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Although many cities around the world witness the triumphs and failures of globalization in all aspects of life, Barcelona has truly been a success story. Although Barcelona is a dense city confined by the Mediterranean Sea and the mountains, it has grown to be a commercial, industrial and tourism superpower in Europe. The benefits of globalization are apparent in the dynamic metropolitan area of Barcelona, a model used for urban design and renovation of cities throughout the world. Globalization has become an inevitable progression over time, and Barcelona has embraced its ongoing growth by constructively planning for the future.
The metropolitan area of Barcelona has become a center for trade, industry, commerce and tourism, with almost four million residents. To prepare for the 1992 Olympic Games held in Barcelona, the city went through drastic transformations in urban development with hopes of becoming one of Europe’s economic superpowers. Now, Barcelona is becoming an exemplar city for its style and synthesis of urban design and innovation. Projects such as [email protected] Barcelona, an efficient infrastructure organization, the refurbishment of city beaches and port areas, the construction of pleasing and practical public spaces, the melting pot of world cultures and other revitalization plans have helped globalize Barcelona and make it the “capital of the Mediterranean” (Rossi).
One project helping Barcelona continue to globalize and expand its knowledge is the [email protected] Barcelona innovation district. In the area of Poblenou, a neighborhood that was once occupied entirely by industrial buildings and factories, a complete transformation is underway to recreate 115 blocks of “modern spaces for the strategic concentration of intensive knowledge-based activities” (“Presentation”). Two hundred hectares of land in Poblenou will be renovated in order to allow for more living, working and learning spaces. According to the [email protected] Barcelona website, 53% of the neighborhood has begun transformation and many new companies are relocating their businesses to the new knowledge hub of the city.
“The [email protected] project has likewise been warmly received, according to a research carried out by the University of Barcelona in June 2007, by the business community: 925 firms have already established in the [email protected] district or are in the process of building their corporate HQs there. More than 50% of the companies that have moved to the [email protected] district since 2001 belong to one of the four strategic [email protected] sectors: media, ITC, MedTech or energy” (“Current State”).
The area of Poblenou has a designated €180 million in public investment, which will give the neighborhood access to innovative technology still nonexistent in many other globalizing cities. Green spaces, digital districts and tight-knit communities of buildings are just some of the inventive concepts that are being developed in Poblenou. Once the urban, economic and social renovations have been completed, the neighborhood will be transformed into a modern, unique environment for all aspects of daily life (“Presentation”).
Like the neighborhood of Poblenou, Barcelona’s infrastructure is constantly being upgraded and expanded. For example, Plaça de les Glòries Catalanes is being completely reconstructed to include an underground train station, which will rival Plaza Cataluña as a popular transportation center in the city. The fundamental structure of Barcelona includes a group of efficient transportation elements, including metro systems, airport expansions, sewage improvements, bus routes, highways and railroads. Barcelona has such a well-organized, logical setup for its infrastructure throughout the city, making the city once again a prototype for urban design which other cities have proposed to duplicate. “One of Barcelona’s more outstanding characteristics is that its port, airport, railroad terminal for goods, highway networks and huge logistics area are all activities set in the same geographical space. This makes Barcelona highly internationalised, occupying a strategic position in the world-wide transport network, and a key hub for trade with Asia” (Alarcon). The infrastructure in Barcelona is an important benefit of globalization because it organizes transportation to save time and avoid congestion of persons. Unlike other cities, Barcelona has public transportation centers on almost every block, whether it includes buses, metros, ferrocarrils or tunnels. This accessibility is imperative for residents, visitors and all people traveling through Barcelona because the infrastructure is time efficient and uncomplicated. Many other cities around the world would benefit from examining Barcelona’s infrastructure design, which is frequently being revamped to keep up with the changes brought about by globalization and the needs of the people.
Of all the renovations completed in Barcelona, the restoration of city beaches and the enlargement of port areas have helped increase tourism and turn the eyes of the people back to the sea. Huge additions to the port have been made including: a new bridge to facilitate transportation of trucks carrying cargo, extending piers to allow for more cargo ships to dock, and the destruction of industrial buildings along the beach to once again make the sea an attraction. “The past 10 years have seen a huge transformation of both port and city, as the municipal government sought to develop Barcelona’s holiday and pleasure sailing reputation in tandem with traditional commercial activities. The boom in Barcelona’s commercial centres has both invigorated (and itself been further promoted) with the desire to revise the city’s maritime traditions” (Alarcon). Port Olympic and the Maremagnum marina are new economic hotspots near the beach, which appeal to both residents and tourists with restaurants, bars, an aquarium and movie theaters. The port, one of Barcelona’s most essential places for trade, is in the process of extending its piers to increase the frequency of trade and tourism by building more docking areas for cargo boats and cruise liners. The beaches are one of Barcelona’s main attractions, which have been nearly restored to their original beauty without the deterring industrial buildings that once lined the shore. These transformations, which have been underway or completed since 1992, have increased tourism and productivity of trade in Barcelona. Both of these aspects of globalization are extremely important to the city so that it can grow and attract more investors. The innovative additions to the beach and port areas will benefit Barcelona’s economy, tourism and their position in the world market.
If improving the coastline will help attract more tourists to the beach, improving public spaces, park areas and dilapidated buildings will help attract more residents to the city. Globalization has led Barcelona to realize its confinement between the Mediterranean Sea and the mountains, leaving a highly dense population situated in-between that continues to grow. For that reason, the Barcelona model had planned for inevitable expansion of the city. Instead of spreading further out into the suburbs like most cities, Barcelona began the “layered multiple use” of land to build vertically opposed to horizontally (Rossi). “Across the city, parks spread out atop new highway tunnels. Parking lots hide under squares. Seventeenth-century convents are turned into libraries and cultural centers, palaces are transformed into hotels, museums sprout from former textile factories” (Rossi). Every inch of land in Barcelona has a purpose, and the city is praised for its ability to find the problems that exist in decaying buildings or empty spaces and repair them to make the area more eye-catching. For example, the area of El Raval was always known for its immigrant population, drug deals and prostitutes. After careful planning by the city to create a rambla in the center, add more squares throughout the neighborhood, and build the Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona (CCCB), restaurants, businesses and people all want to buy space in El Raval. Besides making Barcelona more beautiful, these ongoing changes have also made the city more well-organized and useful. Cranes and angle cutters can be seen and heard throughout Barcelona, which is just a reminder that the city is working hard to keep Barcelona up-to-date with globalization needs and a constantly growing population.
As the population in Barcelona increases, it is easy to see the mix of colors, races and languages that have become commonplace in this international city. For almost a century between 1850 and 1950, Spain was mainly an emigrating nation. Approximately 3.5 million people, especially temporary workers, emigrated to Argentina, Cuba, Uruguay and Brazil. However, in the late 1980s Spain became a country of immigration due to “the end of guest worker programs, the closing of the borders of traditional receiving countries, such as Germany, Switzerland, and France, the political evolution from authoritarian regimes, their proximity to the sending countries in the Maghreb, and the intense historical and economic bonds between both shores of the Mediterranean” (Ortega Pérez). In 1999, the foreign-born population was 2.09% (89,744 people), but by 2005, the number of foreign inhabitants had increased to 11.13% with 531,040 people (Roca Cladera). Neighborhoods like El Raval are home to large numbers of immigrants, especially those from North Africa, Pakistan and Muslim communities. Projects such as the Universal Forum of Cultures, which promote human rights, cultural diversity and peace, have been established to accommodate the melting pot of cultures in the international community. “In order to promote a culturally diverse society, a series of policies have been deployed to fight the poverty and social exclusion that often go hand in hand with immigration, provide the resources required for the development of different communities in Catalonia, and, above all, encourage intercultural encounters” (Lachmann). Although Barcelona has struggled with racism and discrimination against immigrant communities, globalization has made Spain, and especially Catalonia, a desirable destination for immigrants from around the globe. The city boasts hundreds of restaurants with cuisines from every country, places for prayer for numerous religions, and cultural centers for the integration of immigrants. As the world becomes increasingly interconnected due to globalization and the ease of travel, immigration populations will continue to rise.
Barcelona has dealt with the inevitable process of globalization by paying attention to details throughout the city, by maintaining what already exists and building what is needed for the future. From protecting the historical significance of a park bench to lining a lackluster street with palm trees, every corner in the city has been touched by globalization and yet still continues to function properly and look good. Barcelona’s urban design has been used as a model for city development around the globe, due to its comprehensive planning and meticulous attention to every element of the city. According to architect Lord Richard Rogers, “Barcelona is the jewel of the crown of urban regeneration” (Rossi). Globalization has been an amazing benefit to Barcelona, because of its ability to keep up with the ever-changing, constantly growing needs of a metropolitan city.
As a model for urban development and design, Barcelona has been praised for its ability to keep pace with the process of globalization, by revitalizing areas around the city and integrating them together into one functional community. The intensification of Barcelona’s infrastructure development as well as the multi-layered use for expansion has helped the city to globalize, while affectively using every piece of available land for a planned residential development, park, square or office building. Without the benefit of globalization that has changed Barcelona’s reputation from a run-down port town to a innovative model for designing and renovating cities, projects such as [email protected] Barcelona would be inconceivable and difficult to achieve. Barcelona has become a meeting place for cultures from around the world, as well as an immigration magnet for people from North Africa, South America and other emigrating nations. The new enticement created by port and beach renovations that were completed for the 1992 Olympic Games have increased tourism and turned the eyes of the city back to the Mediterranean Sea. Only time can tell how Barcelona will progress in the international spectrum of globalization, but the modern revitalization of the city has been an immense benefit for Barcelona, its visitors, and its people.
Alarcon, Jose. “Barcelona’s port goes for massive growth.” International Market News. 01 Mar 2001. Trade Development Council. 6 Dec 2007
“Current State.” [email protected] Barcelona. 2006. Ajuntament de Barcelona. 6 Dec 2007
Lachmann, Joseph. “The Universal Forum of Cultures considers immigration as a source of social enrichment.” 09 Aug 2004. Herald Tribe. 7 Dec 2007
Muenz, Rainer. “Europe: Population and Migration in 2005.” Feature Story. June 2006. Migration Policy Institute. 7 Dec 2007
Ortega Pérez, Nieves. “Spain: Forging an Immigration Policy.” Country Profiles. Feb 2003. Migration Policy Institute. 10 Dec 2007
“Preamble.” Mobility pact. Ajuntament de Barcelona. 6 Dec 2007
“Presentation.” [email protected] Barcelona. 2006. Ajuntament de Barcelona. 6 Dec 2007
Roca Cladera, Josep. “Residential mobility and foreign immigration settlement in the Metropolitan area of Barcelona.” Sixth European Urban and Regional Studies Conference. 7 Dec 2007
Rossi, Melissa. “The Barcelona Model.” IES Barcelona. 02 Feb 2004. IES Barcelona. 6 Dec 2007
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