the theme park that Barcelona has become rather than a problem. Now, tradition is part of life.
One of the most emblematic cases of this transformation is La Pedrera, which has been partly converted into a museum space and, on the other hand, used as a house. We are facing the largest overhaul of the city’s heritage ever. And it’s okay, so be it. La Pedrera was not designed and built as a museum. An apartment building with specific disabilities should serve as a place for public interaction. Now, it is not a place to be seen, but a place to live. The La Pedrera case is proof that heritage protection does not require this level of protection, or, otherwise, many barriers.
The balance of the new model is positive. The revenue from virtual tours is not only maintained but also increased year by year. And maintenance costs have not changed. Another paradoxical case, similar to La Pedrera, is Santa María del Mar, a place originally designed for Catholic worship, but which has become a place for spiritual activities of any religion, as well as activities that invite introspection. Yoga or meditation style. On any day like today, Paseo del Born could easily be a meeting point for followers of these fields to take part in activities led by great teachers. It’s the difference between opening up the garden or limiting your enjoyment.
If a tradition is loved, it is easily maintained. But this requires a self-respecting society. La Pedrera remains a place to visit, but at the same time a place to live. Santa Maria del Mar is still a place of worship, but at the same time a place of practice. Given its universality, access to heritage must also be universal. This is what Barcelona has achieved in the new paradigm: universal access to the heritage and preservation of the city in all areas of the environment, in aspects that characterize the quality of life of its citizens.
As the conversation went on for a while, Armand looked at his watch and told me we needed to finish up. Today, May 14th, but he has tickets for the opening concert of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony in Vienna in 1824. I’m paying the bill. It was four hundred and fifty dinars, twenty euros today: of course, if it does not stop, inflation will finish us off.
Chapter 1. Future Movement. Guest architect Juan Sanza.
Chapter 2. Landscape and Ecological Footprint. Guest architect Sarah Odena.