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Evaluation of 22. Barecelona

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Urban centers throughout history grew out of concentrated areas of industry. As time progresses industries change and evolve with society. Cities must continue to change and adapt to changing industries in unique and innovative ways if they are to continue to survive. Barcelona, an internationally renowned city and the capital of the Catalonia region in spain has seen the rise and fall of kings and queens, empires and economies. It has met the challenges of each new era in history and is continuing to meet the demands of the present day world of technology. The global urban planning response to the market demands for technology development and the general increase in knowledge based industries and innovation districts. These clusters of knowledge based industries are popping up all over the world and have proven to be a necessity if cities are to to compete on the global stage. Poblenou district in Barcelona, the heart of industry in the 1970’s and 80’s has become dilapidated and unused as general industry became obsolete. This area became the perfect place for Barcelona’s 22@ district of innovation to settle.

Innovation districts are a spatially compact urban area that contains a cluster of tech companies, start-ups entrepreneurs, business firms and adjacent to a university or a research and development facility. All innovation districts fall into one of three categories, “anchor plus” being where there is one large anchor company that attracts and supports many other smaller companies or startups, a “re-imagined urban area” which is where 22@ falls into, and lastly the original form of an innovation district is an “urbanized science park” where innovation campuses are set in suburbia close to cities. While the companies that make up the hard structure of innovation districts, the urban design features of theses areas make up the soft programmed portions of the area and are just as important to the district as the companies themselves are. These districts need to be mixed use, walkable, close to a thriving urban center and well connected via public transportation. All of these features are universally considered staples of good design in the urban planning world and absolutely necessary in the construction and design of these areas. A common criticism or area of failure in these innovation districts is that they more often than not fail to integrate themselves in a gentle manner into the surrounding urban fabric of the city, especially if it is a “reimagined urban area”.


The rise of The General Metropolitan plan of 1976 was a backlash against the Franco dictatorship where the public opinion was banned and the city was characterized by a series of disconnected urban design interventions. This plan was where the seed for the 22@ knowledge based district was first planted, the plan itself, consisted of three phases, starting with preservation and modernization then making a smooth transition into innovation and consolidation. Shortly after the details were finalized on this master plan, the news was broken that Barcelona would be hosting to the 1992 Olympic games. This ramped up the pressure on the city and the public to beautify the city and start breaking ground on a number of new projects and an incredible amount of progress was made. Vittorio Gregotti, a long time citizen of the city expressed his concern for the stamina for the citizens and the government to continue to change and innovate the city at the pace they were currently a due to a, “succession of complexities, obstacles, contradictions, favoritism, and political and administrative bureaucracy, and administrative decisions that have a certain tendency towards the showbiz and towards politics understood as a simple matter of consensus.” (Gregotti 1989, 5).

This worldwide celebrated event got the ball rolling for this general urban planning update of Barcelona. In addition to hosting the Olympics, there had been a serious drop in employment in the city, over the course of twenty years, between 1970 and 1990 the industrial sector of Barcelona lost a total of 342,000 jobs ( Marrero, 2003, p.2) showing the need for a serious change. In 1999 the city government took action and created a special sector whose sole purpose was to ensure the growth of the city’s knowledge industry, naturally, called the the Knowledge City Department. Their other main purpose was to see that the innovation district, 22@ was thoroughly planned and properly developed on schedule. The primary purpose for the district was to serve as “ the main economic and technological platform in Barcelona, Catalonia and Spain in the perspective of the 21st century” (Barcelona 2000, 14). The district was set to revitalize and rebrand the previously very industrial heavy area of Poblenou. What was once an extremely important area to the economic well being of the city needed to be updated to once again serve as a pivotal economic area in Barcelona. The three main goals of the plan itself were to:

Attract companies in five different sectors- the technology, media industries, research and development facilities and cutting edge energy and general design firms.

Adaptive reuse of a previously underutilized industrial area of barcelona to encompass all of the greatest features of urban design. Renewable energy, green space and bike sharing programs are all aspects of importance in the development of this innovation district.

Boost social housing and general social capital with certain outreach activities.  

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