There are many things that contribute to the uniqueness of Barcelona, but nothing quite compares to the masterfully constructed organization of its so called “grid city.” Created in the early 20th century, this construction began with the Eixample District of the city. The urban planning divided the district into octagonal blocks, and designed them into a grid pattern with wide avenues, long streets, and rounded street corners.
The organization of this district allows for improved living conditions for the residents, including an increase in powerful sunlight, great ventilation, and a vast amount of green space for the public to use. It also makes the city look like a conglomeration of neat squares with rounded edges from above.
While the grid arrangement lasted the city for centuries, Barcelona has now begun transitioning to ‘superblocks’ to increase the streets usability even more. Janet Sanz Cid, the deputy mayor of Barcelona, explained to the New York Times, “We like to call it ‘winning back the streets for the people,’” As the popularity of this beautiful metropolis has grown, so has the tourism, and consequently the congestion on the streets and sidewalks. The creation of superblocks will severely limit the use of cars and other vehicles in order to reduce traffic and air pollution, and also to be able to use this public space in a pedestrian focused way.
With this plan, these superblocks will be overlaid on the current street grid, with each block consisting of up to nine continuous blocks. Consequently, in each of these superblocks the previously existing streets and intersections will be mostly closed to the traffic—making it possible for these blocks to be open to the community and used as spaces such as plazas, playgrounds, and green areas such as gardens. This will be fully underway, with a couple spaces already blocked off, by 2018.
These “superilles” will have an extreme effect on the city—challenging the idea that these streets are for the purpose of cars and not pedestrians. This plan will redirect cars and buses to the outskirts of these superblocks, allowing for much more freedom for the pedestrians, while still letting the vehicles operate in the city.
This fairly new idea has launched Barcelona to the forefront of urban transportation experiments, however, officials have recognized that this shift will not be simple. It will require a change in how people view these streets and how they will get around in the future.