Here, in the third installment of our summary of the books published by the CBS in 2015, we focus on two key works for understanding the past, present, and future of urban landscapes, connectivity, and communications in the Basque Country.
In a rapidly changing society the Basque Country is becoming an increasingly urbanized society connected to other urban nuclei throughout Europe. What do these changes mean for Basque society? What special challenges does it face? What are the contesting responses to such challenges? These and other questions are addressed in the following two works.
Transforming Cities: Opportunities and Challenges of Urban Regeneration in the Basque Country, edited by Arantxa Rodríguez and Joseba Juaristi.
Urban renewal policies seek to reverse physical, economic, and social decline in particular areas or neighborhoods—or in whole cities. Such policies are typically associated with public sector solutions to problems in the urban decline of former industrialized spaces that involve developing new economic activities by means of transforming such spaces once more into dynamic and attractive areas. The present work explores the multiple dimensions—incorporating physical-morphological, economic, functional, cultural, and residential elements—of urban renewal policies in the Basque Country and beyond. Individual chapters discuss urban regeneration in Bilbao, the legal framework of urban planning as a public function, the “smart city” model of sustainable and intelligent urban spaces, and culture as a strategic element for the reactivation, renewal, and development of new urban models, including the specific case of cultural heritage as a factor in the urban regeneration of Vitoria-Gasteiz, the legal implications of expropriating cultural assets, public and private collaboration to create cultural clusters, and, finally, the tensions that exist between institutionally driven visions of such transformation and more community-based approaches.
Building the Basque City: The Political Economy of Nation-Building, by Nagore Calvo Mendizabal.
The book presents a novel perspective in which the Spanish state formation and Basque nationalism develop in complex ways of antagonism and complementarity. The book questions the very notion of the Basque Country and its implications in the new global context. It examines critically some of the key institutions, territories, social practices and collective representations that historically have constituted the Basque Country. One of the most contentious current projects in the articulation of the Basque territory, conflating opposing political agendas and economic outlooks, is the High Speed Train. The author studies this project in depth to come up with valid lessons regarding the need for infrastructural development and communication between the Basque region, Spain and the European Union. The value of the work rests in her simultaneously viewing the need for inter-dependencies as well as the resulting social conflicts and strategic contradictions emerging from various constituencies. Beyond her Basque region, this work has relevant implications for a better articulation of the Spanish state in the new European context. Her analysis deals with the core issues of the current debates on city renewal, the globalization of the economy and culture, and the redefinition of the basic political and financial institutions. Her work has a bearing on new urbanism, cultural studies, Spanish society, and European infrastructures.