Urban Observers Ep 11 Barcelona day 1 – Travelling with us while learning

Today we arrived at the long waited Barcelona. Back in the mid-1850s, Barcelona was on the brink of collapse. Like many European cities, it was an industrial city with a busy port, it had grown increasingly dense throughout that era.

The very first urban planning project we are going to discuss today is the neighbourhood of La Barceloneta: it was practically an uninhabited zone / fishermen village, until the mid 18th century. Fishermen were the first to frequent this part of Barcelona even though the sea conditions were very precarious. In the year of 1754, construction of the first houses began, La Barceloneta began to be filled with residents who took part in fishing activities of the port. Cities are constantly evolving. Buildings, surroundings and urban planning trends change over the years and so does the way people live, in part according to what homes are like and the public areas surrounding them. Throughout its history, Barcelona has created many new neighbourhoods just like La Barceloneta…for instance: Vila Olímpica, built for the 1992 Olympic Games. We took a stroll inside La Barceloneta, its streets, its buildings reveal how houses have evolved since the first brick was laid over. It has gone through many drastic social, physical and economic transformations that had a significant impact on its residents. As a promenade was created along a newly beach, La Barceloneta’s port was also redeveloped. Tourism was prioritized over existing industrial uses at the time. The fishing activity was reduced and the docklands were demolished. Today, there is a prominent anti-tourism movement in Barcelona, just like many popular destinations in Europe, the neighbourhood is undergoing a crackdown on Airbnb rental and locals are being pushed out of their neighbourhood.

If we put tourism-gentrification model on the side and talk just about the designs, there are many details we can learn from the example of La Barceloneta. Many public spaces such as the parks, plazas and waterfront promenades were designed with the mind of citizens. Living in Barceloneta meant that one is able to walk a minute to grab a burrito, coffee, or some great seafood. Every corner of the blocks is being enlarged into lively public settings, either a coffee shop or some local eats, in the great minds from the 18th century, I have to admit that this is quite forward thinking. The streets here are claimed truly for pedestrians and bikers, we did not feel any need to use cars with these designs. Needless to say, Barceloneta Beach is a must-see while in Barceloneta.  This old fishermen’s quarter is a tale of reinvention, the beach is packed when we were there. Nonetheless, la Barceloneta is still one of the most loved districts of Barcelona, stay tuned for more stories in this wonderful city.



Team H2O2 wishes to create different approaches to the world of urban planning and architecture, we value the importance of the “observation”. We were inspired by the idea of an “aimless flaneur” who understands and experience the world we share, how we live together in urban places and how we shape our urban spaces, to find out what works and what doesn’t in creating vibrant cities and enjoy the urban surprises. It takes more than just academics to create a great city.

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