The Spanish city of Barcelona joined a handful of early movers in the field of sustainable urban development when it set forth to refashion the formerly industrial Poblenou district into a sustainable, vibrant business and residential community. With the 22@Barcelona program, the city established a series of goals which would guide the districts transformation into a thriving model of urban life in the future, increasing efficiency in city management and public services, improving environmental sustainability, and creating a wealth of new opportunities for residents and businesses. Initiated in the early days of what would evolve into today’s smart city era, the 22@Barcelona has come to be seen as one of the first to qualify for classification as a smart city. With its integration of innovative new technologies in construction, energy infrastructure, lighting, and mobility and its close-knit connection to information technologies, the district signaled a new direction for Barcelona’s city government and its urban planners.

This early work set the table for Barcelona’s latest phase of innovative urban development, the recently plan to renew the cities’ famous, late 19th century Eixample district. In line with the city’s target to reduce traffic by 21%, set forth in its mobility plan, which will free up 60% of the city’s streets currently reserved for traffic and utilize them as “citizen spaces”. The Eixample district will house the first realization a model developed by the city’s planners called Superilles, or superblocks. These superblocks are intended to function as mini-neighborhoods which close our traffic and create new urban spaces which restore the philosophy that guided engineer Ildefons Cerdà’s original concept for the neighborhood. This new plan would build on the original intention of retaining greenspaces within each block through a series of gradual inventions which would refashion the district by utilizing existing infrastructure rather than through whole sale renewal. This development will see the formation of new, designated superblocks which, while smaller than traditional neighborhoods, combine nine existing city blocks in unified areas which restrict all automotive traffic, apart from residential and local business traffic.

In its push towards reduced car traffic, Barcelona will also add 300km of new cycling lanes, nearly three times the existing network, as well as a new bus network which operates solely on main thoroughfares. With these measures, the city aims to support the development of an urban population no longer reliant on private vehicles and restore balance to the urban environment

Read more about the history of the superblock idea and Barcelona’s various efforts to reduce urban traffic Eixample district plan.

Read more about the city’s mobility plan. 

Read more about Barcelona’s history of smart city development.

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Reframing City Districts (ReCiDi)

A research project conducted by the Universities of Turku and Tampere which aims to form a new conceptual framework which will help shape the collective identity and common vision necessary to realize the future low-carbon and sustainability targets.

Systemic Architectures for Sustainable Urban Innovation (SASUI)

An action learning and research project conducted by Aalto University and the University of Tampere which aimed to form a better understanding of the architectural requirements for successful innovation projects.