Spain > Barcelona > Eixample (Ensanche)
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Following meticulous research and analysis, Cerdá concluded that high mortality rates in Barcelona were directly related to increased population and building density, particularly in working class areas. In his proposal, he argued for the necessity of a homogeneous plan that would offer the same sanitary conditions for all social classes. Cerdá’s narrative, perhaps influenced by utopian social thinkers, evolved to a design formed by a grid of equal repeating elements. The homogeneous grid would avoid hierarchy in land property values and generate a more democratic plan. The only hierarchy proposed would be in street design, which Cerdá attributed to the necessity of creating an efficient transportation system.
The plan proposed a block dimension of 113.3m square (372ft) with chamfered corners at 45 degrees, and three typical block layouts. The blocks would have only 50% of their plot ratio constructed with perimeter coverage, the remaining left for central patios or gardens that would offer public open space as well as appropriate light and ventilation to the plots. A maximum height of 20m (65ft), or four stories, was also established and coincided with the typical street width of the plan.
During implementation, however, the plan suffered many transformations. The typical blocks initially with an open layout became closed, and the courtyards were built up rather than remaining as open space. Changing ordinances eventually allowed for buildings to grow in height and depth, considerably increasing the density of the plan. As Joan Busquets has wittingly posited, there are two entities in central Barcelona: Cerdá’s project with its innovative criteria, and the Eixample, a reality produced by the social and economic contradictions of its development. Nevertheless, the Eixample is still an emblematic part of Barcelona, boasting a dense resident population as well as a varied mix of uses."" References:
Official data from the Ajuntament de Barcelona (www.barcelona.es), except for District FAR which was calculated by the author based on the source above and mapping.
Eixample is the Catalan word for “expansion”. The expansion project is also known in Spanish as Ensanche.
Busquets, Joan. Barcelona :the urban evolution of a compact city. Rovereto : Nicolodi, [Cambridge, MA] : Harvard University Graduate School of Design, 2005. Pg 299.