Articles in ‘Urbanism’

Pedestrian Barcelona

May 19th, 2010

bad roads: La Rambla from the Placa de Catalunya

The Guardian has nominated Les Rambles as one of five streets in the world that should be pedestrianised for the greater good, though I’m sure cutting off the only thoroughfare through this part of the centre would be at all sensible.

With only two narrow lanes of traffic astride a tree-lined pedestrian walkway, Barcelona’s Las Ramblas is often cited as a success in urban planning. The reality, however, is somewhat different. Hemmed in by the layout, when the shoppers, gadabouts and meanderers are out in force, the pressure pushes them back out: straight into the roads. At such moments, no number of trees or funky shops can conceal the overwhelming impression that the boulevard which cuts through the heart of the city centre is nothing more than a 1.2km-long traffic island.

Forgotten Barcelona

March 16th, 2010
The excellent documentary Barraques pays tribute to the people who lived in the numerous shanty villages across the city for decades. One of the largest settlements spread across the hills of Carmel. Ignored by the authorities, the residents had trek every day down the hill to fetch water. Some shacks still remain, but most have either been bulldozed or upgraded into houses. High up on the Turó de La Rovira, people built homes around the gun emplacements from the Civil War. Today all that remains are a few tiles, though a number of renovated shacks still exist on the hill.
Watch this  short extract from the documentary as two sisters return to the childhood home, now a place of glass, graffiti and rubble.
See also

The population density of Barcelona

February 10th, 2010

The metropolitan area of Barcelona has one of the highest population densities in the world, particularly if one takes out Collserola park on its northern fringe. The city of Barcelona itself has a density of 5,764/km², while the Eixample District has a remarkable density of 35.138/km². L’Hospitalet de Llobregat, part of Barcelona metropolitan area, but a town (ciudad) in its own right, has a density of 20,230 /km2. Source

Within Barcelona particularly neighbourhoods are:

1 Sagrada Familia
area 1.04km²
Population 53.000

2 Gracia
area 2.05 km²
population 84.000

3 Raval
area 1.08km²
population 47.000

Within L’Hospitalet de Llobregat, the highest density in Europe is the la Florida district with a density of 77,000/km², which has fallen from a frightening 150,000/km² 30 years ago. Source: http://www.l-h.cat/anuarisEstadistics_2.aspx?id=2 Statistical yearbook of the city, Click on Anuario 2007

The skyscraper forum has some fascinating discussion on what constitutes an urban area or a city. Above pic taken from there by Gabi.

The whole municipality of L’Hospitalet is conurbated with the city, served by tube lines, insanely dense, etc. It’s just another district of Barcelona, really. Of course, this might mean it’d be a better idea to consider L’H as a single neighbourhood, but first of all it isn’t: the different neighbourhoods were built at different times, with different planning criteria (or in most cases absence thereof, but that’s another story), and they have different sociological traits, different areas of influence, etc. You also have to keep in mind that there are TWO railway tracks cutting through the city and pretty much acting as a barrier you can’t get through. So at least you’d have to separate Samontà (Northern Hospitalet) from Marina (Southern Hospitalet). Actually, it’d be more like Old Hospitalet (Centre and Sta. Eulàlia), Northern Hospitalet (La Florida, Can Serra, Pubilla Cases, Collblanc, Torrassa, etc.) and Marina (Bellvitge and Gornal, basically. The area around Plaça Europa has become quite distinct, although future operations on Gran Via Ave. will prolly integrate Gornal into Districte Econòmic somewhat.) And it’d be a wise idea to separate Collblanc and Torrassa as well, as they have a special relationship with Les Corts and Sants in Barcelona. They also have some old town parts, which is kind of weird in L’Hospitalet (most of L’Hospitalet was built after 1960 and populated with inmigrants, so the presence of “old town” parts is sociologically and urbanistically relevant: the fact that in Collblanc and Torrassa they are way smaller than in Centre or Sta. Eulàlia, and the fact that their original population is fleeing to Martorell or Barcelona is also relevant of course.)

Shanty town in 1960s Barcelona

April 15th, 2009

This remarkable image is of the shanty town of El Carmel in the 1960s on what was then the outskirts of Barcelona. A number of these shacks have survived and been renovated into sturdier houses, sandwiched between high-rise blocks. Most of the El Carmel was developed in the 1960s and 1970s when immigrant workers flocked to the city and were forced to build housing for themselves. The area is today probably the most urbanistaically chaotic neighbourhood in the city.

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