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There’s two types of journeys: the ones where you hold a map and follow a predefined route, and the ones where you have a compass in your hand and navigate.

I was honoured to be part of the Placemaking for Innovation workshop at La Marina, and it was all about navigation. An eclectic mix of experts from the four corners of the world met and discussed for three days what bearings to follow in the future development of a large portion of Valencia’s harbor.

And navigation wasn’t just metaphorical.

There were boat rides too… 🙂

In need for healing

The challenge faced is not a simple one.

The current situation of La Marina is not the utopian blank, do-as-you-wish canvas with little boundary conditions. Rather the opposite.

For the past 20+ years the development of public infrastructures in Valencia has been -for the most part- subject to top-down, short term benefits-oriented, publicity stunt-driven, form-before-function policies and decision making.

Over the years, Formula 1 Race, America’s Cup and many other projects piled one on top of the other, leaving layers of unconnected, meaningless spaces for citizens that were unsustainable by design.

Many people had simply lost hope, myself included. I’ve lived in Valencia for the past nine years, and had unconsciously integrated those none-places in the daily urban landscape. To me it was something like the ruins of a past empire. A testimonial to poor choices.

And then came Ramón Marrades and his team.

One hour into the workshop I had already changed my mindset about the harbor, and about how things can be different for Valencia.

And the way that is being followed is, in my opinion, the right one. It involves finding ways to overcome a toxic heritage (massive debt, unsustainable infrastructures…) while, simultaneously, re-establishing connections with the surroundings, empowering actors that have been systematically neglected and left aside (e.g. citizens living in the neighbourhood for generations) and overall creating a possibilistic framework.