The diagonals and the Gean Via converge, plans

The demolition of the city walls provided an opportunity torelease throngs of city dwellers and urban activities from their crampedquarters. Cerda plan studied the idea of an egalitarian society, which was tobe expressed in the spatial organisation of the city. His city would exhibit aneven distribution of rich and poor, facilities and industry, parks and markets.

The ingenuous character of Cerda’s plan is found in his ability to combinemathematical, orthogonal, organizational pattern with important existinggeographical and topographic constants, and to make all elements agree, he usedthe cities east west orientation, which followed the original course taken byBarcelona’s many streams, as a basis for the orientation of his grid pattern,this allowed for the fairly easy incorporation of important existing routesinto seemingly quite rigid by neutral grid.ILdefonso Cerda addresses a through reshaping of barcelona,with the scale and dimension expressed by his forceful city concept. At thesame time, he addressed for the first time a modern set of urban planninginstruments, which considered an analytical approach to reality and the city,not in a determinist, unambuguous way, in the design of a new city. There is nodoubt that the dynamic of new ideas informing Barcelona’s most innovativecultural trands in the first half of the 19th century involvedgreater critical commitment in the part of artist to the changing socialcontext with a view to preparing a better future for the population.

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The neutral grid of the design was subdivided into districtsof about 5 square kilometres each, provided with their facilities. In thisplan, the old city was simply one more district and thus lost its significanceas Barcelona’s city center. More important in Cerda’s plan was the view of thesea provided by virtually every east-west street in the city’s orthogonalstreet network.

 Two predominantdiagonals that transacted the grid formed elements, which together with an extrabroad boulevard (passeig de Gracia) and an equally broad north-south boulevard(Gran Via), lent greater detail to the design of the city as a whole. At the pointwhere the two diagonals and the Gean Via converge, plans were made to build thecity’s new administrative center.  His proposal for Barcelona were underlain by the force of a well-establishedhierarchy of streets, based on two principles that still apply today: thespaces within a street section devoted to ”steam machines”, now motorised vehicles,and to pedestrians are equivalent, both in regular 20-metre wide streets andmore narrow ones.

The second principle was that all the junctions were builtwith 20-metre chamfered corners to ease facility of crossing and provide aguideline for building alignment around the edges of the street block.  The basic layout consisted of system of street blockssituated between axes of 113.3 metres with 20 metre wide streets.

Theirguidelines corresponded to the dominant lines of the plain and were oriented at45 from the north, repeating the Roman layout. In terms of its extension, today’s central Eixample is onlyhalf of what Cerda actually designed; nonetheless, the amount of building andactivity are perhaps grater. We might even controversially posit the idea thatthere are two entities in central Barcelona: Cerda project with its innovativecriteria and the Eixample, a reality produced by the social and economiccontradictions of its development. This approach enables a better understandingof the strength and the interest of the two entities. Below is an outline ofwhat the Eixample is today.

It covers 880 hectares approximately 550 streetblocks, and in the order of 125 kilometres of street; roughly speaking it has aresident population of 350,000 inhabitants and 300.000 jobs. Another indicatorof use and activity, as well as structure, is traffic: approximately 600,000cars per day circulate around the area. And over the last twenty years, thenumber of public parking places in the Eixample has grown from 20,000 to50,000.   The implementation of Cerda’s plan differed from hisexpectation. His design assumed a precisely planned realization phase, withstrict municipal supervision of the density of housing blocks and of thedensity of housing blocks and of the social composition of those living in eachblock.

He had established building regulations that allowed inner courtyardsnext to housing bocks to be organized as communal and social areas which wouldform a transition between the public nature of the street and the privatenature of the home: areas directly adjacent to the real public space of thestreet network but chiefly intended as outdoor space for residents of theindividual blocks.  Cerda’s urban plan was based on the conviction that urban planningshould focus on four things: the city plan, which should indicate a network ofpublic areas and the pattern of building sites to be allocated; the design ofopen space; the establishment of regulations; and the establishment ofregulations for social open space        The main transformations in the Eixample have taken placewith the intensification or private construction on the block in accordancewith changes in construction ordinances. There are four main periods,coinciding with different legislation. Firstly, plot ordinances (1860-1890)allowed the construction of 50 per cent of each plot to a height of 20 meters.Secondly, Block ordinances (1891-1941) allowed occupation of the block to alevel of 73.6 per cent, taking building depth to 28 metres. The courtyard wasthen occupied to a height of 4.

4 m. Thirdly, Congestion ordinances (1942-1976)saw the height rise to 24.4 meters. The courtyard came to be occupied to aheight of 5.5 metres, with the possibility of a ziggurat-style constructionabove this limit. Finally, the ordinances of the General Metropolitan plan(1976) reduced occupation slightly and the regulatory heights were brought backto 20.75 meters for the overall construction and 4.

5 meters in the courtyard.