Concerns have been raised about whether the east London Borough of Newham can learn lessons from its new mentor, Barcelona – the RIBA Gold Medal-winning city behind the highly successful 1992 Olympics
Last week, Newham Council and Barcelona signed an ‘unprecedented’ deal to share information about the Catalan city’s Olympics strategy from 1992, which the London authority hopes will help guide regeneration after the Games in 2012.
However, architects are doubtful about how the partnership will work in practice.
David MacKay, partner at MBM Architects in Barcelona said: ‘I’m sure London will learn things, but it is perhaps too late. These things need to be planned from the start and money needs to be set aside. My impression is that east London is not focused on what happens after the games.’
MacKay also believes the lesson learned by Barcelona could be difficult to apply to a ‘large metropolitan city like London.’ He added: ‘The success of the Barcelona Olympics was down to the way it engaged all citizens. It was not just about the money or the locations of the sporting events, it was about how the constructions would be used afterwards.’
Tony Chapman who heads the RIBA’s awards programme and was at the institute at the time of the Gold Medal Award, said: ‘The success of Barcelona was because of its bottom up rather than top down approach, which hasn’t been the experience in London, where it has been very much top down.’
Yet the Mayor of Newham, Robert Wales, believes the link will reap benefits, he said, ‘This unique agreement is unprecedented and means we can use Barcelona’s successful transformation since the Games to help inspire our own legacy. We will also be able to share with Barcelona the ways we are helping to create a world-class borough to help further their ambitions.’