In the latest attempt from a big city to move away from car hegemony, Barcelona has ambitious plans. Currently faced with excessive pollution and noise levels, the city has come up with a new mobility plan to reduce traffic by 21%. And it comes with something extra: freeing up nearly 60% of streets currently used by cars to turn them into so-called “citizen spaces”. The plan is based around the idea of superilles (superblocks) – mini neighbourhoods around which traffic will flow, and in which spaces will be repurposed to “fill our city with life”, as its tagline says.
This plan will start in the famous gridded neighbourhood of Eixample. That revolutionary design, engineered by Ildefons Cerdà in the late 19th century, had at its core the idea that the city should breathe and – for both ideological and public health reasons – planned for the population to be spread out equally, as well as providing green spaces within each block. Reality and urban development have, however, got the best of it, and as the grid lines became choked with cars, the city’s pollution and noise levels have skyrocketed. What was once a design to make Barcelona healthier, now has to be dramatically rethought for the same reasons.
pricetags: It’s about time. Despite the romanticization of the Cerdà plan (never ultimately built out in the way he intended), the result, as recognized above, was not that pleasant: wide streets, fast traffic, noisy and polluted. And the relentless grid, standard heights and similar architecture actually make it hard to navigate. Even the chamfered intersections are not that pedestrian friendly – full of parked cars and garbage bins.
Anywhere in the Eixample