Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Entrepreneurial Urban Regeneration of Bilbao

In the last fifteen years, Bilbao (Fig. 1) has changed its image from an old city in decline to be considered “la nouvelle Mecque de l’urbanisme” (Masboungi, 2001) with the Guggenheim museum as the most conspicuous flagship (González Ceballos, 2004).

Fig. 1. Satellite image of the city of Bilbao.

Nevertheless, the process recently developed in the Basque city is not original neither innovative. Actually, Bilbao is just one more in a large list of cities which followed the regeneration model of some North American and British metropolis such as Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Glasgow or Birmingham (Rodríguez et al., 2006). According to Rodríguez et al. (2001, p. 167), the strategies used by Bilbao are framed within the New Urban Politics (Cox, 1993), “a view that subordinates urban government strategies to the imperatives of globalized capital accumulation”. The authors go on to argue that this new form of urban governance is based on two main components. First, in the last three decades, there has been an inter-city competition to attract international investment and to promote themselves (Begg, 1999). Secondly, the new urban governance system is grounded in the entrepreneurial government of Harvey (1989). On the one hand, the entrepreneurialism performed in these urban areas is centered in the speculative notion of quangos (public-private partnerships) and, on the other hand, it is also more focused on the political economy of the city rather than of territory.