A former chairman of the Queen Sofia Spanish Institute, Dr. Fernando Aleu, said his son asked him the other day what emeritus means. Dr. Aleu replied, "That you are old, that you do nothing, and when you speak about something, your colleagues do the opposite."
Dr. Aleu was at the helm as master of ceremonies at a lunch sponsored by the development company El Consorci last week honoring the mayor of Barcelona, Juan Clos.
The Cushman & Wakefield president of global client development, Arthur Mirante II, whose company opened an office in Barcelona in 1991, spoke of that city's growing appeal to international business. He said that for the past 15 years, Cushman & Wakefield has conducted an annual survey of more than 500 leading European companies, ranking Europe's best cities to locate businesses. In 2005, he said, for the very first time Barcelona broke into the top five, joining London, Paris, Frankfurt, and Brussels. It ranked first in the category of quality of life. Mr. Mirante said there were record levels of office leasing in 2005, and large compa nies such as Whirlpool, Sara Lee, and Yahoo have been opening new offices in the city.
He said that three years ago, journalists questioned him about the "bubble" they perceived in residential real estate in Barcelona. Since then, "prices have continued to rise," he said.
Dr. Clos discussed the industrial past of his city, known once as "the Manchester of the Mediterranean."
He said the city has had only three mayors since 1979. He likewise divided the recent history of the city into three periods. The first ran from 1979 through about 1986-87, when unemployment was as high as 22% and the city was losing population.
But he said there was a turning point when Barcelona won the bid to host the 1992 Olympics, and Spain entered the European Union. By improving its neighborhoods and updating its transportation hubs, Barcelona rebounded: Unemployment declined to approximately 13% and real estate values stabilized instead of falling as they had between 1979 and 1986, he said. Dr. Clos spoke of a "new renaissance" as the population united in plans to host the Olympics.
He discussed an airport built for the Olympic Games. In 1987, 3 million passengers a year used the airport. The city multiplied the size of its airport fourfold, designing it to bear 13 million annual passengers. "Today, we have 27 million passengers using the same airport," he said. "We are building a new airport for 50 million or 60 million passengers."
The Olympic village was built on the sea front, as urban renewal continued from 1987 to 1995. "But then after 1996, another chapter was opened," he said, with the goal of transforming "an industrial city to a post-industrial city." He added, "Instead of losing population, we began to increase population for first time in 40 years." The population is at 1.65 million people, and the unemployment rate is less than 6%.
Dr. Clos also described a wave of immigration with new residents of the city coming from South America, Africa, and Asia, as well as Europe.
He also spoke of large projects that will soon be added to the cityscape, such as a high-technology area called District [email protected], a new station for a highspeed train, and an office building designed by Frank Gehry.
But a smaller but no less important project was also the topic of conversation: The noted Catalonian chef Santi Santamaria of El Raco de Can Fabes restaurant (which has a three-star Michelin rating) had prepared a lunch of warm pickled squab breast with sauteed onion. "He cooked all this in a building that has no kitchen," Dr. Aleu said. How? He cooked at Solera restaurant on East 53rd Street and transported it to the Spanish Institute.
The famed chef emerged wearing a white chef's outfit and spoke in Catalan, which Dr. Aleu translated."He didn't say this," Dr. Aleu added in jest, to audience laughter, "but he has invited all of you to Barcelona for a free meal."
PLEASE 'NOTE' To celebrate Liza Minnelli's 60th birthday, Sony Records has released a remastered version of the television soundtrack from her 1972 television special, "Liza With a Z." But the compact disc has a flaw: The very first note played by the orchestra is missing. Sony made a new master that restores the missing first note.The new master will be used for all subsequent pressings of the CD for stores.
SHOE-IN Georgette Mosbacher, a Republican fund-raiser, is independentminded. She hosted a party for author Erica Jong,a Democrat, on the occasion of her book "Seducing the Demon: Writing for My Life" (Tarcher/Penguin). Susan Cheever and Naomi Wolf were among the authors who attended. What forms ties across party lines? Ms. Jong said she and Ms. Mosbacher bonded years ago while admiring each other's shoes.