Connecting cities, connecting citizens 5th Biennial of Town and Town Planners The Barceló Sants Hotel has been since yesterday, Thursday 10 April, the site of the 5th Biennial of Towns andTown Planners promoted by the European Council of Town Planners and organised, on this occasion, by the Spanish Association of Urban Planners (AETU) and the Catalan Association of Urban Planners (ACTU), together with the support of the Generalitat de Catalunya and the Barcelona City Council. This edition has been sponsored by twenty or so entities and companies, among which: ATM, ACESA, AENA, 22@bcn, SA, SABA, COMSA, FCC, Transportes Metropolitanos de Barcelona, GISA, Retevisión and Vodafone. Following a symbolic act whereby the city of Rotterdam, host of the past edition, passed the Biennial to Barcelona, the opening session started, with speeches by: Pilar Sancho, President of AETU; Charles Lambert, President of the European Council of Urban Planners; Pablo Nobell, President of ACTU; Pere Torres, Secretary of Territorial Planning of Catalunya; and Ferran Julián, Councillor of land-use and housing of the Barcelona City Council. Charles Lambert took the opportunity to announce that the Athens Charter 2003 was going to be approved next November. This document contains the vision of European planners on the city of the 21st century and contemplates Europe as a network of cities, which must nevertheless preserve their own diversity and cultural heritage as a product of their long history, connected among themselves by multiple functional networks, competitive and yet complementary in terms of mutual cooperation and contributing to citizen welfare. This overview of the Athens Charter refers to basic questions and trends which affect cities at the beginning of the 21st century, to the commitments undertaken by urban planners in their work and to urban planning as the end result of different social interactions. In his speech, Pere Torres referred to the passing of a new Law on Urban Planning and to planning as a combination of technical and emotive knowledge, close to the experience of citizens. On his part, Ferran Julián presented the urban projects which are currently under development in Barcelona, such as the transformation of the City’s coastline, including the Forum 2004, the 22@ plan and the High Speed Railway station. From the modern city to the contemporary city The opening lecture was given by Bernardo Secchi, planning professor at the Venice School of Architecture and eminent participant in several inter-municipal development plans, such as that of Milan, and other regional ones such as that of Trento or Valle de Aosta. Professor Secchi, in his presentation “ Scenarios for the European City and Territory”, after referring to the rhetoric of uncertainty as a paralysing element and the excessive dimension of the urban phenomenon, stated that the European city between the 1960s and 1980s left behind the modern period in order to enter what has become to be known as the contemporary period, with not yet completely defined characteristics but with a new time formula. He highlighted the importance of the transformation of the modern city into the contemporary city based on three factors from the past century, likely to have been overlooked by most urban planners: the advent of the autonomous individual, the advent of the importance of everyday life, and the democratisation of space and society. He emphasised that democratic value depends not so much on the number of users as the democratisation of values, goods and culture. Europe, he said, does not have megalopolis, rather, it is defined by traditional urban, medium and small networks. A large part of Europe is a disperse city, albeit today, for the first time, enjoying a surplus, and having the possibility of realising great demolitions to give shape to new cities. The question remains: what will these cities be like? Urban planning at the telescopic scale Stephen Graham, professor in technology and director of the Global Urban Research Unit (GURU) from the School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape (SAPL) of the University of Newcastle closed yesterday’s session. His lecture entitled “The Threat of the Splintering Metropolis and the Challenge of the Connected City”, presented some of the latest trends threatening the co-existence and coherence of cities and put particular emphasis on physical and technological infrastructure. He pointed out that it is both necessary and possible to combine traditional and virtual networks now that we have the chance of moving things from a distance, although it is by no means the only possibility. We must imagine urban planning from a telescopic scale, since the city is the end-result of interconnectivity and mobility. He spoke of “glocal”, a new bad- sounding term used to brings together the global and the local in view of the fact that we are not looking at replacing physical movement by numbers, since we are experiencing an increase in both physical and electronic traffic. Graham also referred to the social exclusion brought about by privatisation of public spaces and the elitism generated by a certain developments in technology. Four workshops took place during this first day of the Biennial: accessibility, territorial planning, connection corridors and mobility planning. Manuel Castells will open the second day of the Biennial tomorrow with a conference on urban planning and the network society.