We arrive on the night of the Festival of Sant Joan – Barcelona’s patron saint. It is to the beach where people come to set off fireworks, and others go to watch them do it.
So much here defines Barcelona today: the vast beaches, the architecture, the public spaces, even the Gehry Fish – and yet it’s all relatively new. The Summer Olympic Games that accelerated the city’s emergence as a global destination, and the transformation of its waterfront, happened in 1992 – not yet a quarter century. And so much has been done since, some of which we’ll explore this week.
But people come to Barcelona to admire its past, particularly the work of Antoni Gaudi. Culturally, the focus is still on Modernisme, the movement that emerged not in the 20th century but the 19th. Yet this is an urban region, still one of the densest in the world, that does not shy away from making major interventions, transforming whole sections of the city in a decade, while still focussing design and resources on small interventions.
It is a place, politically and culturally, that is attempting to construct community and establishment support in order to move consciously, with plans and strategies, into the next stage of the 21st century. Lots of debate, of course, but when they do move forward, it shows.
Next, an example.