Urban Experiences: What Barcelona and Saint Petersburg can learn from each other?

Urban Experiences: What Barcelona and Saint Petersburg can learn from each other?

Urban development experts from Saint Petersburg are making preparations for the conference “Saint Petersburg and Barcelona: moving towards balance in urban development” in June 2016. Organizers promise the event, taking place on the 22nd-23rd of June, 2016, to be efficient and productive. They reassure that, after all, residents of sunny Barcelona and gloomy Petersburg have a lot to learn from each other. UN Habitat, who is an official partner of the event, is going to take on board best ideas and themes, expressed at the Conference.

Sister Cities are Working Together

According to Michail Klimovsky, Head of the International Spatial Development Forum program management, one of the most important issues, brought up at the conference will be discussion on technologies, necessary for future urban development. Apart from that, speakers will approach the subject of investment and urban planning documentation, linked to the development of the city. Representatives of the authorities of both cities will take part in the event. They will discuss problems of social and migration policy, qualities of human habitat and tourism. Following the Conference results, both parties are planning to produce partnership agreements and specific long-term and short-term projects in such fields as education, investments and urban science in general.

"We are happy to support ITMO University and Barcelona – our long-standing partner. For several years we have been following experiences of this Catalonia city, getting inspiration for solutions of challenges in urban development, because we observe the constant work on quality of urban living. We are interested in Barcelona experiences in building ‘smart city’; some of the solutions, found by Barcelona are applicable for its Nordic twin city. It is a great opportunity to continue and develop our partnership in the future" – points Head of the Department of Technical Information Protection and Information Support of Automation and Information System Development Management of Urban Planning and Architecture Committee, Sergey Kolbunov.

Competition and Friendship

As Willy Muller, co-founder of the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia and ex-Director of Barcelona Regional (Agency for Urban Development and Infrastructure), emphasises: two cities, despite the long-established competition in the sphere of tourism, have a lot to learn from each other. He admits that he will discuss the preservation of cultural heritage diversity if Saint Petersburg, regardless of challenges throughout three centuries of its existence. In exchange, Catalonian experience of combining several diverse ‘towns’ – modern districts and old town, - reconciling new architecture with historical buildings is useful for Saint Petersburg. Willy Muller explains that at the same time, authorities are constantly facing problems of mobility and redistribution of traffic flows in Barcelona.

“This Forum appears to be a perfect platform for discussion of these issues. Urban experiences of Barcelona and Saint Petersburg allow us to find new scenarios for their development and the Conference attracts attention of those experts, who can contribute to this development” points the expert

Mr Muller also highlights the fact that Saint Petersburg, despite all the difficulties, is consistently developing and does not experience stagnation. As it appeared to be, the expert had chance to observe the dynamic of urban development in Saint Petersburg, when seven years ago, he won an architect competition and visited the city once a month for one and a half years.

"I will be honest: Saint Petersburg is so beautiful that it is difficult to discuss its changes. It is true, though it might seem as a safe harbour (used just in order to be politically correct). It appears to me that everybody who saw Saint Petersburg would share my feelings. Of course there are particular challenges, but they exist everywhere"adds Willy Muller.

Transportation: «Cholesterol Total»

Representatives of the Forum management also will address the theme of traffic mobility, which currently constitute one of the highest-priority problems in developed and developing countries. As Willy Muller points out, in many cities augmentation of vehicle fleet per year constitute around 10%, and the infrastructure does not succeed in adapting to constant changes. Apart from transport congestion, which is more indicative for Saint Petersburg, Barcelona faces high density of tourist flows. Nowadays, the inundation of tourists jeopardise existing order in urban environment.

"These congestions block urban through-passages. Radical solution policy function is not efficient here; more flexible strategies are needed. The problem resides in defining urban ‘metabolism’ and the necessity to understand its functioning. What changes should be incorporated in order to reduce the detrimental effect of inundation of tourists and big transport flows? Different scenarios from perspective of ecology and urban studies should be examined and discussed in the course of the conference. It is possible that together we will find the coordinated decision"stresses Willy Muller.

Changing the World View

Prospective participants of the upcoming conference specify that the main work that lies ahead of the authorities of world megacities is changing the way of people’s thinking. It is important to let people see that walking in the city or use of the alternative transport is advantageous than purchase of another car. For this purpose both perfect transportation system and smooth communication technologies for dialogue with people are equally important. The Conference devoted to the subject of relationships between Saint Petersburg and Barcelona will guarantee ‘horizontal’ dimension for communication, when the representatives of different fields of expertise can discuss the urban development management with the policy makers and top urban managers.

"I believe, the day will come when everybody will be able to take part in improving and developing cities"concludes Willy Muller.