Vicente Guallart Appointed Director of Urbanism of Barcelona

Xavier Trías at Columbia University. © Xavier Trias on flickr

In a recent trip to Columbia University in New York, the new mayor of Barcelona, Xavier Trias, promoted his mission to “Regenerate” Barcelona to an audience of architecture students. Regenerating; coincidentally it’s a term that our program uses to describe its approach to the practice of urbanism across intermediate landscapes, but how does the mayor define it with regards to reshaping the future of the city?

Generally speaking, what Trias refers to is a more efficient and sustainable city, emphasizing “retrofitting vs. demolition”, creating social housing with private capital (based on New York’s Housing Development Corporation model), regenerating unused urban areas, optimizing energy efficiency in homes and building things like a biomass power plant.

Xavier Trías and Vicente Guallart at the High Line, New York. © Xavier Trias on flickr

To get the job done, the mayor has enlisted one of Barcelona’s popular architects, Vicente Guallart (1963), as head of the city’s Urbanism department. Director of the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia (IaaC), which he cofounded with the support of the nationalist party (represented by the newly elected mayor), Guallart arose from the group Metápolis during the 90’s, which openly diverged from the uncontested models laid out by one of Barcelona’s most significant architects Oriol Bohígas. Today, Vicente Guallart is best known for his leadership of IaaC, his own projects characterized by striking visuals, catchy titles and a strong emphasis on new technologies.

“Urbanism will continue, but urbanization is over. There is no virgin land in Barcelona left to urbanize. We’ve defined a new strategy under the general concept of urban habitat that combines urbanism, environment and information technologies,” Guallart explained in an interview with La Vanguardia today (article in Spanish).

Blau@Ictinea - Development to be situated in the area of El Morrot, between the sea and Montjüic, to connect the Ciutat Vella (Old City) and Av. Paralell with the Zona Franca.

When asked how this would translate into reality over the next six months, he explained that it should do so through “social” projects that stimulate the economy and create jobs, citing their first project called Blau@Ictínea, a neighborhood development estimated at €250 million to include 2000 housing units, university campuses and technology businesses. The project doesn’t exactly address retrofitting existing neighborhoods, but Guallart claims that this port area of Barcelona is currently just used as a storage room for the city. It seems there is some land left to urbanize after all.

In the interview, Guallart affirms his belief that “iconic architecture is a thing of the past.” We’re not quite sure if “iconic” is a quality to be categorized as good or bad, past or present; rather it is the purpose which architecture serves and the role it plays in society which make it stand the test of time. As an architect leading the role that urbanism will play in Barcelona, we hope that Guallart will steer its future as a model for sustainability in the right direction, doing justice to this vibrant city that we call our own.

What do you think? Where is Barcelona headed now?

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Comments
2 Responses to “Vicente Guallart Appointed Director of Urbanism of Barcelona”
  1. David Martínez says:

    It seems there is some land left to urbanize after all… and what a land!! We’re talking about Barcelona’s waterfront, a privileged position in the city. The virtual images which ilustrate the Blau@ictinea housing project (avaible in the web) are too similar to others we know well. If we take a look to the well known Kurosawa tower in Nagasaki (1972) or Safdie’s project entitled Habitat (1967), an exclusive neighborhood in Montreal, both in the line of the metabolists, we can agree they are are too similiar to what Guallart is proposing for the waterfront of Barcelona. They where architectonic experiments which left a mark in the books of postmodern architecture, but never joined the pages of urbanism. We should better be aware of this new (new?) tendencies in Barcelona. The achievements of urban planning, and the social improvements reached in the last decades should not be buried under the revival of this new-metabolist tendency.

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