Barcelona, world capital of markets

For four days and over the course of two back-to-back international conferences the city will become a forum in which to discuss markets and their role as engines of entrepreneurship, employment and placemaking, as well as being champions of healthy food.

From 25 to 28 March Barcelona will become the World Capital of Markets. On March 25 it will host the closing conference of the European project URBACT Markets and it will also be the venue of the 9th International Public Markets Conference, an event that until now had only been held in the United States. The Conference has been organized by Project for Public Spaces (PPS) with support from Barcelona's Institut Municipal de Mercats and in conjunction with the Global Network of Cities and Local and Regional Governments (UCLG), HealthBridge and UN-Habitat, the United Nation's office for human settlements and sustainable development. Mercabarna and Arestes are the official sponsors of the Conference.

The URBACT Markets Conference will be held on March 25 and it will bring to a close a project - led by Barcelona and funded by the European Union - that aims to promote the role of urban markets as engines of entrepreneurship, urban regeneration and sustainability. The meeting will take place in the function room in Santa Caterina market.

During the meeting, the nine participating regions and cities - namely, Attica (Greece), Dublin (Ireland), Westminster (UK), Turin (Italy), Suceava (Romania), Toulouse (France), Wroclaw (Poland), Pécs (Hungary) and Barcelona - will share the results of their projects analyzing how markets act as stimulators of local development. Barcelona will also explain its Strategic Plan for Markets 2015-2025, approved at the end of 2014. Over the course of the day - and with the participation of other cities and international institutions such as EU, UCLG and PPS - several working groups will be organized to discuss the future of markets via joint actions between cities. New partnership projects will also be proposed.

Barcelona's market model: an international benchmark

The US-based Project for Public Spaces decided to hold the 9th International Public Markets Conferencein Barcelona because it is an exemplary "market city". Public and private investment over the past 20 years on the 40 municipal facilities has laid the foundation stone of the markets' future.

The Conference, which will be held from 26 to 28 March at the Centre for Contemporary Culture of Barcelona (CCCB), seeks to explore how cities with public markets can contribute to creating a powerful and far-reaching program for the development of communities around the world: stimulating local economies through commerce, making healthy food accessible and creating genuine and dynamic public spaces. The Conference also provides the opportunity to disclose, for the first time, a list of endangered markets and participants will draw up a Conference Declaration in favor of a greater local and international commitment to these traditional commercial outlets. The Conference will come to a close with the presentation of the very first Market City Award , to be presented by the Founder and President of PPS, Fred Kent.

A broad range of issues will be discussed during the Conference, including how markets can generate economic and employment opportunities; how markets can become engines of entrepreneurship, new commerce and food trends; the role of old and new public markets in today's competitive marketplace, and how markets serve as social and community spaces.

The organizers will also assess how to build public policy support for markets; the interactions between producers and final consumers, as well as how markets have become places where healthy food is sold and promoted, a trend that is in line with consumer demand. Lastly, it will analyze the management model and the benefits and challenges of public versus private market management.

The Conference will also be a platform from which to present Barcelona's experience with its 40 markets and their model. Representatives of the Institut Municipal de Mercats and other municipal departments, such as Urban Habitat headed by chief architect, Vicente Guallart, will present different aspects of the organization of Barcelona's market network: comprehensive urban planning and neighborhood design that envisages markets as a key element, joint public-private management partnerships, the remodeling design for Barcelona's markets, as well as activities and services that place them at the heart of the neighborhood and make them a community space. The second day of the Conference will be dedicated to visiting Barcelona's markets. This will take the form of four tours to visit remodeled markets, historic Modernista markets, new architecture markets and the impact of markets on neighborhoods.

To access the program please follow the link

Endangered markets

The disappearance of traditional public markets in some cities, in favor of large supermarkets that centralize food sales, is one of the questions the organization wishes to focus on in debates at the Barcelona Conference.

In cities across the world, local authorities are deciding to eradicate old food street markets and authorize the installation of supermarkets that are often part and parcel of residential and office space development plans.

As markets also serve a social purpose in the community, this situation is leading to the loss of ties between neighbors and the transformation - both social and urban - of some communities.

In contrast, in other cities around the world, the opposite is true and local policies have led to a resurgence of local public markets. These spaces become focal points that stimulate the economic reactivation of the urban environment in which they are located. They favor community integration and participation, thus strengthening social ties. Indeed, they become nodes in a network that connects people and places, reaffirming their traditional role as places that are central to community life.

Participants from around the world

The event has generated unprecedented interest and is drawing more participants than anticipated. . In all, 400 people from 120 cities and 40 countries have registered. Participants will be joining us, among others, from European countries, the US, Australia and Canada, as well as from developing countries such as Mozambique, Papua New Guinea, Nepal, Vietnam and Colombia. The US alone will have a delegation of 80 participants.

In addition to Barcelona's public markets, others from around the world will be represented in sessions and on panels, including: The Pike Place Market (Seattle, Washington), Borough Market (London, England), Halifax Seaport Farmers' Market (Nova Scotia, Canada), FRESHFARM Markets (Washington, DC), Lok Fu Market and Tin Shui Market (Hong Kong), Grow NYC-Greenmarket Farmers Market (New York), Markthal Rotterdam (Netherlands), Queen Victoria Market (Melbourne, Australia), and Souk El Tayeb (Beirut, Lebanon). The Conference will also include delegates from Dublin, Pécs, Turin, Toronto, The Hague as well as representatives from affiliated organizations such as Wholesome Wave, Foodshare Toronto, Fresh FoodNetwork, and UN Women.