Mar Santamaria Varas

Edited on 08/06/2023

Mar Santamaria Varas

  • Spain

  • Catalan, English, French, Italian, Spanish
Availability :
Available for Lead Expert role and Ad-hoc expertise missions

Validated Expert info

Expert can perform the Lead expert role and Ad hoc expertise missions at network and programme level in relation to:

  1. The design and delivery of (transnational) exchange and learning activities
  2. Thematic expertise:
    > Strategic urban planning
    > Digital transformation
    > Housing
    > Knowledge economy
    > Participatory governance 
  3. Methods and tools for integrated and participatory approaches:
    > Integrated and participatory design of strategies
    > Sustaining engagement of stakeholders and translating strategies into actions


Mar Santamaria-Varas is an urban planner and architect. She combines experience in strategic and integrated urban planning, participatory processes and data analytics for public policies, with a common goal of responding to the need for a green transition, fuelled by digitisation and leaving no one behind.

She has solid experience advising various urban agents, including public administrations (national and local bodies), international organisations, scientific institutions, non-profits and citizens’ groups.

She is the co-founder of the think-tank 300.000 Km/s ( Her pioneering work in the field of urbanism has been recognized for its innovative quality and its impact on social transformation by the European Commission (S+T+ARTS Prize 2019), the Premio de Urbanismo Español 2019, the Premi Catalunya d’Urbanisme 2020 and an Honourable Mention of the UIA's Patrick Abercrombie Prize (2023), among others. Her work has been exhibited at international cultural institutions, including the Festival Ars Electronica (2021 and 2019), BOZAR Bruxelles (2020), the Chicago Arts Institute (2015) or the Centre for Contemporary Culture in Barcelona. She has also created specific content for the Venice Architecture Biennale in the Catalan (Air/Aire/Aria 2021) and Ukrainian Pavilions.

Mar has lectured at several international faculties (visiting lecturer at EPFL Lausanne, Welsh School of Architecture, TU Braunschweig, School of Architecture of Barcelona, IAAC, among others), public institutions, debates and conferences of significance in the sector (like the Smart City World Expo, the Inter American Development Bank Annual Planning Conference or ISOCARP). She has written several scientific publications and other articles for a broad public in relevant national and international reviews and media.

How can I support URBACT Networks?

Strategic urban planning

As an expert in strategic urban planning, I played a significant role in developing comprehensive plans that promote sustainable development and enhance the quality of life for residents. Through my involvement in drafting one of the first pilot projects of the Urban Agenda Action Plan in Spain (within the Next Generation Programme), several proposals for urban regeneration and conducting other urban diagnoses at the local level (2016-2023), I have gained the expertise to articulate public policies around local communities needs and perspectives through an evidence-based and data-driven approach. Urban planning is a global mechanism that allows us to solve complex problems through informed data diagnosis, scenario formulation, proposal drafting, and result evaluation.

Digital Urban disruptions

Digitisation in cities has altered social pacts and generated unprecedented challenges in formulating urban regulations and plans (on-demand mobility, e-commerce, or tourist apartments). For instance, in this expertise area, I have carried out several projects that focus on gentrification caused by the visitor economy, such as Touristification (2017) and Morphologies of Tourism (2017). I have also developed pioneering policies to regulate the implementation of first-mile delivery (ghost kitchens and dark stores Master Plan, Barcelona, 2023) as well as cutting-edge research to characterize the implementation patterns of innovative activities (Geographies of Innovation) as a result of teleworking and the knowledge economy -both generating new attraction logics for cities on a global level.

Digital transformation

I have experience in empowering local administrations in the digitisation process, generating strategies for informing public policies and providing consultancy in bridging the information gap. For example, I have collaborated on the digital divide report of Barcelona (2016, 2021), which measures the level of digitization of citizens. I have also worked in contexts with a lack of spatial and territorial/urban information.

Participatory governance

The contact with local and international bodies has enabled me to develop targeted interventions that promote liveable, healthier and greener cities. I have designed policies and urban master plans based on technical and citizen decision-making processes and public participation as the Ciutat Vella land-use plan or the Superblocks land-use plan (2023), among others.