Where will we place the Clínic?

3 min
Where will we put the Clinic?

Even before the pandemic we knew that the physical plant of some of our hospitals was not in good condition to face the 21st century. The fiscal constraints resulting from the 2008 and euro crises forced us to postpone renovation plans. The pandemic will bring them back on the agenda and, with European permission, make them fiscally feasible. Experience will also make us design them in a way that is adjusted to the new needs. In this respect, we can take advantage of the delay. But now we have to get on with it: the period of fiscal tolerance, availability of European funds and Keynesian propensities may not be very long. We must take advantage of the window of opportunity.

The Clínic worries me. It is an emblematic institution, with a well-deserved reputation and great international recognition. It is fully agreed that it needs a thorough renovation. But we are not moving beyond this. We have not yet closed a previous question such as where we will locate the new Clínic. The Clínic is linked to the left of the Eixample, the health area to which it provides basic coverage. The idea of segregating and separating more complex and referral care cannot be accepted by the hospital. In the context of the left of the Eixample, various options have been discussed in the press: the Escola Industrial, the Fira de Montjuïc, the Modelo. All these locations share a problem: they try to put a huge volume of equipment in a space that already has many installed realities or many deserving suitors. They are not realistic locations and the discussion only leads to the perpetuation of an uncertainty that we cannot afford.

Given that the map of a very dense Barcelona is not a blank sheet of paper, I am of the opinion that one option that is both realistic and quite good is for the Clínic to be rebuilt where it is. It is the least interfering with what already exists for the simple reason that it only interferes with itself. Rebuilding a functioning hospital may seem complicated. It is also complicated to rebuild an airport in operation and it is done. For the Clínic it should be comparatively easy: the adjacent site, next to the Ninot and already assigned, can be used to facilitate a redevelopment in phases.

In this operation all parties must have a minimum of flexibility. The Clínic has to accept that the Escola Industrial cannot be touched too much: it is a very consolidated reality and of great patrimonial interest. The central building, for example, keeps in the basement the loom room of the Batlló factory, a remarkable work of the increasingly recognized Rafael Guastavino (not one but two novel biographies have just been published about his work and miracles in the U.S., by Andrés Barba and Javier Mora). The Diputació would have to confirm that, indeed, this building, now unoccupied, can house research units of the Clínic. The City Council would have to relocate a team of firefighters that in the current plans would occupy part of the space of the adjacent plot. It would also be necessary for the City Council and neighbours to facilitate urban planning adjustments. For example, a modest increase in the current buildable area.

Will it be enough? If we think about it in dynamic terms, the answer is yes. By "dynamic terms" I mean what I've seen in Boston's urban fabric. Over the decades Mass General has spread like an oil slick while attracting other healthcare institutions. Its presence has ended up marking the character of its neighbourhood. For the Clínic the same process is already very much alive. The main building has generated satellites in the vicinity (the one for external visits, the Koplowitz Centre, the one that will be dedicated to innovation in Urgell street, etc.). We also have independent entities that have been located next to it (the Sagrat Cor Hospital). None of these will move. It is a question, then, of accepting and continuing the historical trend. Extirpating the Clínic from the neighbourhood is not necessary and could be counterproductive. It has defined the neighbourhood, which has adopted it, and it can continue to do so without detriment to its excellence. In new and modern buildings, but it does not need to be in a single mega-building. In its current planning, the Clínic would aim to reach some 300,000 m of buildable land. A very large figure, but not an outrageous one, because now it already has, with the historic building and the satellites, about 240,000 m. This is the great advantage of not having to change the site. The 60,000 m that may be missing can be obtained with the flexibility operations that I mentioned before. And with others that will emerge and that can be sensed on the map. All of this is feasible and, here and now, I would say it is optimal. Let's get on with it.