polis: a collective blog about cities worldwide

Cerdà and the Barcelona of the Future

by Melissa García Lamarca

Celebrating 150 years of the engineer Ildefons Cerdà’s characteristic design of l'Eixample, Barcelona’s urban expansion, the Contemporary Cultural Centre of Barcelona (CCCB) has an extensive and detailed exhibit running until the end of February 2010. It makes up just one of dozens of exhibitions, debates, urban tours and more underway since August 2009 until mid-2010 as part of the year of Cerdà, exploring the DNA of Barcelona’s urban form, organised by Barcelona’s City Council.

Approved in 1859, the concept and subsequent implementation of l’Eixample, the characteristic design pattern to expand the city from its compact historic centre, shifted Barcelona into the most significant urbanistic period in the city in the past two centuries. The layout uses a basic grid of streets and a territorial system of avenues, creating octagonal blocks with inner courtyards under which lay a complex transport and service network, creating in essence a structure that has unified Barcelona’s urban territory and development. The exhibition looks at the evolution of this urban transformation through the decades into a detailed examination of present-day reality, a place where 300,000 currently live and 260,000 work.

This extensive exhibit has over 200 plans, models, statistics, audiovisuals and installations that aim to give a multi-dimensional understanding of how l’Eixample functions, including a tour through similar urbanistic models around the world. If you can’t make it to Barcelona to see the exhibit, it is definitely worthwhile to check out the on-line photo exhibit or the virtual tour.

Credits: Images from Melissa García Lamarca.