The former President of Catalonia, Pasqual Maragall, who was on a short visit to Scotland, has been honoured by the presentation of an Honorary Fellowship from the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland.
President Maragall was Mayor of Barcelona from 1982 to 1997 and provided the political drive and vision which led to Barcelona securing the Olympic Games for 1992. The President also drove many of the initiatives which regenerated Barcelona and helped transform it into a major economic success and a magnet for tourists from throughout the world.
Although he is suffering from early onset Alzheimer's disease, President Maragall generously participated in a question and answer event before an invited audience at Edinburgh's Lower Signet Library. Along with his friend, the Barcelona architect David Mackay, he responded to questions on the regeneration of Barcelona after the forty year dictatorship of General Franco, how the Olympic Games were secured and how the legacy of the Games continues to benefit the city.
The vote of thanks at the event was given by Fiona Hyslop MSP, Minister for Culture and External Affairs. Ms Hyslop, who issued the formal invitation from the Scottish Government for President Maragall's visit to Scotland, commended the Past President's vision, particularly his inspired commissioning of architectural and environmental projects. She also specifically commented on the warm and enduring relationship between Catalonia and Scotland and how the lessons learned from the Barcelona Olympics will be useful to Scotland in the lead up to the Glasgow Commonwealth Games. She said:
Today, Barcelona is recognised as one of the most important and beautiful cities to visit in the world. To transform the city of old into the place that we now know took remarkable vision, skill and determination. Glasgow 2014 will generate lasting benefits for the whole of Scotland and I am sure there is a lot we can still learn from President Maragall's experience of delivering such a positive legacy from a major sporting event.
The President's visit was supported by The Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland whose President, David Dunbar commented:
Pasqual Maragallâ??s reputation and influence extends well beyond Catalonia. The regeneration of Barcelona through imaginative architecture and major events, particularly the Olympic Games, is an example from which many other cities have learned. President Maragall instinctively understands the contribution which architects, clever strategic planning and high quality cultural, commercial and residential development can make to cities. Barcelonaâ??s investment in ideas has paid off massively. The Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland is delighted that we have been able to work with the Scottish Government to bring such an inspiring visitor to Scotland.
President Maragall's Fellowship is the highest honour the Incorporation pays to non-architects and recognises his vision, his inspired architectural commissioning and his major and enduring contribution to European politics.
The citation for President Maragall was read out by Neil Baxter, Secretary and Treasurer RIAS:.
"Pasqual Maragall was born on the 13th January 1941 in Barcelona, the third of eight siblings. His grandfather was the renowned Spanish poet Joan Maragall.
As a young man, Mr Maragall was an active member of the Workers' Front of Catalonia and joined the left-wing, anti-Franco, Popular Liberation Front. He studied Law and Economics at the University of Barcelona between 1957 and 1964. After his studies, he joined Barcelona City Council as an economist and taught economic theory at the University of Barcelona. Between 1971 and 1973, Mr Maragall lived in New York, gaining his Master of Arts in Economics from the New School University.
In 1973 Mr Maragall returned to Barcelona City Council and the University. His doctoral thesis was The Prices of Urban Land. The Case of Barcelona (1948-1978). In 1974 he helped found the Socialist Party of Catalonia, assuming particular responsibility for municipal policy. In 1978, he was a researcher and guest professor at the Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore (which later awarded him an honorary doctorate).
In 1979, at the first democratic municipal election for Barcelona City Council (after the death of General Franco in 1975) Narcas Serra became Mayor. Mr Maragall was appointed Deputy Mayor for Administrative Reform (and later for Taxation). On December 1, 1982 he succeeded Narcas Serra as Mayor of Barcelona. Among his first significant steps as Mayor was the delivery of a process of urban improvement which included establishing a series of modest area projects with hard landscaping, artworks and pavement cafes, significantly enlivening the life of the city. Although undertaken at very modest cost, this was among a number of catalyst projects which ultimately led to a programme of major architectural projects and substantial inward investment, which have hugely enhanced the environment of Barcelona and significantly raised the status of the city.
In 1986, the Catalan capital was chosen to host the 1992 Summer Olympics. As Mayor, Mr Maragall presided over the organising committee. Another Maragall initiative was the 2004 Universal Forum of Cultures. The 1992 Games helped Barcelona to redefine itself as one of the great cities of Europe. One crucial architectural endeavour was Mr Maragall's invitation to Oriol Bohigas (MBM Arquitectes) to masterplan the Olympic Village. Mr Maragall personally oversaw the complex political and planning process of opening Barcelona up to the sea.
From 1988 to 1995 Pasqual Maragall was a member of the Catalan Parliament. From 1991 to 1997, Pasqual Maragall was President of the Council of Municipalities and Regions of Europe. He actively promoted the Eurocities network (a grouping of 140 internationally minded regional centres which includes Glasgow and Edinburgh) and the C-6 transborder network. He was also Vice-President of the International Union of Local Authorities and from 1996 to 1998 was President of the Committee of the Regions of the European Union.
In 1997, Pasqual Maragall resigned as Barcelona's Mayor and returned to his previous career as a teacher, lecturing in Rome and New York. In 2000, he was elected President of the Partit dels Socialistes de Catalunya (PSC-PSOE) a role he held until 2007.
In 1999 the RIBA awarded its Gold Medal for Architecture to the city of Barcelona - the first time the award had been made to a city, rather than an individual. The citation emphasised Pasqual Maragall's enlightened contribution to Barcelona's architectural commissioning and the work which he and Oriol Bohigas, among others, had undertaken on the regeneration of the city and the Barcelona Olympics.
On 16 December 2003, Pasqual Maragall was elected President of the Generalitat by the Catalan Parliament. His presidential term saw much further change and stormy negotiations over a new Statute of Autonomy for Catalonia (which continue to this day). During his term one of his government's most significant projects was the 'Llei de Barris' of Neighborhood Law. This law supports local regeneration projects led by the community within run-down urban areas towards restoring dignity and improving quality of life.
On 21 June 2006, President Maragall announced that he would not be standing for reelection. He lent his support to the new President, Jose Montilla. On 20 October 2007 he announced that he had been diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's disease and affirmed that he would dedicate the rest of his life to fighting the disease. In April 2008 the Pasqual Maragall Foundation for Alzheimerâ??s Research was launched, a non-profit making institution devoted to the support and encouragement of scientific research into the prevention, treatment and cure of Alzheimer's and neurodegenerative diseases.
President Maragall's illness has not prevented him from publishing his memoirs and continuing a very active career at the top level of politics. In Catalonia, the role of Past President carries significant weight and enables Pasqual Maragall to continue his lifelong passionate endeavour on behalf of the Catalan people and to represent the city of Barcelona and his very special homeland in many international forums."
More information on Pasqual Maragall can be found at: www.pasqualmaragall.cat