The opening bars of the Barcelona Forum have been bittersweet. In spite of the extraordinary political and media support, the number of visitors is lower than foreseen, the activities are not achieving the expected impact, and a string of incidents have tarnished its first weeks of existence, from the initial protests because of the high admission fee or the demonstrations against its ideological ambiguity to the leaks that forced to temporarily close its star exhibition, ‘Warriors of Xi’an’. However, going beyond mere anecdote, the Forum project deserves a nuanced evaluation that, while acknowledging its shortcomings or contradictions, also appreciates its undeniable relevance as an innovative and fertile urban strategy.
In this presentation we have tried to provide a preliminary diagnosis with the playful image of an inverted traffic light – placing the green color at the top, because there are more things to praise than to criticize – which uses the three lights to grade the three main axes of the Forum; its urban dimension, its architectural approach and its programmed activities. This 3 x 3 matrix is summed up in the figure of the traffic light or semaphore not because there is any etimological link with the Latin forum from which the Barcelona one derives – in reality‘semaphore’ comes from Greek, and it means bearer of signs – but because this redundantly semantic icon symbolizes well the city as a space of flows and encounters that must be controlled by the authority of convention. Here is, then, our traffic light:
The visionary idea of generating urban space in peripheral zones of the city, didactically mixing the waste areas with those for leisure; the will to pursue quality in architecture and landscape, convening a group of outstanding international designers; the symbolic defense of sustainability, through both built objects and scheduled activities.
The search for economic cooperation with individual interests, undertaking not always well defined joint ventures of the public and the private sectors; the use of the media star system, putting names at the service of ideas and sometimes ideas at the service of names; the proliferation of pacifist propaganda, often as a mantra void of content.
Harnessing the event to create an urban model whose logic is substantially that of real estate;the adoption of a strategy of growth that replaces the continuity of the grid with the singularity of the isolated building; the interpretation of diversity as physical and ideological fragmentation under the rhetorical spell of magical thinking.