Landscape Journal - Summer 2020: Bringing nature into the city

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C L I M AT E E M E R G E N C Y B R I E F I N G By Claire Thirlwall

Climate change resources – nature in the city As part of a regular series, Claire Thirlwall explores tools and guidance available to help professional understanding of this issue’s theme

Superilles, (Superblocks) Barcelona Like many cities Barcelona has a street layout that has become dominated by cars, with the associated high level of pollution and background noise. The city centre has a scarcity of open space, low pedestrian usage and few opportunities for residents to access nature.

areas and play space. With the busy intersections removed the area at the centre of each junction becomes an open space, demarcated by large tree and shrub planters. The redesign has reduced traffic by 83%, increased pedestrian use by 28% and reduced noise levels, as well as reducing traffic accidents and reducing the urban heat island effect.2 It will be interesting to see if similar ideas are adopted in the UK, given the changes mentioned in the article on page 15.

1. Aerial view of Barcelona Eixample residencial district, Sagrada familia, typical urban squares. © Shutterstock

2. Black routes allow public transport and cars at 50km/h, while green routes only allow private vehicles at 10km/h to prioritise pedestrians and cycling. © BCNecologia1

3. Some of the streets of Barcelona have been closed to the traffic and transformed in social places where people can meet, that are called “Superilles”. © Shutterstock

2 1

In 2017, using the concepts already being used in other Spanish cities, a series of superilles or superblocks were created. Typically, 4 x 440m in size and encompassing nine city blocks, each superblock uses a system of one-way streets and a 10km per hour speed limit to deter

through traffic and to give priority to cyclists and pedestrians. Each block is bounded by through routes for public transport and cars, with only local residents allowed to use the roads within the block. The freed-up space is used to create dedicated cycle lanes, seating


1 ‘Cómo Barcelona está quitándoles las calles a los coches | BCNecologia’, <> [accessed 21 April 2020]. 2

N Mueller et al., ‘Changing the urban design of cities for health: The superblock model’, in Environment International, vol. 134, 2020, 105132.