Eivissa, a municipality on the Spanish island of Ibiza, is changing. A seedy, shabby town 25 years ago, it is transforming into a distinctive city. Part 1 of 2. First impressions.
The Spanish city of Eivissa is better known in the U.K. as Ibiza Town. It has a poor reputation. 25 years ago it was no different to port cities the world over. Eivissa had dingy smelly narrow streets, loud bars, seedy clubs and general unpleasantness. Returning to visit was low on the itinerary list.
The first visit to Eivissa was brief, to collect an item from a warehouse. The city appeared the same as remembered, except cleaner. Bendy roads with poor signage and people driving too fast, making driving stressful. Streets snake around poor quality industrial architecture and plots of open wasteland. Without a second reason to return, this view would have been the final impression. Fortunately, the second visit furnished a far better opinion of this changing city.
On initial impressions, downtown Eivissa felt like other large Mediterranean cities. High buildings crowd over narrow avenues, shading out the sunny January daylight. The design of the streets focuses on protection from the blazing summer heat. Walkways are clean and well maintained. Cars park bumper to bumper. Only when strolling a short while does a distinct identity begins to emerge.
There is a thoughtfulness to the town plan. The industrial area first visited was the old Eivissa. It was a town rapidly growing into a city without a plan or direction. Planning laws in the 1970s were probably akin to the wild west. Spain as a country was awaking from decades of Franco dictatorship. Business people and developers grabbed what they could. The roads and services were afterthoughts.
The Ibiza Town spreading out from the port area today has a sense of collective thinking. There is a feeling of consideration. A balance exists between the needs of tourists, the city’s main income generator, and local people. 
There are large areas of pedestrianisation. Public squares with cafes, narrow streets with limited or no parking. There appears to be a policy of zoning. The casinos seem to be concentrated on the fringe of downtown, facing out onto the main road. It makes sense to keep 24-hour type businesses located in an area with the least potential to disrupt residents.
It becomes noticeable that certain streets attract similar kinds of business sectors. Exercise is one example. Several gyms neighbour each other. The retail on these streets offers related goods, from supplements to running shoes. The cafes advertise healthy food options. Food shops sell vegan and vegetarian supplies.
It is unknown whether there is a deliberate business clustering policy or it’s organic. What is clear is that residents head to this district for indoor exercise.
Heritage has become part of the city. Historic buildings are being tastefully modernised. They can be experienced rather than set aside as artefacts to be observed from distance.
Children are not caged in, as so often seen in England. Families can enjoy the city while children play without the demand for money or restriction. A climbing frame can be practical and sculptural, fulfilling many needs.
From bins to bicycle parking, every aspect seems considered. Nothing appears to be an afterthought.
Walkways blend seamlessly into one another, encouraging walking, exploring. Subtle and practical lighting for hours of darkness provides a sense of romance. Eivissa feels safe and invites investigating.
One of the considerable differences between English and Spanish urban space is the quality of the walkways.
There is a lot of care taken in Spain. The design, installation and maintenance of street paving are paramount. It is the same whether in the smallest town to the largest city. Walkways are central to the identity of an area, evoking strong held civic pride.
In England, it is rare to find well-designed walkways. Only public space privately owned or heavily commercial has quality walkways. Paving is always relegated to insignificance within urban planning, unimportant.
There has been no research beyond visiting Eivissa undertaken for this post. The importance was to focus on personal observations. Part.2 will be to look into the urban plan and seek the views of locals.
Eivissa feels as if it has a 30-year plan, which is two-thirds of a way through implementing. The start point was people. What do people need? Not just the tourist who bring the income but the residents as well.
It is the eye for detail that makes Eivissa feel so exciting. The pride of the people constructing the streetscape. The whole of downtown exudes pride that is spreading outwards. Driving out of the city, in the opposite direction to the warehouses, there are new modern roads. Underpasses and properly designed roundabouts. The policy is clearly to build the new city properly and retrofit the old town for modern living.
Eivissa has the potential to become another Spanish urban design success story to rival, or even surpass Bilbo. While modernising, the city is carving out a unique identity. A rare success in city regeneration.
Part 2 of this post will involve an analysis of the city plan and local attitudes. Do any of these observations fit with the formal urban plan?
 see Public Space