Today, the Forum d’Avignon Bilbao held a discussion analysing the role of ‘The city as the driving force for cultural change in Europe’. The discussion was moderated by Javier Gomá, writer and Director of the Juan March Foundation. It included a lecture by historian José Enrique Ruiz-Domènec, professor at Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona. The other speakers were Guadalupe Echevarria, Cultural Director of Donostia 2016; Patricia Brown, Director of Central, London; Corinne Hermant-de Callataÿ, Policy Officer, Directorate-General for Regional and Urban Policy (European Commission); and Evelyne Lehalle, Director of Nouveau Tourisme Culturel, Nice.
José Enrique Ruiz-Domènec focused on ancient cities, on the assumption that ‘you can’t build the future without roots in the past.’ ‘Modern cities are the result of hybridisation processes,’ he remarked.
Guadalupe Echevarria talked about installation art in cities and the contemporary art venues required for a cultural ecosystem in urban environments. By way of example, she mentioned the designation of Donostia-San Sebastián as European Capital of Culture 2016, an event with a positive impact on the city and its economy.
The culture-led transformation of London was the topic chosen by Patricia Brown. The capital of the United Kingdom ‘has been dominated by vehicles for ages; now we want to give it back to its residents,’ she said. One of the formulas for this transformation is the use of car parks as meeting points.
To Corinne Hermant-de Callataÿ, culture ‘has an influence on urban development.’ She pointed out the challenges brought about by changes in cities. Finally, she highlighted the EU efforts to implement cultural policies.
Coming after her, Evelyne Lehalle discussed the new tourist’s profile, behaviour and relationship with locals in the cultural sphere. She concluded with an urge to ‘adapt cities to the digital environment; the cultural ecosystem is changing.’
The closing discussion was ‘The city in progress, an ecosystem for the future’. Pablo Guimón, Editor-in-chief of El País (weekend edition), was the moderator. The discussion began with a lecture by the Dutch-American sociologist Saskia Sassen from Columbia University. She was followed by Tarek Cherkaoui, Chief Strategy Officer for the Qatar Museums Authority; Beatriz Colomina, architectural historian at Princeton University; Juan Diego, Secretary General of the Bilbao-Bizkaia Design & Creativity Council (BiDC); and artist Cristina Iglesias.
In her lecture, Saskia Sassen described cities as containing ‘materialities we can’t see’ and the purchase of city plots.
Tarek Cherkaoui talked about Qatar and the capital city, Doha, as places that are ‘constantly reinventing themselves at various levels of expression, offering attractive investment opportunities.’ In Qatar, he added, about €100,000M were invested in large-scale projects, including the establishment of cultural centres to house the work of national and international artists.
Beatriz Colomina spoke up for hybrid spaces to produce culture: real and virtual tourism – travelling around the world while staying in bed, with citizens becoming ‘contemporary prisoners.’
Juan Diego showed a series of photos where the transformation of Bilbao becomes evident, along with the type of economy ‘required to prevent city decay.’
Cristina Iglesias closed the event with a sample of three artworks in three European cities, aimed at ‘awakening citizens’ perceptions.’