Barcelona’s Grids: in Search of New Paradigms

The construction of modern Barcelona can be seen as a laboratory of urban projects and planning strategies. This process spanning two centuries features a series of innovative experiments that correspond to different scales and explain the complexity involved in constructing such a singular capital city.
It is worth mentioning that, in this process, many of the city’s developments were based on regular forms of urban organization, principally grid forms.
The clear contrast between two forms of urban grids stands out in particular.
The first corresponds to the large scale, with Cerdà’s project of 1859 “to Extend the city across the Plain”, which used a regular isotropic grid with city blocks of 113 metres, laid out according to the lines of the coast and the Collserola hill range. This great plan for the city engaged with the broader territory by means of avenues: Diagonal, Meridiana, Gran Via and Paral·lel. Its gradual implementation meant that it was able to accommodate the Great Exhibitions of 1888 and 1929, and the Olympic Games of 1992.

At the same time, a series of grid projects at a smaller scale were implemented beyond Cerdà’s scope, in neighbourhoods such as Gràcia, Sant Andreu and Poble Sec. This involved the juxtaposition of small developments around a square that acted as a focus of services, responding to local demand for urban expansion of the towns in the plain before they were annexed by Barcelona.

But this reading can go further if we take into account the definition of infrastructural networks or grids comprising the layouts of over- and underground railways, energy and recycling networks, and motorways, which have created nodes in the uniform system of the grid. We could, then, describe other forms of underground grids, or networks of infrastructures that organize—sometimes with problematic forms compared to regular urban fabrics—and give form to the metropolis.

The Studio hypothesis will be to verify the capacity for transformation, based on initial models seen as designs that allow constant reinterpretation according to programmatic needs and capable of offering multiple urban forms. At the same time, it sets out to discover emerging forms of networks that can enhance the morphological reading of this contrast in urban grids, producing an urban project that also manages the territorial scale with a view to achieving more lasting, sustainable projects and strategies.

Students in the Studio will be highly recommended to take the UPD-3472 seminar on Urban Grids to complement the theory of this form of city design and apply it to the case of Barcelona.

IRREGULAR SCHEDULE: The Studio will convene twice a week on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, from 2 to 6pm. Eight of 13 weeks of the Studio will be directed by the main instructor and the rest supervised by the TF, following the established method for the Studio. Professor Busquets will be present on the following weeks: January 27, February 10, February 17, March 3, March 10, March 31, April 7, and April 22. Trip to Barcelona – February 16 – 22