1999 - The City of Barcelona

Peix (fish sculpture)

Designer: Gehry, Frank O. (1929-); Inigo Ortiz & Enrique Len Arquitectos; Skidmore Owings & Merrill
Copyright: Christopher Hope-Fitch/RIBA British Architectural Library Photographs Collection (2008)

The 1.6 million citizens of Barcelona who were awarded the Royal Gold Medal in 1999 received just one medal between them and even that had to be passed around the mix of mayors, architects and planners who accepted on their behalf.


The people named in the citation were the men who have personified and driven the transformation of the city: Narcís Serra, the first post-Franco mayor; architect Oriol Bohigas, co-ordinator for Urbanism from 1980-84; Pasqual Maragall, Mayor from 1982-1997; architect Josep Acebillo, director of a number of urban initiatives between 1980 and 1993 and now in charge of infrastructure projects for the region and Joan Clos, Maragall’s deputy and successor as Mayor.


The award recognised not just the big landmark projects: the Olympic Stadium and village, the new World Trade Centre, the Macba (the Contemporary Art Museum), and the restored Liceu opera house, it also honoured many smaller projects such as the parks created on former industrial land, the new and restored squares in the suburbs as well as in the city, hospitals, schools and arts buildings. All of this adds up to a city which has been re-born but recognisably within the radical tradition of Gaudi and his fellow modernista architects.


President David Rock’s citation includes the following: 'Both the process and results of Barcelona’s rebirth are exemplary. Though always with city-wide goals in mind, initial interventions were local and low budget, yet big in impact - not least because their design flair drew international plaudits ... Hosting the Olympics was only part of this larger, still continuing strategy of up-grading the whole city ...


'Barcelona is now more whole in every way, its fabric healed yet threaded through with new open spaces, its historic buildings refurbished yet its facilities expanded and brought up-to-the-minute. Past and present, work and play are happily intermeshed in a new totality.'
'Probably nowhere else in the world are there so many recent examples of a benign and appropriate attitude towards creating a civic setting for the next century.'