Barcelona's Experiment with Superblocks


Barcelona's Experiment with Superblocks

Urban Land

Sitting in his office along Barcelona's redeveloped port, Salvador Rueda explains to a visitor the strategy for redesigning the center of the Spanish city. The famed L'Eixample, the district designed by Ildefons Cerdà in the 1850s, would be transformed into a network of so-called superblocks, says Rueda, the director of the Urban Ecology Agency of Barcelona, a city-backed consultancy. Cars would be virtually eliminated from within the superblocks, "liberating" 70 percent of the city's land for public use, he says.


Without demolishing buildings or undertaking massive redevelopment, superblocks - known as superilles in Catalan - will create pedestrian-centric neighborhoods while addressing the health, sustainability, and pollution problems facing Barcelona, Rueda says. The issues "must be interconnected", he says, looking to an assistant to help with the translation. "What is the best project to resolve the majority of the problems?" he asks. "In my opinion, it is the superilles". 


After years of debate, Barcelona is poised to turn the superblocks concept into a reality. The concept was adopted as a centerpiece of the city's mobility plan in 2015, and a test case was instituted in the neighborhood of Poblenou in September 2016. City planners hope to reconfigure five or six neighborhoods in the next year.


"Our entire mobility plan is based on superblocks", says Mercedes Vidal, the city's councilor for mobility. "It is the way everything works together".


Full article: Urban Land