Results of the Conference “St. Petersburg - Barcelona: Priority of Balance in Sustainable City Development”

Results of the Conference “St. Petersburg - Barcelona: Priority of Balance in Sustainable City Development”

International Conference: "St. Petersburg - Barcelona: Priority of Balance in the Sustainable City Development" took place in St. Petersburg on June 22 - 23, 2016. The event went on under the aegis of the International Spatial Development Forum amid strengthen the ties between sister-cities that St. Petersburg and Barcelona appear to be since 1984. Number of open discussions and lectures took place during the two day Conference, where the most essential and important issues of urban development in St. Petersburg and Barcelona were brought up:

Plenary Session  “On the way to the New Agenda in Urban Development"

Moderator: Elena Ulyanova (The Chairman of the Committee on Economic Policy and Strategic Planning of St. Petersburg)
Participants: Vladimir Vasiliev (University of ITMO), Curitiba, Brazil (Ex-mayor of Curitiba, Governor of the state of Paraná, Southern Brazil), Sergey Kadochnokov (HSE), Salvador Rueda (the Urban Ecology Agency of Barcelona), Rogier van den Berg, Remy Sietchiping (UN-Habitat)

The Opening Session took place with support of UN-Habitat, the United Nations programme promoting socially and environmentally sustainable human settlements development. During the Session, the issues of the formation of indicators for assessing sustainable urban development, as well as the approaches and methods of evaluation of the City Resilience Profiling Programme were discussed. The results of the Session will be reported at the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development Habitat III that will take place in Quito, Ecuador, in October 2016. According to the Chairman of the Committee on Economic Policy and Strategic Planning, St. Petersburg has already accumulated useful for UN-Habitat experience in reduction of risks in Urban Development. At the same time, for St. Petersburg experts it is important to learn international practices of public spaces development and implementation of “Smart Cities” project that are partially aligned with UN-Habitat methods of urban evaluation.


All the members of the session among the ideas and suggestions for urban and spatial planning admitted the necessity of more dense development of modern megacities and prevention of urban sprawl. Examples of such ideas are recommendations for close location of the places of work and places of residence; sustainable, including resources, cites. Rector of the University ITMO Vladimir Vasiliev also appealed for considering the impact of modern technologies in urban development and predicted the universal urbanization in the nearest future.

Open discussion “Sustainable spatial development model: goals and priorities”

Moderator: Anton Finogenov (Urbanica)
Participants: Vladimir Grigoryev (Head of the Committee for Urban Development and Architecture of St.Petersburg), Willly Muller (IAAC), Vicente Guallart (leading architect of Barcelona in 2011-2015), Alexander Svinolobov (Bonava), Edward Tiktinskiy (RBI), Javier Torner (UN-Habitat), Leonid Limonov (Leontief Centre).

Continuity in strategic decision processes was one of the main themes articulated by several participants of the round table discussion. Barcelona's success in the implementation of a program of urban and economic transformations is connected not only to the consistency of decision making, but also linked to methodical work on the achievement of development objectives over a span of 25 years. According to the discussion participants’ opinions, Saint Petersburg also need such decision making consistency. Main principles of the St. Petersburg strategic plan-1997 remain relevant to this days, therefore, their transferred projection on the functioning Strategy of Saint Petersburg socio-economic development strategy and the spatial planning regulations: future master plan, urban agglomeration development conceptual design.

The participants also admitted the necessity for the generation of polycentric urban system, the basic principle in spatial policy in Barcelona, which was promoted and advocated by the leading architect of Barcelona, Vicente Guallart. The system is relevant for St. Petersburg, where the development of social and business, hotel and recreation and other sub-centres located out of centre is required. Such measures could also assist in solving problems of development of urban transportation system or re-development of historical urban rust belt. In this case it is important to understand polycentricism not only in its spatial meaning, but also in sense of investments. As the participants pointed out, “investment polycentricism” is important for the development of comfortable urban environment, i.e. the extensive measures for small and medium projects implementation in urban environment should be considered along with megaprojects, addressing the major companies investments.

Speakers also endorsed the idea that urban waterfront redevelopment (integration of urban build-up areas and rivers, canals, the Gulf of Finland) is an assemblage point for urban economic and social competitiveness. For instance, Barcelona has already been forming its pedestrian (not automobiles) oriented embankments for more than 20 years.

Special mention was made of the brining issue of redevelopment of ‘grey area’ and the development of high-quality recreation zones. These issues appear to be crucial for urban development policy in Barcelona and are tackled step by step. According to some participants, St. Petersburg decision makers should move from the prioritized economy housing development, with minimum infrastructure supply, in periphery towards urban growth points development, such as integrated public spaces.

Open discussion "Tourism as a driver of city economy: Pro et Contra"

Moderator: Valery Gordin ( HSE)
Participants: Natalia Trunova (Lengiprogor Institute), Yulia Rybakova (City of Craftsmen), Oleg Pachenkov (Center for Applied research at European University), Salvador Rueda (the Urban Ecology Agency of Barcelona), Vicente Guallart (leading architect of Barcelona in 2011-2015), Blake Andersen-Buntae (Hospitality Management), Diana Agarkova (Deloitte).

Now, in Saint Petersburg as well as in Barcelona, tourism is one of the most dynamic and promising sectors of the city economy. However, authorities of both cities face different problems and challenges in the tourism sector. In Barcelona, in recent years, both concentration of tourists in city centre and social stratification has greatly increased. In St. Petersburg, on the contrary, there is no problem of ultra-high concentration of tourists but there is a problem of re-visits.

Besides the discussion of the tourist flow, the participants admitted the necessity to monitor entrepreneurial activity in the sphere of hotel, entertainment other real estate development in St. Petersburg. Apart from that, participants form Saint Petersburg emphasized that tourism development demands individual spatial policy: solution of territory conflicts in city centre, expansion of new territories. Furthermore, new territories not only should perform infrastructural function, but also create new aspects of attractions.

Participants of the round table discussions pointed out the necessity to include in the Community Council on the tourism development urban-planning experts. Together with this, the decisions linked to the development of infrastructure of public spaces, separate territories and modernization of transportation system should be discussed with the representatives of tourism sector. 

As a part of Master Plan development in 2018, according to speakers, it is important to form a separate sub-group on the development of tourism sector. It means the assignment of the territories for the development of different tourism functions and forming the project of public spaces. The participants also recommended to implement systematic work with the private initiatives, such as creative spaces, proto-pedestrian streets and local clusters, created on their basis along with the creation of new objects.

Besides the open discussions, during the second day of the Conference four open lectures took place: Salvador Rueda, Willly Muller, Vicente Guallart and Jaime Lerner presented their ideas and experiences. Each of them touched upon some relevant for St. Petersburg issues; they also suggested methods that might be implemented outside the capital of Catalonia. For instance, Salvador Rueda presented case of the 'super-block' project that, among other benefits, could increase the amount of green areas in the city, reduce the traffic and improve the public transportation system. Vicente Guallart in his report paid particular attention to the rejection of the centralized planning in modern cities and preference of the development of self-sustained, individual centres in districts and suburbs that are able to supply their residents with all the requires things, including work places. Willly Muller presented the processes of development of new urban paradigms and tendencies in urban science. Jaime Lerner shared his unique experience of transformation of the Brazilian city Curitiba that plot a vector to modern spatial development. Among Lerner's innovations there are bus lanes for public transport only that nowadays is used all over the world.

Conclusions and suggestions presented at the conference will be considered and represented in the programme of the 2nd International Spatial Development Forum that will take place on September 26-27, 2016 in Saint Petersburg.