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Cerda’s Plan for the Extension of Barcelona: The Spatial Analysis

This paper presents a spatial analysis of Cerda’s Plan for the Extension of Barcelona and the diagrams of Garden City. Divided into three parts, the first part compares the time and location of the two methods of urban city planning. The second section analyses the feature and idea of the urban city planning methods while the final part discusses their effects and meanings.

Time and Location

Cerda’s Plan for the Extension of Barcelona

Ildefons Cerda was a civil engineer and designed the earliest plan for Barcelona’s extension in 1859. The approval of Cerda’s plan was delayed due to controversial issues raised by different stakeholders. The influential groups in Spanish at that time were engineers, architects and working unions. Each group criticised Cerda’s original plan and recommended amendments. The figure below an illustration of the original plan submitted.

Original Plot of Barcelona's Extension
Figure 1: Original Plot of Barcelona’s Extension

Although the Ministry of Development had initial control over the project, the city council claimed authority over the area and proposed a public competition for the best plan. However, the Ministry of Development endorsed the improved edition of the plan (see Figure 2) and publicised a proposal to implement the extension, after an economic strategy was submitted. The Catalan facet of the Moderate Party responded to the decision negatively because they considered it a centralist partisan obligation over the local government. To settle the controversy, the ministry permitted the city council to compare some selected plans with the one endorsed. Architect Antoni Rovira’s (see Figure 2) was eventually endorsed and negotiations begun. This endorsement was eventually confirmed by the Royal Decree of May 1860 however all constructions were to conform to Cerda’s original proposal’s gradients and orientations (Choay 1997). Therefore, Cerda’s plan remains the basis for Barcelona’s urban extension.

Cerda's Extension Plan Approved in 1859
Figure 2: Cerda’s Extension Plan Approved in 1859
Rovira's extension plan, 1859
Figure 3: Rovira’s extension plan, 1859

Garden City Movement

In 1898, Ebenezer Howard introduced an approach to urban architecture referred to as “the garden city movement”. Howard started “the garden city movement” in the UK and the cities comprised separate complete city units surrounded by vegetation. Three variables influenced Howard’s invention of the garden city movement. Howard recognised the urban problems of poverty, congestion, unemployment, crime, and high death rate characteristic to industrialised cities of the nineteenth century. As a solution, he proposed the distribution of the inhabitants from the congested London to the emerging industrial metropolises northward the garden municipalities. Howard recommended an approach to accomplishing these solutions including nationalisation of pastoral land for the creation of new societies, starting with an archetypal in the reclaimed area (Panerai et al. 2004). The objective of the garden city movement was to redistribute the population and cities by enforcing strategic decisions, which included making the purchase of lands in the garden metropolises more affordable to potential residents (Howard 1902). If the proposed garden cities are implemented, they will have positive effects on the physical, social and economic aspects of the congested city because it eliminates factors of social decay such as unemployment, crime, death-rate, and housing.

Feature and Idea

Both methods of urban city planning are significant and contribute to the development and improvement of new and potential cities. This section of the paper analyses and compares the concepts and characteristics of the two cities. Two subsections, each representing one of the urban planning methods, are offered in this section. Illustrations are used to analyse the methods’ concepts and characteristics.

Idea and Features of the Extension of Barcelona

Controversy loomed after the selection of one of the proposed extensions. Controversial issues arose and were utilised by different groups in Barcelona to increase their functions in the execution process and influence Barcelona’s reshaping. These stakeholders strategically proposed extensions that would promote the interest of their respective groups (Capell 1992). When professionals were invited to submit proposals for improving Cedar’s extension to Barcelona, three frames of submission were made. Each frame applied varying ideologies and features. Notwithstanding the specific plan that was finally selected for the extension of Barcelona, each model created ideologies and features of Cedar’s extension. Social organizations used Cedar’s extension of Barcelona to increase their popularity, engage in old conflicts, or to produce potential openings in very varying and frequently discordant methods. Thus, various problems were recognised, various resolutions were developed, and various extension plans were created (Capell 1992). Thus, two broad technological perspectives (Bijker 1995) were developed and two competing interpretations of the extensions were created. This section refers to these two frames as the “engineers’ frame” and the “architects’ frame” (Bijker & Aibar 1997, p. 13). The engineering frame created an infinite and consistent extension, perceived as Barcelona’s new frame, while the architects’ frame enabled a finite and categorised extension, which was perceived as an addendum to the previous city.

The engineers’ frame can be recreated by considering Cerda’s plan as a model project (Bijker & Aibar 1997). A review of the characteristics of Cedar’s plan can be compared to works by a heterogeneous engineer. While Cedar was sketching the outline of his plan or developing the business proposal and, he sought the endorsement of senior government and private officials (Capell 1992). He also collected data to prepare one of the most comprehensive nineteenth century reports on living standards and to sketch a thorough topographic map of Barcelona (Bijker & Aibar 1997). Cerda’s plan was a reaction to the findings of his earlier social scientific study.

Hygiene was an important feature in Cerda’s project. He considered the hygienist concepts created during his era and tried to create a cause-effect analysis between particular characteristics of urban form and Barcelona’s mortality rate. For example, the large breadth of the streets in his proposal, supported by hygienic opinions, and the dimension of the city block was selected to improve the living conditions, presented as square meters per individual.

Cerda considered trains to be important for city transportation (Capell 1992) and imagined a future where trains will serve as the major method of transportation. This perspective influenced the shaping of the corners of the each block. In the plan, each corner was chamfered to enable smooth manoeuvring of the trains. Transportation and traffic decongestion were the two major features of Cerda’s plan, which highlighted the industrialists’ need for the extension (Bijker & Aibar 1997). An integrated and decongested transportation system will ease the movement of resources and products through inroads, avoiding the disadvantages of the constricted layout so typical of old towns. Apart from wide regular streets and chamfers, the plan featured large avenues (fifty to eight meters wide) to enable interaction between city’s ports and its major geographical entrances. Each street provided separate lanes each for pedestrians and cars. The engineers’ frame was therefore narrowly connected to the capitalist ideology of infinite economic development, which was the earliest connection between city growth and economic development (Porta et al. 2012). Ceder’s proposed extension perceived the city as a workshop wherein production was to be efficient. The Spanish government experienced a revolution that made science and technology the basis of administrative policies (Bijker & Aibar 1997). Engineers and hygienists were significant members of the class of workers that accomplished this objective.

The architects’ frame did not consider traffic, transportation, or hygiene to be important issues. What dominated the architects’ suggestions for the extension was an immense concern, which dominated the proposed design of the town and superseded practical concerns. Architects focused on methods of city regulation, such as maintaining instability between the middle and periphery by classifying social variations into a ranked outline (Porta et al. 2012). The unequivocal intention to minimise expropriation and to sustain personal assets was also influential. As a result, the changes proposed by architects were narrower streets and made limited improvements of the old towns.

Barcelona’s working class was globally recognised for their fruitful proletarian group and aggressive spirit (Bijker & Aibar 1997). Furthermore, communal revolts and urban planning problems may have been more connected in Barcelona than in other European cities. Even though the opinion of the working class was rarely considered during the extension debate, its technical frame may be reconstructed from the procedures and the accounts offered by its social rivals (Capell 1992). Thus, the working frame perceived the extension as a direct effort to create an elite suburban area for high society and a straight conformist attack on Barcelona’s grassroots democratic system. Specifically, the restructuring of Barcelona’s old city was perceived as such an outbreak because, as explained by the Cerda proposal, some big opportunities would come from the increasing the extension.

The working class’ frame comprised a rebellious town-planning standpoint since it became particularly apparent during strikes and riots and may be interpreted under three strategies. Principally, distribution of streets – within and outside the grassroots regions – was proposed against the ranked class system of society. Second, aims of some structures – for example, churches, hospitals, and dispensaries – were a rather direct attack on out-dated organizations of social regulation and a counterpoint to the immense issues in the architects’ frame. Blockades were the unequivocal response to the bourgeoisie’s growing requirements of transportation and uncongested traffic for the emergent capitalist town (Bijker & Aibar 1997). The working class frame used barricades in place of strike actions to prevent ‘production’ in the city proposed by the engineering and architecture frames.

Idea and Features of the Garden City Movement

Howard provides an outline of the fundamental ideals and characteristics of the Garden City. The garden city spans six thousand acres of affordable pastoral land, with one thousand acres reserved for the metropolitan. The proposed garden city will have a maximum population of 32,000 residents (Panerai et al. 2004). In terms of design, Howard tries to differentiate his proposed city from London by including public parks and exclusive meadows around. Howard’s proposed Garden City roads are circular and comparatively broader, and range from “120 to 420 feet for the Grand Avenue” (Howard 1902, p. 19). He spatially differentiates commercial, industrial, public and residential areas from each other.

Howard’s idea is to integrate the conventional scenery with the out-dated city. His ideology was in reaction to the lasting condition whereby the inhabitants had to either live in an ethnically secluded pastoral region or sacrifice nature to live in a town. He however considered that community and natural splendour were complementary to each other (Howard 1902). From Howard’s perspective, the two factors that attract make people migrate from town to country and vice versa, will be integrated through the garden city movement. The garden city movement method of urban city planning is characterised as a profitable venture. Howard guarantees that investors will make as much as 4% profits for financing the garden city movement project. Howard suggests that the government will not control or participate majorly in the early stages of the project (Howard 1902). This shows that the garden city movement method of urban city planning is related to landlords’ group on steroids, which he refers to as “quasi-public body” (Howard 1902, p. 35). The group maintains ownership of the entire town and rents it out to inhabitants (Howard 1902). Profitability in the garden city movement method of urban planning is feasible because the property is bought up front, which makes the appreciation of property value to be enjoyed by the residents.

Garden City Plan
Figure 4: Garden City Plan

The garden city concept tries to balance individual and group authority. Howard explains that socialists and individualists will eventually compromise and the concept of the garden city will become accepted (Panerai et al. 2004). His excited acceptance of development is obvious in his ideas. He forecasts that people will become unselfish when contemporary development and industrialization provide potential for human development. Howard considers it a communal city and analyses the potential for salvaging or readapting old cities (Howard 1902). However, his vision of refashioning a city unfeasible until a swift drop in land values, when residents opt to migrate destroys a city, allows for redesign and construction.

Garden City Plan
Figure 5: Garden City Plan

Although Howard proposes an innovative urban city planning method, he seems to go beyond his boundaries. Howard explains that those of them who respect the significance of the natural environment cannot accept that the purpose of the earth can be promptly ended because people are becoming more aware of the significance of nature’s resources. However, Howard’s ideology of infinity in earth’s resources is rather impractical (Howard 1902). Howard’s ideology contributed to the overlooking of the loss of agrarian land to lawn growth. Although he intended to apply local supplies for excessive new constructions, Howard failed to consider that they could be exhausted. Also, Howard failed to consider how the ideology of building from the scratch was continually increasing industrialization. An increase in industrialization will sacrifice the ideology of the garden city because of the inevitable need to destroy and replace the out-dated industrialised ‘garden cities’ when new models are designed. This inevitability may have occurred in a short time since Howard failed to consider the possibility of cars potential of cars when creating the garden city planning method.

It is important to analyse Howard’s vision of human traffic interacting through the town, but this may be unfair since he was more of a social activist than an architect. Howard’s plan was theoretical and he recognised this. He was ignorant of how local economic variables agglomerated. His assumption was that employment would follow residents to the new cities. Nevertheless, it is worthier to direct criticism on a wider theoretical perspective. Howard’s perception of metaphysical integration, which was a subject through the subject, was unsophisticated. He suggested the “marriage” of country and city because the blissful marriage will create new life, hope, and growth (Howard 1902, p. 75). The problem is that the use of marriage collapses its character, because people remain two separate individuals after they marry. Howard’s integration of city types into one planning method seems basic when compared to similar ideologies, such as Christianity’s belief in a triune God.

A respected personality as Howard is rarely totally off-point. Howard’s suggestions were based on his poor understanding of the issues related to his swiftly evolving England and his method is comparable to what is happening in the developing regions. He correctly predicted that humans were inclined to nature’s resources that were initially discarded by unethical companies in the nineteenth century (Howard 1902). Although they will destroy nature’s resources, Howard perceives that humans will eventually seek the same resources. Howard mentioned the effect of industrialization on social imbalance as stated by contemporary architects. It is likely that Howard’s support for rational development over the disordered increase of disjointed growth has the advantage in a swiftly improving circumstance.

Effect and Meaning of Future

This section of the paper provides a review of the effects of garden cities and urban extensions on modern urban city planning. Some policies are recommended to be included in the design and development of urban extensions and garden cities. Garden cities and urban extensions have contributed to urban city planning. Modern urban city planning is based on the Cerda’s principles of urban extension. Urban extensions and new settlements with adjoining links to established cities and town have more potential for sustainable societies and housing development than new unconnected garden cities. Extensions will be more successful than garden cities because it will be characterised by better employment prospects and will harness the advantage of existing social amenities and transport systems. Since government does not influence the location of new employment opportunities, suburban societies should be created in areas with good public transportation systems. These systems should connect existing employment opportunities. The success of extensions depends on how close they are to cities of economic stability. New methods of examining community interactions emerged in the social sciences in the midst of modern urban planning. Public spaces became popular and allowed people commute and interact.

Urban extensions and garden cities have had economic effects on their locations. Cerda’s Plan is considered a prediction of a scientific method to urban planning due to its investigative consideration of fundamental needs such as hygiene, access sunlight, and the current system of mass transportation. The project attempted to combine a regular categorised relationship between societies and services at different levels into the substantial construction of modern cities. Cerda’s investigative approach used during the design of Barcelona’s extension contributes to modern urban planning. Although improvements and standards have been created and integrated into urban planning activities, Cerda’s proposed plan remains the basis for modern urban planning. The influence of Howards Garden City is notable in numerous projects across the world. For example, Canada’s urban development is a source of the garden city movement principles and ideas.

The development of extensions and garden cities requires effective use of land. Future extensions and garden cities will increase effective use of land by providing a variety of housing options and contracts. The strategy will create more room for accommodation and an increase population density when compared to older garden cities. To eliminate the socialist inclinations of garden cities, future extensions and garden cities will have flexible tenure policies. This will reduce the popularity of expensive homes, and will allow integration of social leased houses, joint ownership houses, sub-market midway leased houses, and houses for open market acquisition. Successful extensions and garden cities will offer tenure regulations that encourage lasting socially sustainable societies, and provide necessary household amenities and resources in the environs. New settlement will be attracted by locating urban extensions or garden cities with sub-regions instead of single districts. Future garden cities and urban extensions should be constructed for long terms and not created only as investment decisions made for a specific market niche.

In the future, urban extensions and garden cities will be created to have no detrimental effect on pre-existing inhabitants of the proposed location. Land will be purchased by a public sector organization or a trust for the precise value of the land including the value of agricultural produce, property, natural resources, streams, and ponds. The developer will provide affordable homes and the advantage of any increase in value after the land is converted to residential will be remitted to the community to enable the creation of social amenities.


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