On May 10 through May 13, 2017, the Global Cultural Districts Network (GCDN) met in Barcelona, Spain for its annual meeting, gathering over 120 cultural and urban leaders from 26 different countries. The convening was co-organized by Future Places and involved many local partners: the Poblenou Urban District, the CCCB (Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona), the City Council of Barcelona, the City Council of L’Hospitalet, and Barcelona Global.
Over the course of these three days, participants visited three different cultural districts: the Poblenou Urban District, El Raval Cultural District, and the L’Hospitalet Cultural District. Beyond these guided tours, the convening featured panel discussions, workshops, and presentations on topics including cultural tourism, international collaborations and co-commissions, animation of public space, branding and identity of cultural districts, lighting and urban design, and cultural infrastructure.
The convening kicked off with a tour of the Poblenou Urban District, taking participants through various revitalized industrial spaces including the IAAC (Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia), the Academy of Art of Barcelona, and other sites, concluding with a cocktail reception at the Can Framis Museum.
We revisited the topic of public spaces with a lens on questioning their future as they continue to be the focal point of urban regeneration success stories. Showcasing different perspectives, this session reviewed the role of interactive public art in these spaces, how to engage communities effectively through these projects, and how these spaces can transform into a place of refuge from the hustle and bustle of our fast-paced urban lives.
El Raval cultural district is a prime example of successful urban regeneration through culture. Once considered Barcelona’s red light district, the area has now become a thriving cultural quarter, boasting medieval monasteries, quaint shops and historic cafés, and major cultural institutions such as the CCCB (Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona) and MACBA (Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona).
The Quartier des Spectacles Partnership presented examples of international touring interactive art exhibitions that have traveled from Montreal to cities around the world, including collaborations with other GCDN members like Navy Pier, Inc. in Chicago and LAC in Lugano, Switzerland. This session was an opportunity to learn about the structure of these partnerships and collaborations and the various ways to finance them.
Cultural Tourism is strongly associated with boosting local economies, generating more foot traffic through cultural institutions, and helping to raise the profile of revenue-hungry cities. But balance must be sought between the livability of an area for its residents and a continuing appeal to visiting tourists. Keynote speaker Elizabeth Becker shared key insights on the value of cultural tourism while cautioning the overuse of this strategy for economic development considering its possible detrimental effects on local communities. A wider discussion…
GCDN commissioned Juan Carlos Belloso of Future Places, and his team, to conduct research* around the key factors of branding and identity of cultural districts that make them successful and attractive to residents and tourists. Case studies from the research were presented, followed by a workshop leading participants to think critically about the branding strategies for their own districts and institutions.
Light has the power to transform. Increasingly, urban designers, architects and city-officials understand the importance of light – and light festivals, urban lighting schemes, and major public art projects involving light and projections have become quite common in cities around the globe. Why is light such an important tool and what strategies must be adopted to ensure success? Who should be at the table during these conversations? How do practitioners and city leaders ensure the sustainability of these projects? Speakers…
Adrian Ellis opened this session by introducing AEA Consulting’s work around identifying large cultural infrastructure projects around the world and what kind of activity is happening in that area. This research has been compiled in the 2016 Cultural Infrastructure Index, by AEA for GCDN, seeks to measure investment in capital projects in the cultural sector, identifying projects with a budget of US$10 million or more that were publicly announced or completed within a calendar year.* Erin Flaherty then presented on the…
To conclude the GCDN Barcelona convening, participants were led on an “Art Safari” through the L’Hospitalet Cultural District, discovering the many street art interventions, public art installations, and the recently opened exhibition of Andy Warhol in the refurbished Can Trinxet factory.