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Photo courtesy of: Fons Cerdà Urbs
The designer of the Eixample
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Photo by Josep Brangul
Living conditionsWhen working on his design for the new neighbourhood of Barcelona, Cerdà was influenced by living conditions of the average family, focusing on key needs such as having sunlight, natural lighting and ventilation in homes, and the need for greenery in people's surroundings. The engineer also focused on sanitation and the need for effective waste disposal including good sewerage
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Photo by Josep Gaspar
Urban planningCerdà's design for the Eixample (which is the Catalan word for expansion) included the use of quadrangular blocks of a regular size, with an interior open space for gardens and parks
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Photo courtesy of: Oficina Any Cerdà
DemolitionIn the 1850s, Barcelona was able to expand both physically, with the long-awaited demolition of the city's historic walls, and psychologically, with economic expansion and the cultural awakening of the Catalan 'Renaixença' (rebirth)
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Catalan engineer, Cerdà had surveyed and drawn the city's first accurate plans in 1855
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Photo by Josep Domínguez
DemolitionCerdà's plan was one of the first examples of urban planning and was influenced by social thinkers of the time. The Eixample was designed using an extensive grid-iron pattern with the development spreading to connect Barcelona to the outlying towns
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Photo courtesy of: Fons Cerdà Urbs
Ildefons CerdàAlthough Cerdà's Eixample is now one of the most popular neighbourhoods in Barcelona, when alive, he struggled to find acceptance amongst the local elite and died in 1879 in financial ruin and obscurity
There was the year of Gaudí in 2002, the year of Dalí in 2004, the year of Picasso in 2006 and now it’s the year of Cerdà. While Ildefons Cerdà may not be a name familiar to many, his visionary masterpiece, the Eixample district, revolutionised the discipline of city planning and transformed the daily life of Barcelona’s residents.
At the onset of the industrial revolution at the beginning of the 19th century, Barcelona suffered from severe overcrowding, unsanitary conditions, a poor transportation network and heavy pollution—there was simply no room for growth and development. After many years of this situation, a royal order in 1858 finally ‘freed’ the city, allowing for the demolition of its medieval walls and giving it permission to develop the surrounding area (over twice the size of Ciutat Vella). The city government awarded the design of the extension (eixample) to the architect Antoni Rovira i Trias, but the central government in Madrid imposed Cerdà’s plan on the populace. Cerdà’s innovative design envisioned a rationalised open city, with a grid of wide streets whose principal element were blocks of dwellings with internal landscaped courtyards and street corners cut on a 45-degree angle to facilitate traffic. Although Cerdà based his design on giving the city a framework and infrastructure for future orderly growth, his plan was never embraced by the contemporary Catalan elite, and he passed away in financial ruin and obscurity in 1879.
Now, 150 years after his plan was approved, Barcelona is celebrating Cerdà’s engineering talent and visionary thinking with a programme of exhibitions, urban itineraries and conferences on Cerdà and his transformative design. The first major exhibition, ‘Cerdà and the Barcelona Diputation’, provides the biographical and historical context for understanding Cerdà’s technocratic approach towards planning. The ‘Reality vs. Project’ show opening later this month takes a contemporary look at the plan, reinterpreting it to see how it is still transforming the present-day form of the city. Hence, the Cerdà Year offers more than just a tribute to an unsung city hero, but also the opportunity to reflect on and debate the Barcelona of the future.
Until June 2010