About Marc Puig i Guàrdia

Director of Communications and Citizen Service

Business model, city model

The confluence of hospital and university research has combined with the creation of new centres of investigation that have built a new strategic sector for Barcelona, which, sooner or later, will have a real impact both on the economy and the quality of life of its inhabitants.

The Institute of Photonic Sciences.

Innovation and creativity have been two of Barcelona’s most important resources over the past few years. Almost overnight, the city has become a reference in the field of biomedicine, attracting high-level investigative talent. The central dossier in this edition is dedicated to the boom in biomedicine,  which has made Barcelona and its metropolitan area into one of the regions of Europe to receive the most funding. The confluence of hospital and university research has combined with the creation of new centres of investigation that have built a new strategic sector for Barcelona, which, sooner or later, will have a real impact both on the economy and the quality of life of its inhabitants.

The rising importance of biomedicine is combined with the liveliness of the ICT sector, especially in the area of mobile phones, which for several years now has revolved around the Mobile World Congress held annually in Barcelona. We’ll talk about this important event with engineer Núria Oliver, the Scientific Director of R&D for Telefónica and worldwide expert in artificial technology. Among other things, in this edition’s interview Oliver will speak to us about how the data we generate when we use our mobiles can be used to understand population movement, and how infectious diseases like Ebola or the flu spread. This is just one example of the alliance between two of our city’s strategic sectors – biomedicine and mobile technology – and the benefits they can bring to our lives.

The debate about what kind of model Barcelona should follow is exciting and will most likely define public life over the next few years. The future of the planet is going to be based on networks of cities, and, as a result, the models that define these new constellations will be crucial. In an ideal world, a city’s economic motor should favour the prosperity and well-being of its inhabitants. When a community’s business model is opposed to positive coexistence or demands too many sacrifices on the part of its citizens, it sparks tensions, unrest, marginalization… a city is happy, on the other hand, when it’s business model goes hand-in-hand with its social model.

The Catalan Institute for Nanoscience and Nanotechnology.

Whoever should govern Barcelona in the near future, it’s clear that we can’t just depend on tourism, and that the benefits obtained from this sector should be invested in both social benefits and making our city more competitive in the global market. To assert that Barcelona can only choose one of these options, or that it can’t combine social cohesion with economic growth, would be to create a false and clearly perverse dilemma.

The need to encourage equal opportunities through a well-defined social plan is currently inseparable from the need to diversify our city’s business model. Barcelona’s future shouldn’t have to include the destruction of the city model based on tourism; it should be about regenerating this model and gradually making it more diverse: that means redistributing wealth and working towards equal opportunities for all.

To think that we’re at a crossroads would be an error. To embrace both paths and incorporate them into our route is the only possible option.

Responsible tourism: a navigational map

© Vicente Zambrano

Tourism brings in 15% of Barcelona’s GDP. Being such a powerful sector of the economy, it inevitably has a significant impact on the life of the city, particularly as it spans so many different spheres. Whether it be cruises or conferences, sightseeing or sport, tourism has undeniably become a source of wealth that must be maintained and made compatible with daily life in the city. Only then can it have a direct and positive influence on people’s quality of life.

Europe has two types of city: imperial capitals (Rome, London, Madrid and Paris) and bourgeois capitals (Milan, Amsterdam, Munich and Barcelona). Imperial cities have wide avenues and are less affected by congestion from tourism. In bourgeois cities, the old city centres are brought to a halt more easily. The Barcelona City Council is working to boost the image of the city with a balanced and complex tourism offer far removed from “sun, sea and sangria”, and to highlight the countless places of interest it has, above and beyond the iconic sights that have brought Barcelona its fame and glory. This is what we call “tourism decentralisation” and it should allow the tourism industry to benefit the whole city, distributing the wealth it generates to all districts and neighbourhoods while making tourism compatible with the daily life of city dwellers.

It is a model of responsible and sustainable tourism that translates into district tourism plans and a campaign to boost the 10 Barcelonas (in reference to the city’s ten districts), which have led to actions such as the protection of Park Güell and the area surrounding the Sagrada Família, giving a boost to the Plaça de les Glòries, publicising new green routes and improving tourism signage to give more information on the city’s cultural treasures. However, this more complex form of tourism management can not lie only in the hands of the authorities. In a push to become a more open and transparent council, the first public consultation on tourism was held a few weeks ago. For the first time in the democratic era, associations, groups and individual members of the public were able to voice their thoughts on how to manage tourism for everyone’s benefit.

© Vicente Zambrano

This year, the city government has also forged a major local agreement on the management and promotion of responsible tourism, opening up a participatory process to community groups. It is led by the City Council and the tourist board, Turisme de Barcelona, and industry bodies and experts have also been invited to help design the strategy for the coming years. This local agreement and the contributions made by different groups will give rise to a kind of navigational map to guide our way in the future.

The Barcelona City History Museum (MUHBA) is currently exhibiting a fragment of a 14th century nautical chart made by Guillem Soler, a Majorcan cartographer. It is part of one of the first realist design maps ever made. These maps were first produced and used in the Mediterranean, from Genoa to Majorca and Majorca to Barcelona, and they revolutionised the way space was perceived. When they came to Barcelona, the Catalan seafaring community did not merely copy the Italian model, but created its own cartographic school that eventually led to the famous Catalan Atlas of 1375. This was the most important map of the Medieval period, the first to depict the compass rose and now one of the jewels of the National Library of France.

The same will happen with tourism. It will be redefined with our own stamp of identity if we are able to draw up a well-distributed map without ghettos or misleading short cuts. We need to ensure that the places or sights considered to be of touristic interest are places that have real resonance abroad but are still considered by the people of Barcelona as their own, somewhere from which they will never be banished.

The educating city

Participation is vital for structuring the transformation of the city. And the educating city is the basis of all new forms of participation.

We are approaching the end of a memorable year, a politically intense one in which the power of citizen participation has left an indelible mark. Now is a time to reflect on what we know and feel: this year – when we commemorate the tercentenary of the events of 1714, one of the most painful episodes in the history of Barcelona – we have lived through one of the most dynamic, decisive and hopeful years of our time.

© Antonio Lajusticia
9N photo

2014 was a year distinguished by the expression of collective will. The avenues of Barcelona were the scene of one of the most massive demonstrations in the history of Europe: hundreds of thousands of Catalans coloured the city’s streets in an unprecedented calligraphy for the sole purpose of expressing a shared longing. All of this leaves us with the lesson that cohesion requires collaboration.

Just as municipal policies derive from a mandate decided at the polls, a political agenda can only be implemented effectively with the public participating as active stakeholders. Conversely, only when the associative capacity of Barcelonians has been expressed through intelligible aspirations has it been possible to shift these into the political realm. As Isona Passola says in her interview in the opening pages of this edition of Barcelona Metròpolis: “People speak ill of politics, but they would do well to remember that if you do not do politics, others will do it for you.”

Hence, once again, cohesion requires collaboration. When collaboration is present, cohesion is the reward. The concept of collaboration has been one of the guiding principles behind Barcelona Metròpolis magazine over the past two years. Within the new digital paradigm in which we are now immersed, citizen participation plays an essential role in structuring urban transformation. This assertion holds true irrespective of whether we are talking about smart cities, urban resilience, citizen science or the new knowledge economy, and at the foundation of all these new forms of participation is the educating city.

An example of the fight against social exclusion, which is a priority for educating cities.

This issue’s monograph focuses on the Congress of Educating Cities, held in Barcelona this past autumn, an event that brought together representatives from more than 470 cities around the world. An educating city is one that provides and ensures the education of its citizens beyond the confines of schools, universities and other conventional teaching environments. The educating city creates places for sharing knowledge and disseminating it to the public: libraries, athenaeums, neighbourhood associations, community centres, art factories, citizen laboratories and – why not? – also prisons. Such cities are porous, acting and innovating with an inclination for inclusion. They seek innovative formulas for participation and incorporate innovation at all levels of participation. From a triangle formed by inclusion, participation and innovation, the educating city creates a virtuous circle.

The educating city is not an institution operating over and above the citizenry. Rather, it embodies the capacity of people to weave the very fabric of citizenry. While Barcelona is a city designed from successive planning initiatives, it has been most successful when its transformations were the product of cooperation amongst its people. It is from this same source that dissent has arisen; those critical voices offering nuances to official discourse and enriching the city’s narrative. The job of those who govern is to listen astutely to citizens who warn against actions of exclusion and remind us that real advancement does not take place when the citizenry is left behind. Ultimately, an educating city is one that embraces the right of citizens to formulate their own political mandate.

The self-sufficient city

©Albert Armengol
The manufacturing laboratory for the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia.

This September we commemorate the tercentenary of the end of the War of the Spanish Succession. During the long months of the siege of Barcelona, the city displayed remarkable self-sufficiency and civic organisation in its resistance. Three hundred years later, that heroic Barcelona, which had enough self-confidence to concede and save itself from destruction, is an open city that has surpassed all manner of physical and psychological barriers. As a city that has suffered sieges and bombardments throughout history, it does not base its strength on trying to defeat external forces or relying on them, but on its ability to generate its own resources. Indeed, if, as the saying goes, every country makes its own war, then every city makes its own market. Nevertheless, and despite its status as an open city, Barcelona is living, paradoxically, under the pressure of a new siege.

This is not a military siege, but an economic one: under the banner of globalisation, its industry has been dismantled and production has shifted to developing countries. As MIT professor Neil Gershenfeld said in an interview for this issue of Barcelona Metròpolis, the factory production model of the 19th and 20th centuries has given way to a service economy and led to a situation where products are imported and jobs exported. Our current crisis is largely a result of this economic siege.

The notion of an economic siege takes us back to the paradigm of the self-sufficient city, as described so well by Vicente Guallart, chief architect at the Barcelona City Council and promoter of fab labs and digital manufacturing associations. “The challenge for cities in the 21st century is becoming productive again,” says Guallart. “Now, more than ever, our self-sufficiency needs to be connected, global.” Replace self-sufficiency with sovereignty, and you get a sentence with a viable political solution for the city and the country. “The challenge, then, is to move from the model of a city that receives products and generates waste to a different model in which information comes in and goes out. An innovative city is one that allows its citizens to think globally and produce locally,” affirms Gershenfeld.

©Albert Armengol
The Citilab in Cornellà.

Hence, Barcelona is not immune to global sieges. Like all big cities in the world, it must be prepared for threats such as climate change, which may bring a multitude of natural disasters, and terrorism. It is not enough for a city to be highly self-sufficient if it doesn’t belong to a network that enables it to establish universal protocols. After all, connected self-sufficiency offers greater protection against global collapse. Nor is it a coincidence that Barcelona has become the world capital of urban resilience, one of the foundations that must allow the smart cities of the future to enjoy greater energy self-sufficiency and be in a position to cope with energy blackouts caused by accidents or sabotage.

However, a smart city is not just a city with sensors. Being a mobile capital and having protocols to make it a smart city will be useless without science and public in­novation. It is not enough to create apps that merely integrate people into the smart cities of the future. We also need a public that is open and ready to participate, and above all prepared to share in innovation.

No wall will help us deal with these threats. It is not, therefore, a question of building new barriers, but quite the opposite. Only through imagination and public cooperation will we be capable of overcoming the sieges of the future.

Barcelona through different eyes

One of the more curious sights you come across in Barcelona these days is that of a tourist curiously sniffing around a bicing stop. This is one of the few services the city offers that are forbidden to them. Like us, a tourist gets the metro, a bus or a taxi, but often, after looking in bewilderment at all those bikes lined up, they opt for one of the oldest things in the world: walking.

© Montse García
The parish of Sant Agustí Nou. On Sundays, you can hear masses given in Tagalog.

Accustomed as we are to rushing around on wheels, tourists can teach us to experience the city at a different pace, to see it from a different perspective. The gaze they cast over our streets and monuments is a reflection that shows us an image of what we are. It is also true that the memory of Barcelona they take away with them is largely linked to the traces and pointers we leave. We can indeed learn a lot from tourists, and one of these things is to start walking round the city again and paying attention to it.

Often we tend to think of tourists as gregarious little ants that only want to follow the usual routes round Gothic and Modernist Barcelona, but the reality is that lots of them are curious enough to lose themselves in the city, exploring neighbourhoods far from the centre and nooks and crannies that are hard to find in the guidebooks. And they discover marvels we no longer know how to appreciate.

For this issue of Barcelona Metròpolis we have asked nine authors to find us alternative and unusual routes round the city. The Barcelona of passageways and tunnels coexists with Masonic and Roman Barcelona. Decentralising tourism is not just a circulatory strategy, but one related to heritage, too.

In a letter written in 1903 to the editor of El Liberal, the writer Benito Pérez Galdós recalls his first stay here, in 1868, when Barcelona had already snapped “the belt of walls holding in the body of this historical city and was beginning to stretch its robust limbs, nourished by powerful blood”. Then, the sea and the mountains became Barcelona’s walls but today, paradoxically, the maritime highway has become the gateway for tourists and the mountains will be easier to cross once the Carretera de les Aigües has been turned into a huge green corridor. Barcelona Metròpolis invites you to break down some of the invisible walls that we have built round our fixed idea of Barcelona.

© Mediapro – Antena 3 Films / Gravier Productions / Àlbum
A scene of the film `Vicky, Cristina, Barcelona’ that takes place in La Pedrera.

Barcelona takes sixth position in the first world ranking of cities that have the best reputation or brand, according to the Guardian Cities Global Brand Survey, conducted by Saffron Brand Consultants, who have produced an index of the world’s 57 main cities. We must thank a lot of people for their efforts which have led to this recognition, but we must also honour it by living up to it and being faithful to what we are.

Not long ago, some art history students made an unusual discovery on Passeig de Gràcia: some council workers, who were retiling the pavement with Gaudí motifs, were not fitting the pieces of the mosaic together correctly. An insignificant incident yet a very encouraging one, because it gives us grounds for believing there are still citizens who are alert, keeping an eye on the integrity and authenticity of our cityscape. A city is alive if its relics are still alive.

If we limit ourselves to what predictable, easy, safe tourism gives us, we confine our visitors to banal truths, vulgar stereotypes, the traditional little postcard, in short, to a truism that ends up being false because it is so common. If, on the other hand, we showed them our hidden corners, revealed the secrets of our history, invited them into the city, which is our real home, that would be an exercise in altruism.

Smart city: technology and responsible management

© Albert Armengol
Image of the edition of the Mobile World Congress, held in Barcelona in February 2014.

We are living in changing times. The Concert of Nations is giving way to a new world where cities are becoming the axes of a knowledge economy. On this map of emerging smart cities, Barcelona is there squarely on its own merits and, on top of that, it is demonstrating a highly favourable and exciting ability to lead the way.

Mobile World Capital and, since very recently, the European Capital of Innovation, Barcelona now holds fourth place in the 2013 Smart City rankings and stands out as an example of good practice in smart urban matters, ahead of cities like Paris, London and Stockholm. Barcelona is also heading up the City Protocol Society, whose role is to agree upon recommendations and standards to be shared by all the urban communities across the world. In recent years the city has also become a global benchmark for its drive and innovative capacity, as well as on other issues.

It is a paradox that we are in agreement on calling the cities of the future “smart cities” when we are not yet fully aware of the scope of the change the digital revolution will entail, undoubtedly because these changes are taking place so rapidly. However, at the end of the day, so-called smart policies only seek to intensify the collective intelligence that cities have always had in a new technological paradigm aimed at improving quality of life.

© Vicente Zambrano
Image of the edition of the Mobile World Congress, held in Barcelona in February 2014.

In this new issue of Barcelona Metròpolis we look at the smart policies that are being deployed in the city, from apps to the fields of health, transport and culture. The implementation of these new technologies affects the en­vironment, infrastructure, buildings, public spaces and information flow. But technological intelligence, which only makes sense if it benefits people and makes life easier, is only part of the intelligence we need.

It falls on the local authority to think, act and manage the city with intelligence, and, of course, the public must demand this. At the same time, this insistence entails sharing responsibility in many of society’s individual behaviours: recycling, energy efficiency, responsible consumption, etc. Responsible technology and management – both public and private – must be part of the virtuous circle that will enable us to reach new heights of progress.

The symbiotic capacity of Barcelona people, their inveterate willingness to cooperate and participate, is one of the great values that makes our desire to be a smart city a realistic possibility. A smart city in capital letters, in all senses.

We are all Barcelona

Barcelona’s promotional campaigns, from the 1980s.

The American writer Raymond Carver has a short story entitled “What We Talk About When We Talk about Love”. In this new issue of Barcelona Metròpolis we pose a similar question: what do we talk about when we talk about Barcelona? And to answer it we have decided to reflect on the Barcelona brand, a concept that has become part of public discourse and one which encourages us to revise and update our vision of the city we want.

Barcelona now has a worldwide standing like never before. The admiration it triggers can be found in extreme situations, be it a Woody Allen film or a child in a refugee camp wearing a Messi jersey. Yet the Barcelona brand cannot just rest on Catalan Modernist postcards or Barça’s footballing achievements. We are much more than that.

Generally speaking, Barcelona is not primarily seen as a city for doing business, although it is viewed as a good place to live. It is a city immersed in creativity, with a superb range of educational facilities and emerging potential as an innovation hub. Nonetheless, it needs to put together and make visible a new city and brand story: it must be seen as a city that inspires and this inspiration can impact on almost any area.

We have strategic sectors we need to protect and tie to the brand: design and creativity, architecture and town planning, biomedical research, fashion, culture, mobile technology, cuisine, and not forgetting our universities, which make Barcelona one of the most attractive campuses in Europe. Then there is also the city’s port, which is not only a leader for cruise stopovers, but also has the potential to become the logistics capital of southern Europe.


Barcelona’s promotional campaigns, from the 1980s.

Marketing campaigns are not enough to build a brand. Firstly, we have to be aware of and believe in what we are, and the vision of what we want to be (and how we want others to see us) needs to be largely shared by all. The brand is the part of what we are that we sell. Secondly, we do not like everything that we are and not everything fas­cinating about the city comes solely from ourselves. There is a part of the Barcelona brand that is already beyond our control because it is in the hands – or rather the heads – of everyone who has visited the city or knows something about it or has heard of it: a sum of perceptions that is superimposed on the image of itself that the city strives to project. Thus Barcelona does not have a single image around the world, and this means we need to act decisively with today’s ubiquitous marketing and communication tools, which are finely honed and used so well by the cities in the world’s top division in which we play.

There are myriad aspects to handling city branding. And there are lots of us, including government, private citizens, corporations, civic associations and businesses at all levels, who actively or passively contribute to spreading and managing it. Nonetheless, the tools and the drive to lead it rest mainly with the public authorities as the trustees of citizen representation. Future generations will judge us all, as today we judge the leaders who in the 19th century built the Eixample or created Catalan Modernism, or those who designed the Gòtic quarter or the post-dictatorial and post-Olympic city, because out of their genius came the seed of the much admired “Barcelona brand”, which those of us who are the city’s residents benefit from today.

The winds of history

Making a banner for Unified Socialist Party of Catalonia (PSUC) in 1936.

The Tercentenary of the 11 September 1714, a crucial date that constituted a watershed in Barcelona’s history, is almost upon us. Throughout the year we are commemorating the Bourbon siege of the city, which led Catalans to lose their political rights and civil liberties. Barcelona City Council and the Catalan Government have promoted a civic celebration that will help to rediscover the city of the 18th century, understand the magnitude of the events and relate them to the present reality and future outlook. The commemoration of the Tercentenary in Barcelona will enhance the dialogue between past and present through an extensive programme of activities, including exhibitions, debates, seminars, publications, routes, popular festivals and artistic proposals.

Barcelona Metròpolis is also revisiting the events of 1714, its gaze set on the past, present and future. In his memoirs, Manuel Azaña said something which in the current context takes on a very ominous aspect: “A person I know said that the need to bomb Barcelona every fifty years is like a law in the history of Spain. This boutade illustrates something that is tantamount to a veritable political programme. Indeed, Barcelona has fallen under the sword more times than any other Spanish capital.” The conflicts that scourged Barcelona were never isolated or purely local, as they involved the international scene. The events of 1714 were part of a very complex game that played out on the European political stage. The siege of Barcelona caught the attention of a universal author of the stature of Daniel Defoe, who gave his own vision of the War of the Spanish Succession in The Memoirs of Captain George Carleton, a novel published this year in Catalan language. More than two hundred years later, during the Spanish Civil War, Barcelona would be hit by the first air raid on civilians in history, making it a veritable testing ground for the atrocities that would later be perpetrated in the Second World War. Republican Barcelona’s resistance against Franco’s attacks is also addressed here, as is the figure of Miquel Serra i Pàmies, a man who, in a heroic deed before the imminent occupation of the city by Franco’s forces in 1939, averted the mass destruction of the city by the Communist forces, who had planned to raze Barcelona as they retreated. We have a duty to honour citizens who have risked their lives for the city in such extreme circumstances.

The poet Salvador Espriu.

In 1714 and in 1939, Barcelona was obliged to surrender before a compelling force whose aim was to uniformise and centralise. Modern Europe was built upon the nation state and going against the grain of history was hardly an option. Today, however, the wind blows in a totally different direction and has fuelled new international relations that transcend state borders. Barcelona now has its own voice in the new global dialogue that governs the world. It is an example of resistance, but also of openness and integration. “Barcelona is a big factory that produces Barcelona inhabitants,” says the writer Albert Sánchez Piñol, author of Victus, interviewed in this issue of Barcelona Metròpolis. Joan Sales was so right when he said “the wars you lose are the wars you win”.

Training, innovation, inspiration…

Girls at the Pere Vila School with their laptops.

Girls at the Pere Vila School with their laptops.

With this spring issue, Barcelona Metròpolis magazine has reached the first year of a new age. As the school year draws to a close, this time we focus our sights on education to weigh up one of the city’s most active and strategic sectors.

We cannot know for sure if we are living in the final winter of one era or the first spring of a whole new world. Whatever the case may be, we find ourselves in difficult, but also interesting times. Education is not immune to this profound change, which is opening up the fabulous but diz-zying possibilities of the digital revolution to the field of teaching. The new world has already begun.

Barcelona will soon have one of the largest fibre optic networks in the world, which will make it possible to optimise the internet connections of schools and other learning centres. Cloud computing is not merely a tool for virtua-lising software and scaling costs; rather, it will progressively change the way in which we relate to our environment. The explosion of ICT in classrooms is forcing us to reassess the role of teachers and, more than ever, recognise students’ attention as the most highly-valued asset, because the combination of hard work and active concentration will surely secure the bond between teacher and student.

In the field of higher education, Barcelona is a hub for academia. In addition to being one of the world’s top venues for congresses and conventions, every year the city receives thousands of students who come from around the world to study at our universities. Foreign universities are also opening up campuses to educate their students here. To give an example, the British performing arts school the Institute of the Arts Barcelona is soon to open its doors in Sitges, under the Barcelona brand, and aims to attract students from across the globe. As well as foreign schools we also have our own benchmarks, such as the Institut del Teatre which celebrated its centenary this year. And in addition to such age-old institutions, an emerging educational sector is consolidating Barcelona as an ideal city to learn and train in.

But let us consider education in the broader sense, not just in relation to schools. The cardiologist Valentí Fuster, interviewed in this issue, reminds us that health is inextric-ably linked to education and that we must move from treat-ing illnesses to educating ourselves in the ways of health. We are also exploring new, groundbreaking forms of education that have given Barcelona internationally known success stories. This is the case of La Masia, the school of FC Barcelona, which we look at through the story of one of its key figures, Oriol Tort, the scout who discovered players such as Carles Puyol, Cesc Fàbregas and Bojan Krki?. We also have a report on new music education projects includ-ing the Sant Andreu Jazz Band, a world-renowned youth orchestra that has dazzled the great figures of jazz on the international scene. Furthermore, we present Tiching, a platform designed in Barcelona that is enjoying consid-erable success abroad. It invites teachers, parents and students to share educational resources in a large virtual community and aims to be a benchmark social network for the field of education.

The Barcelona brand is also an educational brand, one which provides inspiration to the world of learning.

A thousand-year history and a spirit of innovation

© Christian Maury
A class in the Cibernàrium MediaTIC building, in the 22@ district.

We entered 2013 with leaden feet, little joy, and a sense of caution imposed by the crisis. But this year’s Mobile World Congress is once more about to turn Barcelona into the epicentre of technological innovation. The city is teeming with creative young entrepreneurs, companies with new ideas and people working in ICT and new apps, driven by the hope of opening a new window in mobile devices worldwide. Barcelona has recovered the spirit of drive, strength and creativity that started with the 19th-century Renaixença (renaissance), when it left behind political and military strife to become an international centre of culture, art and progress, opening a period that was only curtailed by the Spanish Civil War and the long dictatorship. Barcelona is now teeming with energy again. It is inspiring the world again. Twenty years after the Olympic Games, its leadership is still growing. Barcelona is a source of inspiration.

We are on the threshold of a new economy based on the ability to connect people and build communities, an area in which Barcelona excels. A new paradigm of productivity is now ineluctably bringing out new collaborations in a world in which information and all the goods that go with it are circulating at breakneck speed. This new model of connectivity also extends to the relationships that are forged by cities. All transactions, whether economic or cultural, are more open than they have ever been. The possibilities arising from the internationalization of creativity are also more real. We live in a world of sovereign cities that draw a new world map of large metropolises that are increasingly emancipated from the boundaries of their respective states.

On this emerging map, Barcelona has earned a unique place through its own merits, accepting the Spain brand with neither antagonism nor submission as one that is widely known and full of obvious attributes. As is stated in the magazine’s central dossier, the prolific business incubator Barcelona Activa helps to set up companies that are able to introduce new realities and play a decisive role in entrepreneurship and innovation.

© Christian Maury
A classroom at the Almogàvers Business Factory.

Barcelona’s status as a first-class tourist destination and a cultural and technological hub make it a recognizable name worldwide. And this international fame cannot only be attributed to Gaudí or to the recent achievements of the Barcelona Football Club. Rather, it reflects a strong and deep-rooted personality, as Jordi Graupera shows by tracing the references to the city that have appeared in The New Yorker since the 1920s.

In response to the trials of history Barcelona has rebuilt itself and redefined its identity. That is why it has many layers, as we can see now in the magnificent Archaeological Map of Barcelona (http://cartaarqueologica.bcn.cat), an amazing virtual map that the City Council offers to anyone who wants to trace the layers of history. The present-day city also has many layers. Alongside the elite entrepreneurs attending the Mobile World Congress, there are people who have been left behind by the crisis and are threatened with social exclusion. Barcelona must indeed be connected to the world, but it must not lose touch with its own community, especially now that there are groups and neighbourhoods that need help to get off the ground. Social entrepreneurship is therefore an essential need, but it also offers the opportunity to create businesses aimed at combating the crisis and social ills. Social entrepreneurs aim to create fully sustainable and even profitable businesses that help the most vulnerable members of society. In this area, too, Barcelona is setting an example of leadership.

It is a vibrant and inspiring capital that is in the process of transformation. And the magazine Barcelona Metròpolis is again making an effort to document its energy in Catalan, Spanish and English, because it wishes to reconnect the city with the thread of hope and to spread the news at home and wherever it may be required.

Barcelona, the Catalan brand

This year is the twentieth anniversary of the Barcelona Olympic Games. That event boosted the transformation of the city. The benefits went beyond a mere facelift, however. In addition to the architectural development and building expansion came rewards of a more intangible nature. Barcelona took on a new identity as a brand, and as of that moment it became easier for us Catalans to present ourselves to the world.

Mercat San Antoni 1960

© Ritma / AFB
Sant Antoni market in 1960

Anyone who had travelled abroad before 1992 will remember how difficult and trying it could sometimes be to explain what Catalonia was to the rest of the world. The inevitable reference to bulls or flamenco prompted the need for all kinds of explanations. The Olympic Games showed that besides the world map with countries and capital cities there was also an intercontinental map of cities, and the Olympic event led Barcelona to become a watermark in this global urban constellation.

Mercat de Sant Antoni l’any 1960

© Ritma / AFB
Born market

As of that moment things changed. When asked where we were from, simply responding “Barcelona” greatly simplified the ensuing conversation. All of a sudden we discovered that Barcelona was a euphonic word, with a drawn-out and happy cadence, like bringing a flower to our lips, a word as easy to pronounce as Rambla, Gaudí or Picasso.

Mercat San Antoni

© Albert Armengol
Sant Antoni market undergoing refurbishment

Since then the Barcelona brand has gained credence. And not just thanks to the Olympic brand, but also by dint of the architectural brand of modernism, the gastronomic brand of Catalan chefs such as Ferran Adrià, Santamaria, Roca or Ruscalleda, the literary brand of Jaume Cabré or Ruiz Zafón, the technological brand that gives us the Mobile World Congress, and particularly the Champions brand, with Messi and Guardiola as leading lights. However, everyone knows that a brand is not an end in itself, and nor can we afford to talk about Barcelona only in terms of branding, letting ourselves be carried away by the fluctuations of the stock exchange or fashion. Indeed, that old saying that holds, that “Barcelona sounds fine if you have money in your pocket”, could be reworked to say, in keeping with the times, “Barcelona sounds fine because the brand is fine”.

Mercat Santa Caterina

© Vicente Zambrano
Santa Caterina market

Nowadays, Barcelona can leverage a great many values, one of them being Mediterranean cuisine, and Barcelona’s markets are one of the driving forces of this food culture based on fresh local products. This issue of Barcelona Metròpolis is dedicated to exploring the past, present and future of a market model that has become an example for other cities, which have come here to observe how they work and then adapt them to their own needs.

We are also dedicating a special dossier to novels about Barcelona, which takes us on a literary and actual tour of the city, since increasingly more tourists come to explore a cityscape they have heard about through writers. The Barcelona literary brand has recently engendered two major works, L’ombra del vent  [The Shadow of the Wind] by Ruiz Zafón and Jo confesso [I confess] by Jaume Cabré, both of them translated into numerous languages.

© Albert Armengol
El Ninot market currently undergoing refurbishment

But a brand is always linked to an identity and a history. And Barcelona also has to act as the capital of Catalan feeling and identity. Modernity, innovation and creativity are not at odds with the defence of identity. In his Ode to Barcelona, Pere Quart said to the city: “Tousled and hoarse, / knowing neither shame nor banner, / but you earn your living, / amid death and folly.” This is not how we want things to be.

The brand also spurs us on to be more self-demanding. This magazine bears the name of Barcelona, and we shall strive to live up to the demands of our time.

Mercat de la Barceloneta

© Vicente Zambrano
Barceloneta Market

A capital in transformation

Barcelona Metròpolis is entering a new era with a renewed purpose: to show the city the way it really is; a capital that pushes and pulls, that leads the country and journeys alongside it, that gets its energy from it but also puts its critical mass at the service of that country, unconditionally. Barcelona Metròpolis intends to bear witness to how the city aims to meet these obligations inherent in its position as a capital: evolving, adapting and improving. That’s why we speak of a capital in transformation. We all agree that in recent decades, Barcelona has worked hard to be where it is. The city has climbed the ranking of cities, it has attracted positive attention from the eyes of the world and it has consolidated its own brand name, which is currently better known than the name of Catalonia and much more sought-after than that of Spain. The Olympic Games put us on the map long before smartphones got us obsessed with geolocation. The Olympic aura and Gaudí’s legacy are two ingredients of an internationally recognised glamour that has grown in recent years thanks to the success of factors such as Barça, the Mobile World Congress and the export of Catalan cuisine.

All this prestige does not mean we can rest on our laurels. We live in a time of turmoil that is forcing us to re-position ourselves in ever-widening circles: in Catalonia, on the Iberian Peninsula, in the Mediterranean region, in Europe and in the World. Barcelona is not just the nucleus of a metropolitan area; it is the capital of a country that extends beyond its industrial outskirts. Given the choice between a Barcelona that feeds only on momentum and complacency and a Barcelona that integrates the living forces of Catalonia and opens them up to the rest of the world, we will always go for the second option. Today, Barcelona is a magnet not just in Catalonia but in an entire urban corridor or mega-region that fully integrates Catalonia. That is why Barcelona Metròpolis aims to openly show the world Barcelona’s Catalan identity.

Practically everyone now realises that the world has changed and nothing will ever be the same again. For many years, Barcelona was a city under construction, permanently inconvenienced by building works after decades of involuntary paralysis dating back to the post-Civil War period. It has undoubtedly undergone a period of real estate growth that has ended up colliding with its own limitations. We have discovered too late that construction was not synonymous with unlimited growth, or with creativity. From now on, you can be sure that it will be creativity that will allow us to function and give us visibility in a multipolar world.

In its previous phase, this magazine has contributed positively to urban thinking, to critical analysis of the city models that we have tried out, put into practice and consolidated. In this new phase, Barcelona Metròpolis proposes that we refocus discussions along three lines: where we come from, where we are and where we’re going. By asking these three Ignatian questions we can work out, in each case, if what is pushing us along is the result of a momentum that started in the past or a present-day impetus.

Barcelona Metròpolis will continue to be a quarterly magazine, and will now be published in a single trilingual edition. The remit of Bernat Puigtobella, the new Editor, is to bring the magazine to people, from here and elsewhere, who did not previously read it. This also involves giving a platform to the younger generation, young people who were born just before or just after the Olympic Games, who will be the real players in the Barcelona that we are creating today. With this purpose of making the content more accessible, we have also overhauled the website. By doing so, we have given a boost to the magazine’s digital edition, which is now more dynamic and better connected to the social networks, particularly Twitter, where Barcelona Metròpolis already has over a thousand followers. Digitalisation will also allow readers to look up back issues. Above all, it also opens up the possibilities of reader participation. Barcelona Metròpolis invites the public to have their say, to express their self-esteem without falling into complacency and without losing their critical thinking. A capital in transformation must be open to participation, so that it learns how to transform and how to really be a capital.

Panorama of Barcelonaover the course of 438 years. Photograph taken from the book Refotografiar Barcelona Mark Klett, the catalogue of the exhibition of the same name staged by the AFB (Barcelona Photographic Archive), which was open to visitors until 19 may.
© Mark Klett / AFB