Barcelona Metropolitan Area Master Plan (PDU) - Drafting Process

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Barcelona (área metropolitana)

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Main actors

Local Government, City Government, Regional Government, Private Sector, Public Utility, other

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Project area

Metropolitan Area

Icons use case study duration


Ongoing since 2013/12

Barcelona Metropolitan Area (AMB) has launched a participative process to design a new metropolitan Urban Master Plan.

The PDU is the document which will collect the set of guidelines and rules determining how to develop the main aspects of the metropolitan area of Barcelona during the next few years. The territorial framework of the PDU corresponds to the 36 metropolitan municipalities.

Beyond its administrative and legal nature, the PDU is the tool that will allow reviewing and updating key issues such as urban density, public spaces, mobility, urban environment, infrastructures or the relationship between the city and its ecological fabric. Therefore, the project is essential to imagine the metabolism of the metropolitan city of the future and to think how its systems of civic relations, social cohesion and quality of life will work.

Aspects considered as imperative in the PDU will have significant importance on economic and productive dynamics, urban innovations and even with respect to the positioning of the metropolitan area of Barcelona in the world.

To start wording the PDU, the AMB is coordinating its own technical services (Urban Planning and PDU Office) with the contributions and studies of academic and professional experts in the various disciplines affecting such planning process. Series of technical discussions and expert presentations (workshops) have been organised in this framework of participation and work, together with the edition of the “PDU Notebooks Collection".

Sustainable Development Goals

Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels
Barcelona (área metropolitana), Spain

Size and population development
1991: 3,048,479; 2014: 3,214,211; 2031: 3,210,000 / Growth 2010-2014: -0.34% - Source: IDESCAT - Statistical Institute of Catalonia

Population composition
15.61% non-native in 2013 (504,140) - Source: IDESCAT - Statistical Institute of Catalonia

Main functions
regional capital city, harbour city, industrial city, international event city

Main industries / business
tourism, food industry, automotive industry, chemicals and metallurgy

Sources for city budget
BIP Barcelona Metropolitan Area in 2010: 61,915,200,000€ (9.18% BIP Spain)

Political structure
The metropolitan council is the highest governing body of the AMB. Its members are metropolitan councilors, also elected as mayors or councillors in the 36 municipalities.

Administrative structure
BMA is an urban conurbation made up with 36 municipalities

The current metropolitan area of Barcelona is mainly covered by the General Metropolitan Plan (PGM) from 1976. The PGM has been a tool applied wisely, with a vision and consensus. It has allowed public authorities, economic agents and civil society to modernise the metropolis of Barcelona and its complex system, and to promote its urban and social transformation.

However, drafting a new Territorial Plan has become necessary in regards to social and economic evolutions, as well as transformations of the territory in the last 38 years. The new Plan should better articulate the needs, challenges and opportunities of a metropolitan city. The idea is to have a joint reflexion on the future of the metropolitan city, highlighting its social capital and the collective intelligence of its citizens, in order to open up the discussion and lead the work to draft the new Urban Master Plan (PDU).

Taking this new reality into account, and faced with changing economic, social and urban demands, the Barcelona Metropolitan Area (AMB) has considered the need to review this plan. In a first stage, the AMB has organised a series of work sessions focusing around the 7 thematic axes that compose the metropolitan reality to discuss all these aspects from different approaches, and to bring to light its new approach. At a later stage, the participatory process will allow including the different contributions, when it comes to setting up the new urban concepts and comparing them to the close reality. 

The face-to-face work sessions on the one hand, and the virtual discussion set up ad-hoc on the other hand, are the ideal framework for expert participants to voice their opinions and points of view on which areas the new PDU should focus; this is an extremely valuable source of information and discussion. 

115,000 Euros for 15 months.
The results of this stage prior to the draft preliminary design of the PDU can be seen in different ways:
  • Videos of the presentations and interviews of the participants in the workshops:
  • A virtual discussion with more than 500 experts registered and with the executive summaries ("Attacheds") containing the opportunities that should be reflected in the new PDU.
  • "Quaderns": Short books that collect the presentations made by the speakers in the workshops. 
  • Exhibition opened to the public: Exhibition of 800 sqm displaying past, present and future aspects of the territory that the PDU must consider when legislating. More than 25,000 people have visited this space during three months.
Two barriers that have led to discontinuity in the process can be highlighted:
  • On the one hand, the AMB has seen the emergence of a generational shift during the virtual discussion; i.e. more senior experts were reticent to participate, whereas this wasn’t the case for face-to-face workshops.
  • On the other hand, drafting the programme and generating contents together with the academia have shown methodological and know-how divergences regarding the theory and the professional practice.
A mid- to long-term vision is needed to implement projects like this one, which can last from 18 to 20 months, in a temporary framework of four or five years.
In a process like this, it is also vital to have a political commitment and leadership that is able to generate consensus among all political groups represented in the governing bodies; in this case the Metropolitan Council.
Also, to ensure the success of these processes and to meet the goals set out, it is necessary to have a good coordination and involvement of all managing bodies accompanying this process of discussion and consultation.
Creating multi-disciplinary working groups is also important to ensure there is a global and inclusive vision for all aspects of the PDU: town planning and mobility, the environment, society and the economy.
It is clear that one of the basic elements in any interventions on the territory is to move to larger scales, and to increase the level of precision in urban planning developments. 

On the Map

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Ramon Torra
Barcelona (ciudad), Spain

Ramon Torra

Individual | Architect_AMB General Manager

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