Barcelona's Super Blocks project approaches urban development in a transversal way that simultaneously promotes energetic self-sufficiency, sustainable mobility, public space revitalisation, biodiversity and urban green areas, as well as social cohesion and citizen engagement with the goal of reducing the city’s ecological footprint and improving citizens’ quality of life.
Super Blocks are urban units – larger than a block but smaller than a neighbourhood – with streets favourable to slow, pedestrian-friendly transit. These blocks represent a great opportunity to rethink and regenerate Barcelona by implementing initiatives that will help the city to advance towards all goals contained in the Citizen Commitment to Sustainability.
What is it?
Super Blocks are areas of urban organisation that pursue a set of transformational strategies towards a new urban model, in which the restructuring of mobility and public space represents the first step. The aim of this project is to promote “human speed” (i.e. pedestrian friendly) neighbourhoods perfectly integrated into the city, a new concept laid out in the city’s Urban Mobility Plan, the Citizen Commitment to Sustainability 2012-2022, and the Green Infrastructure and Biodiversity Plan.
This project is also developing the vision of the city’s Urban Habitat Department, with its transversal approach to urban development, encompassing Urban Planning, Environment, Housing, Infrastructures, and Information and Communication Technologies. Most importantly, Super Blocks aim to positively affect the lives of Barcelona’s citizens.
The strategic objectives of the Super Blocks implementation proposal are:
• Achieving a more sustainable mobility
• Revitalising public space
• Promoting biodiversity and urban green areas
• Promoting social cohesion
• Promoting self-sufficiency in the use of resources
• Integrating the governance processes
How does it work?
Super Blocks follow a new model of mobility that restructures the typical urban road network, without having to make major changes to the urban planning strategy. The blocks are made up of a grid of basic roads forming a polygon of about 400x400 meters, with both interior and exterior components.
The interior, intervía, is closed to motorised vehicles and above ground parking, giving preference to pedestrians in the public space. These inner roads can also be used by residential traffic, emergency vehicles, and loading/unloading vehicles under special circumstances. The perimeter, or exterior, of a Super Block is where motorised traffic circulates. This requires the modification of the basic road network and the establishment of differentiated routes for each mode of transport, with the aim of providing solutions to main problems of urban mobility in order to improve both, the availability and quality of the public space for pedestrian traffic.
Other specific measures that are taken on this ground are: promoting safe and continuous bike routes, integrating the new bus and bike networks according to the Urban Mobility Plan, and reducing noise levels.
The way in which the project is being implemented – with input of neighbours, entities and the city council – is enhancing social cohesion and increasing economic activity. Participation is open to anyone who is interested, through meetings and activities at different levels:
- Neighbourhood/city level: Local entities and neighbours as well as city organisations – with expertise in various sectors – add value to the project.
- Participating in the proposal definition/taking action: contributing to the Super Blocks’ vision as well as undertaking specific actions.
Citizens from the Les Corts neighbourhood at a Super Blocks work session. Photo courtesy of City of Barcelona.
On top of improving urban mobility and quality of public space, the project aims to reduce the environmental impact of motor vehicles and hence reduce greenhouse gas emissions, reduce energy consumption by improving public lighting, produce solar energy and reduce water demand, as well as expand green areas and zones for slow transit streets with pedestrian priority.
Over the next four years, Barcelona City Council would like to promote and develop the Super Blocks project in five pilot zones:
- Poblenou, an area that began a revitalisation process some years ago.
- Glòries Square, where their model for mobility and use of public space will be especially emblematic for the city.
- Antiga i Nova Esquerra de l’Eixample, with green areas and civic facilities that have a lot of potential for developing initiatives but is also especially challenging due to its density.
- Sants, Hostafrancs neighbourhood’s especially dynamic economic activity, based on small and medium local enterprises, makes it a perfect location for social and commercial regeneration.
- La Maternitat i Sant Ramon, where proposals are focused on increasing energy self-sufficiency in the long run and remodelling public spaces in the short run. Due to the characteristics of this neighbourhood, social inclusion programs are the key element.
The project is being actively developed, but is still in its initial stages due to its participative and inclusive nature. However, the organisation of workshops is already having productive outcomes and helping to shape the process from the very beginning in the most inclusive possible way.
Rosa López Olmos