María de Tomás Pardo de Andrade
The “Corazones de Barrio” Project was first proposed to be carried out in Bilbao in 2012. The purpose of this project is to guarantee a consistent rate of activity both at an economic level as well as at a social level in 12 neighborhoods. In order to achieve this, actions executed need to not only improve the general housing quality but to ensure the complete integration of all the target areas in the urban environment.
The main objective of this strategic project is to reach a polycentric urban scheme in which the activity doesn’t only develop in the most evolved neighborhoods. Instead, the peripheric zones are expected to be part of a Neighborhood – City Center grid by means of an improved mobility and of the introduction of new activities. This grid above mentioned can be seen in the picture below, together with a city plan that shows the “corazones de barrio” projected. In this plan one can also see how, although there are subtly more important spots, the city counts with a homogeneous distribution of relevance.
Image 1: Polycentric urban scheme of the neighborhoods and areas in Bilbao linked amongst them (above), plan of the points where the “corazones de barrio” have been projected (below)
“Corazones de Barrio” has been developed for San Inazio, Deusto, Matiko-Castaños, Uribarri, Otxarkoaga, Txunrdianga, Santutxu, Casco Viejo – Atxuri, Rekaldeberri – Larraskitu, Monte Caramelo, Zorrotza and Basurto districts. These are designed considering a technical point of view together with the civic participation in which associations such as neighborhood associations, Bilbao Dendak, commercial associations and the Town Hall took part.
According to EYSmunicipales, Bilbao’s Neighborhood Associations Federation, the council and Metropoli Foundation reached an agreement in which the definition for a “Corazón de Barrio” was proposed, and it is the following: “A “Corazón de Barrio” will be a dynamic meeting point that reactivates social, cultural, leisure, economic and commercial life; that improves and guarantees quality mobility and accessibility by integrating in the city’s network connection innovative management formulas that are adaptable to the different moments during the year; that promotes the Ria project and the development of the Anillo Verde pointing out the patrimonial values and highlighting the acoustic, multicultural and, above all, societal identity comfort”
To be able to understand this definition’s applications, some of the most important actions developed in Txurdinaga’s district till this moment will be analyzed in the following paragraphs.
The characteristics that would best describe Txurdinaga’s neighborhood could be the following: it is a young area with a high life quality and that enjoys numerous facilities and equipment. Due to this, the project’s main purpose is to revive cultural and economic life through proceeding in areas denominated “interest areas”. In these places, it has been identified the potential to achieve the planed effect by carrying out different strategies. Furthermore, in order to achieve integration in the Neighborhood – City Center grid, the town hall has determined that the neighborhood should be turned into an eco-boulevard. This sub-project can be studied in five different actions that are briefly described down below.
- Artazuriña – Begoña Area àIn this action, two parts can be differentiated in the corridor. Their purpose is to connect a historical milieu, in which the Begoña’s Basilic or the Juan XXIII Square are included, to the neighborhood. The first part will be, mainly, pedestrian paths that will progressively give way to the second part which will be, in large part, vegetated areas. This second part will give access to Europe’s park.
- Jardines de Garai Areaà This area’s main purpose is to become a space where areas of opportunity are complemented with educational equipment and areas destined to satisfying the current needs. In this action, it is a peculiarity that kid’s opinion was noted down to best suit the design to their necessities.
- Europe’s park à This action is designed as the green heart of the city. In it, infrastructures will be improved and updated according to the current health and sport needs. Like in Madrid, a glass greenhouse will be the neuralgic center of this area.
- Julián Gaiarre Areaà This street will be converted to an accessibility axis that will enable and improve pedestrian and car’s mobility. This will be achieved by dividing the street in two parts and fixing the actual issues, mainly by adjusting the parking space to the demand.
- Gate and Pathways à This is the fuzziest action since it aims to be a linking ring between adjacent neighborhoods, the green heart and Europe’s park.
As one can see in the image below, took from Bilbao’s street map, the neighborhood has a very disperse configuration and a residential nature.
Image 2: Bilbao’s street map screenshot downloadable at the following link: https://www.bilbao.eus/cs/Satellite?c=Page&cid=3000045107&language=es&pageid=3000045107&pagename=Bilbaonet%2FPage%2FBIO_homeDistrito
The actions put forward are seemingly adequate to improve life quality inside the neighborhood and the connectivity between adjoining districts, however, they are deficient in one of the main purposes of the project, economic activity homogenization. The approaches to boost the local economy could focus on promoting proximity commerce, on taking advantage of the free land lots to build logistic or commercial platforms or even on developing a financial-economic district.
In a nutshell, after having analyzed both at a superficial level and in a deeper level the “Corazones de Barrio” project, the conclusion is that although it is seemingly bright at handling one of the greatest spatial planning’s challenge today that is recovering the functional outskirts, it is rather weak at focusing on the neighborhood and its inhabitants’ needs. So, it is crystal clear that there is an urgent need of comprehension and problem solving at a greater scale, including, at least, the existing band between the city center and the studied neighborhood.