Open since September 25, 2013, the Mercat dels Encants tries to do with Barcelona’s flea market what Haussmann did at Les Halles with the Paris market: put a large umbrella (here reflecting and golden) over all the stalls. The solution given by architects here (B720- Fermín Vazquez) seems to be a success. It is by the Stapler, on the Plaza de las Glorias, and the Tapas stalls on the upper part are a success.
You never get to know the true name of things until people christen them. In this case, for obvious reasons.
The Design Museum is located on Plaza de las Glorias, a place that was to be the centre of the Ensanche as there intersect the Diagonal, the Meridiana and the Gran Vía, but in fact became a freeway exchange. In 1992 the Olympics led to a new design of the exchange, with trees inside, but it still is that. Nowadays, and after many proposals, a project to bury traffic is underway, transforming the square into a large park, according to the following image.
The Design Museum is on the southeast flank of the new square, on the axis of the Avila street. The difference of level between the new square and the street have led the authors, MBM, to have a ground floor with escalators open to the public. This is a confuse part of the building, that in itself has become one more piece of the strange objects populating the square, as the Agbar tower or the Mercat dels Encants.
Some days ago I was in Barcelona for a meeting of the Association of Urban Planning Architects. The program was interesting, and the chance to meet excellent professionals and to discuss many issues. The next posts will be about what I saw these days.
Barcelona’s urban planning has a singularity: it is governed by a 1976 plan, an unusual thing as plans for cities this size are usually reviewed each decade or at most each 20 years. This has not prevented the city to rise as a reference in urbanism in many senses, but it has led to over 1.000 variances to the plan, turning it into a palimpsest. There is a certain logic in the timing: Narcis Serra was elected as Mayor in 1979 and was in the seat until 1982, when the plan was still new, and under his mandate, the definition of an urban project under the cover of the Olympic alibi was started. Does this mean that the ongoing revision will change Barcelona?
Barcelona is an exception in the Spanish context: The Plan General Metropolitano defines the rules for Barcelona itself and for several nearby municipalities that are part of the “dense” metropolitan areas. This means that there is an overall vision of the whole (even if it was drawn some 40 years ago) articulating this territory, avoiding so the problems of other areas (I have previously commented such cases in French cities as Bordeaux or Lyon).
Let’s get a different perspective: the Area Metropolitana de Barcelona (an administrative body for the planning scope) covers an area of 636 sq km, with some 3,2 million residents; these are nearly the same numbers of the Madrid municipality, but there are 36 mayors, while in Madrid there is only one.
Barcelona’s Plan is being revised to use another format, still to be defined, but that will likely split into a structural instrument for the metropolitan whole (Plan Director de Urbanismo) and 36 closer-to-the-ground municipal plans.
The Paseo de Gracia is not just a choice location to see Gaudi Works in Barcelona, as it is also one of the first streets in the Ensanche; in fact, its layout has a slight angle when compared with the general grid, which follows the straight line of the Gran Vía, defined by distant points. It is a boulevard with a central main way, lateral planted alleys and side service traffic alleys.
With an overall width of 60 m, the central way is 22 m, and the sidewalks of the buildings are in some places 9 m wide. It is one of the prime retail locations in the city.
The old core of Barcelona results from the evolution of the primitive roman colony, even if it is difficult to believe by looking at the urban fabric (the large straight streets come from the Cerdá plan in the XIXth century). In Bogota the traces of the Laws of the Indies, with their grid, is clearer.
In Barcelona the Cathedral (red) and the City Hall (blue) are on different squares, while in Bogotá a single space is shared, with a clear symbolism as it also concentrates the headquarters of the judiciary and the Parliament.
Urban growth shows that the aim to regularity always finds unexpected conditions… a regular fabric is almost impossible.
Where do people live? And where do they buy? Answering those questions in a precise way is complex. But it is simpler to know where they could be doing one thing or the other, again using cadastral data on maps at the same scale of both cities. This implies that you will not be sure to find people living in these areas or open retail venues, but that someone is (or should be) paying the tax for these uses in these properties.
These maps are not representing densities, but absolute figures by city block; it is as important to know where the surfaces of these uses are and their magnitude, as knowing where there is no such use.
The firs conclusion is that the intensity of the residential use on central Barcelona is higher than in Bogotá (even taking into account that the city blocks are usually smaller). And it could be a surprise to some, as on many images of the second city you can see some towers, while the image of Barcelona is that of a city of uniform heights. In fact, Bogotá has a larger population, but on a much wider area. What happens is that the average height in Bogotá is less than in Barcelona, and less deep buildings. In Barcelona, 150 years after Cerdá presented his plan to reduce congestion in the city center, and despite having somehow achieved that goal, the new city is still very dense.
Taking a different viewpoint, 2012 Barcelona had 1,6 millions residents (padron, ine.es) and slightly over 72 million sq m of built residential floor (cadastre); so each barcelonés had on average 45 sq m of housing. Bogotá Distrito Capital had in 2012 slightly over 8,9 million residents (estimates by dane.gov.co) and a little more than 179 million sq m2 of residential floor (cadastre); each bogotano had on average 20 sq m of housing floor, less than half, which explains the differences in residential density.
Regarding commerce (as applied by both cadastres, with differences that are not always clear between wholesale and retail), there is a difference and a similitude. The historical core of Barcelona is larger in terms of retail density (concentrating the most affluent populations in the XIXth century grid no doubt helps…), while in Bogotá the area north of plaza Bolivar which concentrates these uses is smaller. The similitude is in the development of the large malls. Despite their sometimes relevant links to public transit systems, they are also car attractors.
According to cadastral data, in Bogotá there are 0,07 sq m of commerce floor for each sq m of residential floor; in Barcelona this rises to 0,188. For each bogotano you have about 1,4 sq m of commerce, and for a barcelonés slightly over 5.
A: Plaza de las Américas- Mundo Aventura, combining a theme park with a large mall
B: Centro Mayor
C: Centro Comercial Calima
D: L’Illa Diagonal
E: La Maquinista
F: Diagonal Mar (the lot with the highest cadastral floor surface in Barcelona, 107.000 sq m)
G: El Corte Inglés on Plaza de Cataluña, a Department store linked to the historical core
With a FAR below 2 (the average in the area, altought with different building types), the Agora center will be a conventions facility by carrera 40 and the Corporación de Ferias in south Bogota. The project can be seen on http://www.herrerosarquitectos.com/Ind_Proyectos.html . The project will transform an industrial site on the edge between industrial and housing areas.
The Forum 2004 in Barcelona has a large concentration of towers, marking its landscape; yet the FAR in the tower area (under 3) is not as high as behind the towers, on the much lower Diagonal Mar mall, which gets to 5 as a mall is a much more compact building.
The FAR (floor-area ratio) divides the surface of the built floors in a lot by the lot area.It is not easy to know the density of a zone at first sight, as it depends as much on what is built as on what area you use to measure it. So, a tower can have a density measured over its lot which is lower than that of a more conventional block of lesser height. Even on a block, courtyards can have variable dimensions, so it is not easy to grasp that number from the outside. And this is without taking into account the film “La estrategia del caracol” (the strategy of the snail), by Sergio Cabrera (1993) and his vision of the “shrinking densities” in Bogotá…
Density can be explained in diverse ways. Here you can see, according to cadastral data, the gradient of the floor-area ratios by contour lines. The kernel calculation does not give show the precise density value, but a more graphical result for large areas.
In Barcelona you can see that the most common density in the urban core is 5,5 (substantially higher than that devised by Cerdá in his 1860 extension plan). The city has an urban tissue whose density is quite homogeneous, surrounded as it is by mountains and the sea and as the core of a larger metropolitan area.
In Bogotá the density dispersion is higher. The extreme areas are located in many cases closer to the mountain ranges