Josep Antoni Acebillo defends disruptive urbanism in a talk with Architecture students

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The architect has spearheaded large-scale development projects in Barcelona such as the Olympic Games and Fòrum

Josep Antoni Acebillo giving his lecture

On 8 March, architect Josep Antoni Acebillo was invited by the UIC Barcelona School of Architecture’s Area of Architectural Design to deliver a lecture to Architecture students entitled “Disruptive Urbanism & Global Urbanity”. Lecturer Felipe Pich-Aguilera was charged with presenting to the students the veteran architect, who he defined as “one of the chief architects of Olympic Barcelona and this approach to city planning”. 

Josep Antoni Acebillo analysed the current state of urbanism around the world, strongly influenced by the trends of globalisation and the emergence of new technologies. In his introduction, the architect pointed out that the current model of urban planning is in “a critical situation, because the model is not sustainable”. In this regard, he named three fundamental reasons: the demographic boom expected in the coming years, the still uncertain impact of climate change on our lives and the lack of a clear model of spatial justice. “Given the enormous complexity of today’s globalised world, it would be irresponsible to continue to plan cities using the modern-industrial model”, he asserted, adding that, “as architects and town planners, it is our obligation to revise our ideological framework, that is, our socio-political and spiritual framework”. 

For architects, this new model of urban planning requires a new “post-industrial” urban mobility matrix focused on reducing pollution and stress and making individual mobility more efficient. “Globalisation is not something we can fight against. The technological developments that have taken place have shown us it’s here stay. I abhor demagogic populism and the idea that, today, everything is done sustainably. Personally, I’m much more interested in what’s disruptive; things capable of both breaking moulds and innovating. Barcelona is a good example in this sense. It is a highly sophisticated city from the point of view of urbanism”, he concluded. 

Born in Huesca in 1946, Josep Antoni Acebillo was educated at the Higher Technical School of Architecture in Barcelona (ETSAB) and subsequently earned an undergraduate degree in Art History. From 1981 to 1987, he served as director of the Barcelona City Council’s Urban Projects Service and, from 1988 to 1994, technical director of the Municipal Institute of Urban Development, the authority responsible for planning and coordinating the works for Barcelona’s Olympic project. Acebillo was also one of the promoters, and director for several years, of Barcelona Regional. In the academic arena, he has worked as a lecturer at both the ETSAB and the Mendrisio Academy of Architecture in Switzerland.