According to Juniper Research, Barcelona is the 1 st Smart City in the World. We conducted an exclusive interview with Vicente Guallart, who participated in Barcelona's transformation into a Smart City. He was Chief Architect of Barcelona City Council from 2011 to 2015. The Fleming. team asked him about his understanding of the Smart Cities concept and what is keeping him inspired for future creative projects in Barcelona.
What does the term 'Smart City' mean to Barcelona?
This is one name to describe the interaction between information technologies and cities. Barcelona invented the word "Urbanism" in the XIX century and has been always interested in using the best technologies available to improve the quality of life in cities.
What are the major benefits of the Smart City concept for its citizens?
The first one is that the citizen is more connected. But this is only the first step. The Internet has changed our life, but it hasn't changed our cities yet. So in the next year, we will see new ideas applied to cities. In Barcelona, for example, we are eliminating space for cars in public spaces, extending the sidewalk and introducing Wi-Fi in the streets. We want to create a city with less pollution and more space everywhere to promote social interaction.
From your experience as Chief Architect of the Barcelona City Council, what lessons have been learned during city development? What have been the main challenges?
The main lesson is that cities need to break silos in order to reinvent how they work. The cities of the future need integration between ecology, technology and urbanity. And in general, biologists, engineers and architects are separated into departments. In Barcelona, we created a department called Urban Habitat, where all those kinds of expertise were integrated, and that's why we have been able to develop many innovative projects.
The other big lesson is that we need to break the huge cities that we have around the globe into small parts, the “10-minute walk” cities that are the size of traditional neighborhoods, and then to transform each unit into great inhabitable places. "Cities" are too big to be analyzed and transformed in one shot.
In your opinion, what has been the most innovative idea to be created and further implemented in Barcelona Smart City?
Two ideas: the first one is that information is a basic service in the public space along with lighting and mobility, so we need to develop the public infrastructure of information in the public space to offer Wi-Fi to everyone, as well as to connect any potential sensor or technology that is integrated in the streets. The second interesting program is the idea of bringing innovations and access to technology to every neighborhood of the city by creating Fab Labs in every district.
What is keeping you inspired for future creative projects in Barcelona?
We need to transform ideas into reality. We have defined the idea of Barcelona becoming a self-sufficient city, within the next 40 years a city able to produce all the energy it needs, as well as food and things inside the city. We need to make cities productive again in order to empower their citizens. So, we need to make those ideas possible, and we are working hard in this direction.
Vicente Guallart will be speaking at Asia Pacific Smart Cities Forum.