A walk through Barcelona
The recovery, partly rescue and partly transformation, of sectors badly hit by the pandemic will require projects and resources to promote them. However, if we want to set in motion a powerful, ambitious and self-sustaining dynamic, we cannot install ourselves in a mental framework in which these projects must be entirely public. We need private ones and it is, therefore, responsibility of public institutions to articulate the necessary incentives for them to emerge. Favourable factors are Next Generation, which will temporarily allow us to use subsidies, and, thanks to the ECB, the availability of very cheap credit. But it will also be necessary to act on the regulatory side in order to articulate legal schemes for explicit public-private collaboration.
This is particularly appropriate in the case of tourism and culture, two of the most mistreated sectors. It is a good sign that our public opinion is converging towards a general consensus that cooperation between the two sectors can be an axis of recovery for both. From the very nature of these sectors we know that, in order to implement it, public institutions, foundations, and companies will have to be combined. And, consequently, public and private resources.
I propose a walk around Barcelona. We start in the Parc de la Ciutadella, in the old Martorell Museum next to the Umbracle and the Hivernacle. From here towards the Ramblas passing by the Verònica square, where we will admire the building of the old Borsí. We go down towards the sea, we leave on the left the Foneria de Canons, the old headquarters of the Bank of Barcelona, and we head towards the Arnau on the Paral-lel, where we take the funicular that takes us to the Montjuïc Castle. We walk around the outside of the castle, which offers us magnificent views and an appreciation of its enormous magnitude. We go down to the Font Màgica square, with the Palace of Victòria Eugènia on the left and that of Alfonso XIII on the right. Then, towards Lleida street, contemplating the old Palau dels Esports and the Casa de la Premsa.
I have created the route to pass by the buildings that I have marked in bold letters. I have chosen them because they are all empty, non-residential, and public property. There are more in the city, especially if I allow myself to include the underused ones (such as the Estació de França train station). And, of course, one could admire others that are only different because they are private (such as the Teatre Principal or the Monumental). These buildings are deteriorating day by day. I sympathize with the position that public budgets are not infinitely elastic and that priority should be given to these buildings, but the city needs more cultural and economic activity. Wouldn't it be better to try to activate these buildings with private initiatives? I say try. It is not certain that private initiatives will appear, but it is certain that they will not do so if we are not receptive to joint formulas, in which the private sector invests, receives facilities to do so from the public sector and, in exchange, the risk and economic returns are shared, in a tolerable way for both parties (translatable, for example, in access facilities for local residents). This makes possible what would not be possible separately. Given Barcelona's ability to attract visitors, I would hope that, if the public institutions were willing, there would be entrepreneurial initiatives of this kind. And this translates into more culture, more economic activity, more employment and more income for the public sector. The opposite means empty buildings.
Let's look at Montjuïc. The concentration of cultural activity it has is remarkable. However, it is still insufficient for the local and international centrality that would be desirable. We need more. And that's why resources are needed, to organise activities and to vitalise spaces. In the castle there should be something that made sense (the Museu d'Història de Catalunya, which may need a new headquarters soon?). In the Palau Alfonso XIII some of the existing projects should be given free rein (I'm thinking of the Art Tech proposed by the Fira). Above all, it would be necessary for the MNAC to develop the plans it has had for too long at the Maria Eugènia - why not develop them in collaboration with the private sector instead of continuing to deny us the visualisation of our cultural heritage? Nor, as is often claimed, would they lack spaces for large temporary exhibitions. Cultural Montjuïc needs its Big Bang. The ignition point is not far away. With public-private cooperation we could get there in a short period of time. Without it, I'm afraid we won't get there and we'll spend our time regretting what we could do, without knowing why we didn't do it.