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Barcelona´s Green Corridors: another or an other urban project? by Tine Vleugels (Belgium)

This time our ´Talking Cityzen´ is Tine Vleugels from Belgium. She has a Master Degree in Regional and Population Studies. She gives her personal view on a green corridor project in Barcelona. Tine Vleugels: The Barcelona City Council has launched a competition to design 16 entrances to the Natural Park of the Collserola hill, which is the natural border between the Catalan capital and its metropolitan area. The project aims to link the Natural Park to the city, to rearrange the Collserola neighbourhoods and to ‘renaturate’ the city, through 16 green corridors. However, Collserola has been subjected to numerous land use planning before. Ideas such as green corridors remind of former projects designed by the previous municipal government. So what´s new?

Towards a new urban model

Barcelona has to overcome the urban model imposed in the years of economic boom, which has filled the streets with large towers and unique buildings signed by the great names of architecture. Administrations have now other economic priorities and they have no choice but to look at urbanism from a more modest view and closer to citizens. In Barcelona, this paradigm shift is led by the deputy mayor of Urban Habitat. According to him, the new mantra of the city is to create “productive neighbourhoods with human speed, within a hyper-connected city with zero emissions, a slow city with high environmental quality that allows a better relationship with the neighbours". The new priorities are modest-budget projects with a clear commitment to interventions in neighbourhoods. 

Metropolitan park Barcelona

Large metropolitan park

The new municipal government CiU set out a design competition for the green corridor project. Possibly the most successful contest of the last couple of years due to the large amount of offers made. The chosen 7 teams consisted of all generations, Catalan and foreign professionals, including architects, engineers, environmentalists, biologists and lawyers. One of the first steps now will be to speak with local residents and neighbourhood organisations from each district and listen to their ideas.

Fears and critiques

About 90 entities and technicians from different disciplines have signed a manifesto of neighbourhood organisations in the Nou Barris district, denouncing the approach of the project. According to the manifesto:

  • The project is not feasible because it is not possible to afford the required investments;
  • ‘Micro-interventions’ are needed to intertwine the city and the mountain;
  • Parking on each gate, more paved roads, and a cable car is “municipal green marketing´and will attract more people (and tourists) but is destructive for nature;
  • To 'renature' the city means that "the city will rise to the mountains". As a consequence the mountains will be urbanized!;
  • Providing new equipment when they have not yet built the previous ones is incongruous;
  • Because of the large (required) investment, Collserola will become a theme park in order to make the project profitable. 

Nou Barris's neighbours have begun a participatory process themselves in which they established basic starting points for the corridors in their district. They have criticized that the council didn’t provide participation since the beginning to collect historical claims of the neighbourhoods. I question if the new approach of the municipal government is both innovative and respectful, as it is said to be.  Will it be effective this time?

If you would like to contact Tine Vleugels, please send us an e-mail and we will forward it to Tine.

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