Architects’ Role in the Future City
Essay by JAAM
Now that Bilbao has been transformed into a service city, the General Urban Development Plan is currently being revised to better adapt it to new regulations and to further develop new and exciting projects that will help continue the evolution of the city.
In the updated plan, there exist important and well-focused interventions, and the guiding principle is the recovery of the city for its citizens. The creation of green spaces and recreation areas is always a goal in any new project, and the proper execution of the planned ideas will create, without a doubt, an even better city.
Yet logically, there are aspects that can be improved. From our perspective as architects, to consider the particulars that need to be addressed in Bilbao’s future development, we want to explain the situation for those of us who are directly involved in its evolution.
Detailed work on a few of the new main objectives has started, projects in which City Hall’s management cannot be as involved as it has been previously. Public societies and private companies should now take on the responsibility of leadership. And as the number of projects multiplies, each reduces its intervention in order to focus on specific aspects.
We will probably find that public management companies don’t have the adequate human resources to be able to foster good architecture endorsed, for example, by specialized juries that value the quality of the architecture as a main criteria in awarding projects in public competitions. High quality architecture will likely be a requirement for larger interventions, such as public buildings and unique programs, but perhaps it won’t be as present in less significant projects, nor will it be a requirement when architecture is exclusively understood as construction.
On the other hand, we know that, when looking for distinguishing and highly valuable architecture, the price tag is not the primary criteria when awarding the project. Unfortunately, the current tenders for new projects relate, too often, the highest scores with the lowest economic bids, making the architectural fees the main criteria when designing the image of the city, the image of Bilbao. It is a situation that is hard to understand when the quality of the built architecture is not directly related to an elevated cost in the market. Though it does require resources to define it.
In order to achieve the necessary quality of the Plan, appropriate resources are needed to design projects that create the best built environment possible, resources that allow for outstanding design, efficient construction, and a balanced and proportional answer to the needs and economic reality of the society.
The working reality of architects can be improved by the public sector, facilitating the architect’s involvement in shaping the future city. The public sector can promote their training as well as technical and cultural abilities, so they can be shared and add value to the future of an exciting Bilbao.
Founded in 2005, the Bilbao-based architecture office JAAM works in multiple scales and typologies, from residential buildings, infrastructure, and public spaces to restoration projects, urban furniture, and lighting. Published internationally, their work focuses on offering functional and creative designs suited to context and climate, in order to be efficient and limit the use of resources.