GCDN meeting in Barcelona May 10-13, 2017

Organized by GCDN, AEA Consulting, and Future Places.
Co-hosted by Poblenou Urban District, CCCB, and L’Hospitalet de Llobregat.
In Collaboration with Barcelona City Council and Barcelona Global.

To request a copy of the full summary report, please fill out this form

On May 10 through May 13, 2017, the Global Cultural Districts Network (GCDN) met in Barcelona, Spain for its annual meeting, gathering over 120 cultural and urban leaders from 26 different countries.

Over the course of these three days, participants visited three different cultural districts: the Poblenou Urban District, El Raval Cultural District, and the L’Hospitalet Cultural District. Beyond  guided tours, the convening featured panel discussions, workshops, and presentations on topics including cultural tourism, international collaborations and co-commissions, animation of public space, branding and identity of cultural districts, lighting and urban design, and cultural infrastructure.

Below is an overview of the agenda. To request a copy of the full summary report, please fill out this form. 

Wednesday, May 10

Tour of the emerging cultural district Poblenou Urban District.

The convening kicked off with a tour of the Poblenou Urban District, taking participants through various revitalized industrial spaces including the IAAC (Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia), the Academy of Art of Barcelona, and other sites, concluding with a cocktail reception at the Can Framis Museum.

GCDN delegates on a tour of the Poblenou Urban District

Kick off Cocktail Reception at the Can Framis Museum hosted by Vila Casas Foundation. Sponsored by BuroHappold 


Thursday, May 11

Location: CCCB – Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona

Coffee and Meet-and-Greet

Welcoming Remarks

Josep Desquens welcomed GCDN delegates and gave an overview of the CCCB and its relation to the wider regeneration of the Raval neighborhood, in which it is located.

  • Adrian Ellis, Co-Founder and Director, GCDN; Director, AEA Consulting
  • Josep Desquens, Deputy Managing Director, CCCB

Welcome and Keynote: The Barcelona Cultural Story

Valentí Oviedo welcomed the group to Barcelona and shared insights about Barcelona’s cultural strategy.

  • Valentí Oviedo, CEO of ICUB (Institut de Cultura de Barcelona)

What’s Next for Public Spaces?

  • Rami Bebawi, KANVA architecture
  • Debra Simon, Director, Public Art, Times Square Alliance, New York
  • Tim Tompkins, President, Times Square Alliance, New York

We revisited the topic of public spaces with a lens on questioning their future as they continue to be the focal point of urban regeneration success stories. Showcasing different perspectives, this session reviewed the role of interactive public art in these spaces, how to engage communities effectively through these projects, and how these spaces can transform into a place of refuge from the hustle and bustle of our fast-paced urban lives.


Rami Bebawi, Debra Simon, and Tim Tompkins; Q&A during “What’s Next for Public Spaces” session

Learning from Barcelona – Overview and Guided Tour of Raval Cultural District

El Raval cultural district is a prime example of successful urban regeneration through culture. Once considered Barcelona’s red light district, the area has now become a thriving cultural quarter, boasting medieval monasteries, quaint shops and historic cafés, and major cultural institutions such as the CCCB (Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona) and MACBA (Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona).


GCDN delegates on a tour of El Raval Urban District

Networking Lunch: Presentation on International Collaborations
Co-sponsored by the Québec Government Office in Barcelona
The Quartier des Spectacles Partnership presented examples of international touring interactive art exhibitions that have traveled from Montreal to cities around the world, including collaborations with other GCDN members like Navy Pier, Inc. in Chicago and LAC in Lugano, Switzerland. This session was an opportunity to learn about the structure of these partnerships and collaborations and the various ways to finance them. 

Ideas Swap Part 1

In this session, speakers provided individual presentations on their projects, focusing on the opportunities, challenges, and lessons that can be translated to other cultural districts.

  • Alserkal Avenue, Dubai
    Presented by Vilma Jurkute, Director, Alserkal Avenue
  • MuseumsQuartier, Vienna
    Presented by Dr. Christian Strasser, CEO of the MuseumsQuartier
  • PLATEFORME 10, Lausanne, Switzerland
    Presented by Chantal Prod’Hom, director of the Musée de Design et Arts Appliqués Contemporains
  • University of the Arts, London
    Presented by Anna Jobson, Director of Change Management, University of the Arts, London, and Gill Henderson, Regeneration and Cultural Partnerships Manager, London College of Communication (UAL)

GCDN delegates during conference sessions at the CCCB

Afternoon Keynote (followed by discussion and debate): Balancing Act of Tourism: Residents and Visitors

Cultural Tourism is strongly associated with boosting local economies, generating more foot traffic through cultural institutions, and helping to raise the profile of revenue-hungry cities. But balance must be sought between the livability of an area for its residents and a continuing appeal to visiting tourists. Keynote speaker Elizabeth Becker shared key insights on the value of cultural tourism while cautioning the overuse
of this strategy for economic development considering its possible detrimental effects on local communities. A wider discussion and debate on the topic followed, featuring case studies of cultural tourism from around the world.

  • Keynote: Elizabeth Becker, author of Overbooked: The Exploding Business of Travel and Tourism

Moderator: Diane Dodd, Executive Director IGCAT Barcelona

  • Martin Harte, CEO, Temple Bar Company, Dublin, Ireland
  • Nicola Schiess, President, Corporación Cultural, Teatro del Lago, Chile

Cocktail Reception and Dinner at the Design Museum of Barcelona, hosted by the Barcelona City Council


Friday, May 12

Location: L’Hospitalet Cultural District 


Welcoming Remarks

  • Núria Marín Martínez, Mayor of L’Hospitalet de Llobregat

Successful Cultural Districts – Branding, Identity, and Evaluation

  • Juan Carlos Belloso, Future Places

GCDN commissioned Juan Carlos Belloso of Future Places, and his team, to conduct research* around the key factors of branding and identity of cultural districts that make them successful and attractive to residents and tourists. Case studies from the research were presented, followed by a workshop leading participants to think critically about the branding strategies for their own districts and institutions. 

*To purchase a copy of the printed report, please email: info@gcdn.net


GCDN delegates during a workshop about the branding and identity of cultural districts

Ideas Swap Part 2 – Innovations and Collaborations in Cultural Districts

This Ideas Swap specifically focused on cultural districts that have come up with innovative schemes for funding, collaborating, and sharing data. 

  • Barcelona Obertura
    Presented by Víctor Medem, Coordinador, Barcelona Obertura
  • Fondation Fiminco, Paris, France
    Presented by Joachim Pflieger, General Director, Fondation Fiminco
  • Pittsburgh Cultural Trust
    Presented by Kevin McMahon, President and CEO, Pittsburgh Cultural Trust
  • Quartier des Spectacles, Montreal, and AIMIA Inc.
    Presented by Alexandra Maier, Director, Marketing and Communications. Jonatan Bouchard, Senior Manager for Advanced Analytics, AIMIA Inc.

Panelists of the session “Ideas Swap Part 2” answer questions from the audience

Networking Lunch

Illuminating Cities: Lighting and Urban Design

  • Moderated by Patricia Brown, Central, UK
  • Jason Bruges, Artist, UK
  • Mark Burton-Page, Director, LUCI (Lighting Urban Community International), Lyon, France

Light has the power to transform. Increasingly, urban designers, architects and city-officials understand the importance of light – and light festivals, urban lighting schemes, and major public art projects involving light and projections have become quite common in cities around the globe. Why is light such an important tool and what strategies must be adopted to ensure success? Who should be at the table during these conversations? How do practitioners and city leaders ensure the sustainability of these projects? Speakers in this session shared insights about various projects, from specific public art projects to city-wide lighting strategies.

15.30-16.45: Cultural Infrastructure

  • Adrian Ellis, Director, GCDN and AEA Consulting
  • Erin Flaherty, Executive Director at Infrastructure New South Wales

Adrian Ellis opened this session by introducing AEA Consulting’s work around identifying large cultural infrastructure projects around the world and what kind of activity is happening in that area. This research has been compiled in the 2016 Cultural Infrastructure Index, by AEA  for GCDN, seeks to measure investment in capital projects in the cultural sector, identifying projects with a budget of US$10 million or more that were publicly announced or completed within a calendar year.*

Erin Flaherty then presented on the process of creating a cultural infrastructure strategy for New South Wales, Australia. NSW has been trying to benchmark what is currently happening in the rest of the world in terms of cultural infrastructure and examine who pays, who decides, and who benefits. In the open conversation portion of this session, participants discussed the challenges of justifying cultural infrastructure. 

*Download the report here.

Art Safari: Interactive tour of L’Hospitalet Cultural District featuring pop-up artists and performances

GCDN delegates on a tour of L’Hospitalet’s Cultural District


All speaker bios are available here

For more information about becoming a GCDN member, or to request an invitation to attend the Barcelona convening, please contact info@gcdn.net 

Partners, collaborators, and co-hosts

Global Cultural Districts Network