July 27, 2004


It's hard to describe the Forum adequately, but I'll start by saying that it's really, really, really big. Everywhere else in Barcelona they seem to understand that size isn't everything, and keeping things close together brings a synergy, both in terms of working together and bringing people in. The Forum totally misses this point. Everything about it is big and spread out; they clearly spent a lot of money on it, and hired a lot of people to staff it, and they just aren't bringing in the numbers.

It's also got this crazy overdone security system that can't be helping matters any. Before we could go in to the conference reception, we had to check in at the accreditation centre across the street (and by "across the street" I mean "a couple hundred yards away"), show them our passports, and get little plastic cards that we were supposed to wear, in addition to the usual conference nametags. These plastic cards had barcodes that we could wave in front of scanners to get into the Forum grounds, after which our bags were X-rayed, we walked another eighty yards or so, had to card in and get our bags X-rayed again, and this time we had to go through metal detectors as well. What an incredible pain.

The reception was held on the ground floor, in a big room. Like, the sort of room you'd hold a huge convention with booths and stalls and vendors. Except that it was empty, exposing broad expanses of concrete and, way at the far end of the room, six tables with assorted hors d'oeuvres on them and two with drinks. People milled about uncertainly, not willing to be the first to cross this vast gulf to get to the food. (I know you think I'm exaggerating, but I'm really not.)

Later on, as we started attending the conference proper, we saw more evidence of poor planning. The coffee breaks were held in a hallway whose walls and carpet were blue and yellow. (Not IKEA colours, but close.) The problem with yellow carpets, though, is that when you hold coffee breaks atop them, they stain horribly. This place has been open for three months, and this whole hallway looks completely nasty.

The paper sessions of the conference were held in rooms 115, 116, and 117. Now, I'm sure it sounded good on paper to paint the room numbers in huge five-foot-high letters on the paired doors; but they were on the left side of the hallway, and when the left door of the pair was open, all we could see was "11". Furthermore, they did not have a central post that they closed against (the better to blend with the paneling on the wall---another bad choice), so the edge of the doors were bevelled so that you had to open the left hand door first. Which was fine on the outside, since that was the only one with a handle. But on the inside, both halves of the door had push bars on them---but if you pushed on the wrong one, you'd have to push two heavy doors open. There was no indication which one was the correct one to open.

Out in the main area of the Forum, there were some interesting exhibits. But the nearest of them was a full five-minute walk away, and I think the furthest would have been twenty or more. So we didn't get to see many of them. What was there was good (if rather bizarre), but there just weren't very many people who would come all the way out to the edge of the city, process a security clearance, go through security (and pay for entrance---those not with the conference had to pay €20 to enter!), and then walk across huge expanses, just to see an installation about biodiversity, or about fair trade. Ultimately, I think the Forum was a decent idea, executed really, really badly. Hopefully, they will be able to find some way to recoup at least some portion of their investment. () () () () () () ()

Posted by blahedo at 12:40pm on 27 Jul 2004
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