BARCELONA Innovative urban planning

Ranked among the top 10 Smart Cities worldwide and acclaimed as a leader of “Global City Standards”, Barcelona is also applauded for its innovative urban planning.


The city provides an ideal model of urban management and has interesting case studies of inner city renewal, brownfield site development, peripheral reforms and planning for a sustainable city.
The socio-economic patterns clearly reflect the processes associated with urban growth and change, and models of urban processes and structure can be easily applied.
The second largest city in Spain with a population of 1.6 million (in 2014), Barcelona spans across a hundred sq km and has a density of 14.9 people / sq km. More than 10 million sq m floor space is utilised for economic activities, while the beaches expand over a wide 4.5 km area.

The guiding principles of Barcelona’s Urban Planning include:
• Focusing – creation of public amenities in dilapidated neighbourhoods
• Orienting city – back to Mediterranean Sea by creating access and usable beaches
• Providing adequate public facilities to every neighbourhood
• Reuse of brownfields through sustainable planning
• Restricting urban sprawl – focusing on redevelopment instead of new development
• Reclaiming famous inner courtyards (which act as open spaces) within each block

The Eixample is widely considered as one of the best designed city areas in the world and a case study for leading architects and urban planners. With its well-integrated rail transit, it serves as a model of urban design, land use, transportation planning, and pedestrian-scaled streets working in synergy to produce accessibility.
Eixample is a district of Barcelona that came up in 19th century and lies between the old city and surrounding small towns. Built as an extension (hence the name “Eixample”), the 7.5 sq km district is characterised by a long straight street with a strict grid pattern crossed by wide avenues. It has octagonal city blocks that are rectangular with the corners cut off, which are distinctive for Barcelona.
This was the visionary, pioneering design by Spanish urban planner Ildefons Cerdà, who considered traffic and transport along with sunlight and ventilation in coming up with his characteristic octagonal blocks.

Salvador Rueda, director, Barcelona Urban Ecology Agency, and his team worked on the possibility of a new more efficient bus network and designed an orthogonal network of bus routes that is being implemented.


The city faced serious problems of urban decay in both inner and peripheral areas, but the 1992 Olympics acted as a major catalyst of modern transformation. The district planners used the Games as a mechanism to acquire enough funding to complete an amount of reconstruction that would take any city decades to accomplish.
Olympic facilities were built on neglected urban areas with the Olympic Village being developed on brownfields close to the coast. Six artificial beaches were created to handle the tourists that would be in the city for the Games.
Planner Oriol Bohigas used the Games as a springboard to build more than 200 parks, plazas, schools, and other public facilities in Barcelona. Most of these amenities were planned in derelict areas where crime rates were estimated to be high.

1860- Walls surrounding Barcelona demolished to make way for Ildefons Cerdá’s Plan for Urban Renewal
1975- End of Francis Franco’s regime and the beginning of democracy
1976 – General Metropolitan Plan implemented
1979 – First democratic municipal elections were celebrated
1980’s – City is transformed in preparation for the 1992 Olympics
1980 – Architect Oriol Bohigas arrived in the city council
1983 – The inauguration of public spaces started
1982-92 – More than 490 acres of park had been developed (while 40 years of Franco produced only 172 acres)


The new system, when completed, will reduce the numbers of routes from 94 to 28, waiting time to

Superblock is the key to reclaim public space that people lost over the last century.

According to Rueda, a Superblock is defined by a grid of 9 blocks where the roads outside are dedicated for main mobility whereas the roads within are for local transit only.
The one-way system inside the Superblock makes it impossible to cut through to the other side. That gives neighbours access to their garages and parking spaces but keeps the Superblock clear of through traffic.


Phase I: Maximum speed on roads within Superblock is Phase 2: It will transform city life and the way people use public spaces. Curb side parking within Superblocks will disappear (by building off-street garages), and maximum speed will be 10 km/h, allowing people to use the streets for games, sport and cultural activities, such as outdoor cinema.
Post Implementation of Phase I & Phase II: Barcelona will have cut 355 km of roads dedicated to motorised traffic (a 61% reduction). Pedestrians will enjoy 94% of the space on inner streets of Superblocks and pollution will be reduced dramatically. 94% of the population will not be exposed to dangerous levels of particulate matter and 73.5% will not experience noise levels over 65 dB. Rueda and his team estimate that the volume of traffic, after implementing phase two, will be reduced by 21%.

Barcelona’s Urban Mobility Plan: Towards A More Sustainable City ModelThe Urban Mobility Plan of Barcelona 2013-2018 attempts to lay down guidelines in matters of mobility in the coming years, with a clear focus on sustainability. The principal objective is to achieve implementation of Superblocks with a level of traffic network saturation similar to the present.
Alternative transportation will be better implemented (new orthogonal bus and bicycle networks, carpool and pedestrian lanes, etc.), and restrictive measures will be placed on private vehicles, such as increase in the price of metered parking.

The Plan has established 4 main lines of work: Safety by decreasing accidents, sustainability by reducing the use of private motorised vehicles, equity by guaranteeing access to mobility for all people and efficiency by reducing the economic/congestion costs of the transport system. The wide avenues and boulevards of Cerda’s Plan give ample room for multi-modal infrastructure.

Walking has long been a priority – La Rambla, one of the best people streets in the world. Cerda’s Eixample (Expansion) plan made walking enjoyable almost everywhere – 50 percent of all street space is dedicated to walking space, with the other 50 percent for all other forms of ‘traffic.
Barcelona has favourable conditions for pedestrian mobility. Moreover, some municipal activities are currently promoting this mode of mobility such as the continuously improving accessibility in pedestrian areas.

‘Bicing,’ the public urban bike sharing system inaugurated by the City Council in 2007, counts currently 1.2 lakh users who generate 14 million trips/year, representing 36% of total bike trips, and plays a key role in promoting bicycle mobility with Barcelona offering a total 181 km of bike lanes. Urban biking is growing fast in Barcelona, spurred on by the locals-only bike share system, and very simple bike-lane approaches (some separated, some not) to improve bike safety. When the city has incorporated separated bike-lanes, it’s taken from the 50 percent that’s for the rest of traffic, not from the walking half.

Barcelona is a huge city, but the modern and extensive public transport system allows you to get anywhere within the city in no time. Metro, buses and trams run very frequently until late at night. Apart from that, there are several cable cars, funiculars, railways, sightseeing buses, taxis, local trains, night buses and other transport systems.
The Barcelona metro has eight lines (five conventional lines and three automated lines) and incorporates the Montjuïc funicular. Altogether, there are 141 stations and over 134 trains operating in the rush hour. With a fleet of over a thousand vehicles, all of which are wheelchair adapted, and more than 100 lines, the bus network covers over 900 km between Barcelona and the ten cities in the metropolitan area.
Council is carrying out several improvements to encourage the use of public transport. One of these projects is the implementation of the new orthogonal bus network of the city, which will improve current service efficiency by increasing the buses commercial speed.

Private vehicle mobility represents 18% of internal trips, but up to 42% of connection trips. That means traffic reduction in Barcelona involves discouraging private vehicle mobility between the surrounding municipalities and the city of Barcelona. This tendency shows that now is the time to take restricting actions towards private vehicles and to promote more sustainable transport modes.
Barcelona is one of those cities where you have many choices in how to get around, and the urban form facilitates those choices. Because of the densities and mix-of-use, walking, biking and transit are always viable options. The “power of nearness” with everything compact and close, facilitates a multi-modal city.

22 @ Barcelona: the innovation district


The Special Infrastructure Plan aims at the implementation of modern service infrastructure in the technological district of Poblenou 22@. Envisaged services are Energy, Telecommunications (optic fiber), District heating and pneumatic refuse as well as Waste collection systems. These new networks give priority to energy efficiency and responsible management of natural resources.
1. Underground galleries-easy access to service network
When the 22@Barcelona Plan was approved, the infrastructure network in the Poblenou industrial area was insufficient. A New Special Infrastructure Plan for urban improvements on 37 km of streets in the 22@Barcelona district with highly competitive utility infrastructure was created. A new model of urbanisation and underground infrastructures comprised a modern network of energy, telecommunications, district heating and pneumatic waste collection systems. The core network distributes all these services throughout the district. From there, service galleries cross the core network taking the services to a technical room in each block from where services are distributed to the different buildings in the block.
2. Automated waste collection system – a clean and efficient waste collection
The pneumatic and selective waste collection system minimises noise pollution from the traditional waste collection methods and improves quality of urban spaces as waste containers disappear from the streets. In the 22@Barcelona district, the waste collection system has been operational since 2006. The system consists of a network of fixed collection points that are strategically distributed. The drop-off points collect the three basic waste fractions (organic waste, inorganic waste and paper) and are connected via a vacuum network through the pipes installed under the streets and transported to the collection plant, where a hydraulic press compacts the waste to reduce its volume (resulting in less traffic and noise).

3. Integral waste management plant- waste to energy treatment plant
This integral installation comprises a Mechanical and Biological Treatment plant (also called ecoparc) followed by a Waste to Energy plant, with a global capacity of 400,000 tonnes per year. The installation receives the municipal waste fraction not selected in origin. Firstly, it is treated in the mechanical and biological treatment plant and the main goal in this phase is separating recoverable materials such as paper, glass, different plastics, ferrous metals and organic matter. The rest of this first treatment goes automatically to the energy recovery plant, where this municipal waste is burned in three furnaces with a capacity of 15 tonnes per hour. This process generates electrical energy and steam to the cooling and heating network.

Barcelona being a compact high-density city has enabled it to have integration with transportation network. Having less paved built-up areas has allowed Barcelona to preserve green spaces. Less sprawling development reduces the cost of providing and extending urban infrastructure investments; it also makes transportation operation and maintenance, water and sanitation, and energy distribution systems less expensive.
Barcelona’s energy use is considerably lower than its comparative similar sized cities. Since vehicle kilometres travelled per capita are much lower in Barcelona, far less fuel is consumed in the transport sector and CO2 emissions are considerably lower. More compact form can help reduce more emissions.
Additional benefits of compact urban form may include economic productivity gains from urban agglomeration and increased opportunities to instil a sense of community through increased social interactions. A hierarchically structured urban planning system is found in this city of Barcelona, Spain and offers a learning experience for budding urban planners, designers, architects and burgeoning cities in the world.