The Compass

My Perfect City: Communities in Barcelona

Barcelona has always put strong communities as a key aim of its urban planning. What has it got right, and should other cities follow suit?

In the 19th century, Barcelona instigated the City Market system. Every neighbourhood had its own food market, where locals met and mingled, but some fell into disrepair, and new areas didn’t have them. A renewed interest in the past 20 years has seen new ones built and old ones invested in.

In another major push, pilot schemes to reclaim public space by permanently pedestrianising streets have shown some success. These so-called “superblocks” have become car-less zones, with cafes, restaurants and children’s playgrounds reclaiming the streets which were once choked with traffic. Plans are afoot to broaden the initiative across the city’s more central districts.

Fi Glover and panellists Dr Ellie Cosgrave, director of the UCL Urban Laboratory, and Professor Greg Clark, urbanist and global city adviser, test the credentials of the Barcelona “village city” model. Should it be added to the perfect city portfolio?

The team also considers Addis Ababa’s attempts to build brand new liveable condominiums.

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