Walkable Public Spaces of Barcelona

Barcelona has been a city of cultural interest and beauty since historic times. The city has maintained its individuality even in contemporary times. It is considered as a major cultural center with libraries, museums, and some exquisite examples of heritage modernist buildings. The city has a unique sense of architecture, it is dramatic, dynamic, organic, colorful, and bold. The city has seen many architects work on it. Right from Antonio Gaudi’s organic forms to Jean Nouvel’s modernist approach towards the city. It has enwrapped its heritage and culture and has taken a step forward towards turning into a contemporary city within recent years.
Right from its buildings to its streetscapes, the city is a unique and deep thought. The buildings along the street corners have flat edges which are chamfered to add a dynamicity to the cityscapes by providing a wider spectrum of views. The building’s corners are not allowed to have balconies or terraces to have a wider room for a communal atmosphere. Since the year 1929, the city of Barcelona has seen a modernist approach towards architecture and the cityscape. Until then the city was dominated by the Art Nouveau style. In the year 1992, the Olympic games led to a new era in Architecture for the city with new buildings, parks, and old industrial areas getting rehabilitated. After this, the city as a whole started moving towards a modernist approach in full swing.
Since then the cityscape of Barcelona has changed considerably. Although the modernist approach has taken a frontier, the city has issued plans to go back to a pedestrian frontier for the city. The city council has come up with a plan to make vehicular or car access within the city in a confined and monitored way. Although many critics have termed this plan as a utopian approach which has the probability of turning into a haywire rampant in the near future. The urban planners and designers are headstrong about this initiative.
The city has always boasted about its walkable streets with boulevards and green scape. Due to rapid urbanization, the streets are now getting overcrowded with cars and are increasing pollution. The city has been a primary tourist spot and has seen a population spurt in the near years. The heat island effect produced by the city is also large. The cars and other locomotives have turned it into one of the noisiest cities in entire Europe. Although over the years the city has seen a process of rebirth in many eras. It has shifted from being an Art Nouveau centric city to a modernist city by maintaining the initial heritage and embracing the new. Thus, the city is immune to change.
In the year 2014, the city came up with the Urban Mobility Plan which focuses on making the city bike or cycle-friendly by providing 186 miles of new bike lanes. It also focuses on providing bus services at a cheaper cost and an increase in the frequency. Salvador Rueda who started the Urban Ecology Agency of Barcelona has developed a concept called “Superblock” which will help in making the city more walkable. This plan doesn’t disrupt the existing conditions but alters them by making the vehicular access less prevalent. The superblocks are a cluster of 9 blocks. The outer grid around these blocks would be used for vehicular access whereas all the interior streets would have limited access to selective local vehicles with a speed limit of 10mph. These interior streets will also function as one-way loops.
“Superblock” emphasizing more on the pedestrian access
Through this plan, almost 60 percent of dedicated road spaces can be used for pedestrian and mixed-use services. Thus, adding more to the existing dynamicity of Barcelona. Apart from the regular infrastructural developments which cost heavy resources this plan is, in turn, cost-effective and implementable. This plan will make cities more pedestrian and communal. The streetscapes which were dominated by rods will now be used for mixed activities like markets or open streets for arts and celebrations. The walkable public spaces will make the city more immersive to the tourists and more ecologically sound for the inhabitants. It will also help in increasing the economy as now 60 percent of the roads will be dedicated to mixed-use activities.
Many cities like London and Paris, have also started restricting their car access by making the interior streets as a car-free zone. New York City has also restricted car access within Central Park. Many cities like Denmark, Bogota, Columbia have mandated the use of cycles by providing various architectural interventions and bike lanes for the same.
The walkability within public spaces is an urban mandate. If every city could achieve a way through which it can make its streets more pedestrian dominant, it can change the entire way on how the city interacts as a whole.

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Saili Sawantt
Saili Sawantthttps://lifeinaday2016.wordpress.com
Architect and Interior Designer by profession, Writing is what she treats as her passion. She has worked as an Architectural Writer, Editor, and Journalist for various design as well as digital portals like ParametricArchitecture, FOAID (Festival of Architecture & Interior Design), Rethinking the Future (RTF), La Polo International, etc. Formerly she has also worked with Godrej Properties Limited (GPL) Design Studio, Mumbai due to her keen interested in learning about Sustainability and Green buildings. Apart from this, she runs her blog 'The Reader's Express'.

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