Ex-Winnipeg Mayor and Urban Strategist Glenn Murray introduces us to an unusual complaint in his Toronto Star column today.
"Irritable Bilbao Syndrome [is] an epidemic spreading across the globe, transmitted by civic enthusiasts who believe iconic museums are the shortcut to successfully transforming a rust belt city into a Mecca of creativity," he writes.
RTH readers may well be familiar with the 'Bilbao miracle' â€“ the urban renaissance experienced by the Spanish Steel producing town following the construction of the world renowned Guggenheim museum in 1997.
According to Murray, Irritable Bilbao Syndrome has claimed many copycat victims, including Sheffield in England, whose Center for Popular Music closed down after just eight months.
There are many other sufferers of the disease, of course. Those who watched Michael Moore's documentary Roger and Me may recall the ill-fated Flint Automotive Museum, which was meant to be a catalyst for the 'revival' of the filmmaker's hometown (it wasn't).
Then there's Cleveland's impressive Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame, which, while it may well attract the visitors, has not - if my last visit was anything to go by â€“ done much to improve its surroundings.
Murray blames a lack of urban understanding and an eagerness to take shortcuts as the main causative factors for this disease.
"The reality is that Bilbao's success is the product of a steadfast commitment to planning, repositioning, and re-creation of the city's authentic 20th century economic and cultural assets," he says. In other words, build on your strengths.
Many people questioned the wisdom of locating a Canadian Music Hall of Fame on Hamilton's waterfront recently. 'What does Hamilton care about pop music?' they wondered.
For myself I have recently advocated the creation of a Steel museum in Hamilton, or at least a tour of some sort â€“ what could be more Hamiltonian than that?
Urban revitalization is complex at the best of times, and it takes a multi-tiered approach. And any effort to implement a 'Big Fix' that fails to account for the town's unique attributes and values is almost certainly just going to replace one ailment for another.
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