Have you ever been to Barcelona?
It doesn’t matter if you’re a tourist or a professional architect you can easily discover that this city is extremely pedestrian and bike oriented. Moreover, it is a real life representation of modern urban planning trends and solutions that are tried to be implemented all over the world.
One of the major parts of Barcelona’s success is its grid planning system, which allows preserving city structure, even if some building elements change over time. Except this, there is a strong cooperation between the municipality, business and educational facilities, the result of which helps to create and develop the best practices in the city. Each year situation gets better: the development of public transportation with an increase of the parking cost in the city force people to choose bus and metro, instead of a car. Meanwhile, the bike and pedestrian infrastructure are becoming more developed as well, providing additional movement variations for people, who need to replace the car as their major transport. Creation of new pedestrian and bicycle lines, though, doesn’t affect car traffic and doesn’t make it worse – this is a merit of a wise municipality and its ability to implement best practices.
But this is not enough for city council, therefore they are going to implement next amazing and partly unbelievable step – create a system of superblocks that merge a number of regular Barcelona blocks into one system. Each unit will be approximately 400 by 400 meters (3 x 3 regular quarters).
The main idea behind is to “freeze” for cars streets inside these new connected areas and transform them into “citizens walk paths”. All transportation will be placed around these superblocks, while internal already existing roads will be used as public spaces. Except providing additional places for people, these measures also should reduce pollution and number of car accidents in the city. Nevertheless, residents and local business will have transportation access to these superblocks, while speed limit will be not more, than 10 km/h.
To balance reducing car use and provide more alternative opportunities for citizens several additional steps will be done: firstly, development of additional 300 km of bike lines and secondly, enhancement of bus network with a great aim of “reaching public transportation stop in less than 300 meters” with “average waiting time about 5 minutes”. Moreover, in 95% of cases, each point of Barcelona will be accessible with just one transfer due to the responsible and careful planning of new bus system.
Barcelona council representatives, who are in charge of this superblocks transformation stated they want to improve cohesion, coexisting and human exchange, while in their speeches they often refer to philosophy and urban concepts of Jane Jacobs . Merging regular city blocks into clusters creates a system, which is the same as many small towns. Everything that is important and relevant nowadays, in the time of city transformation and adaptation – water, business, residues, development, and construction, as well as social interaction and urban metabolism – all should be included and analyzed in this superblocks.
If all this works it will be a big game-changer in urbanism, and there is a great chance that other cities will apply some of these solutions. Thus, keep fingers crossed for Barcelona and let’s see what will happen! I don’t know about you, but Shovk Studio is really excited!