By Gabino Carballo
As part of our freshly launched Planners and Architects Perspective we bring this photo series by Barcelona based landscape architect Gabino Carballo.
The image (above) belongs to the Ronda de Sant Pau, a wide boulevard with many traffic lanes that was used as a temporary setting for a large nearby market undergoing refurbishment. Before the temporary market was set, a large concrete slab was built to form a base for it. When the market returned to its original location, the local government decided to leave the massive slab in place as an ad hoc pedestrian space, adding a few large tree containers to change the character of the place. Cars have never returned and nobody has complained, which goes to show that radical change can be born of opportunity.
This (below) is what we now call a “School Environment”: a section of street that has a school in it and that is subject to heavy traffic. The local authority has decided to limit and restrict vehicular access and has created a “stay and play” area right in front of the school.
The following images depict a newly created “green axis” cut right through what used to be an industrial area. Rather than creating a traditional boulevard, it has been conceived as a linear park and a way through the city for pedestrians and cyclists, with some space for slow cars either side of it. It also acts as a large SUDS that captures as much rainwater as possible.
The following image depicts the promenade along the Barceloneta beach. It has been a pedestrian space for many years. It used to be one of the few spaces where citizens could walk for a significant distance in a car-free environment. It has expanded over the years to encompass various boulevards and parks and it is now being gradually joined by several other linear pedestrian spaces (green axis) connecting sea and mountain.
The image above is of a tactical intervention on the Consell de Cent Street, which used to be really busy with traffic but that has been earmarked to become a green axis. Instead of waiting for the final project, the local authority decided to take advantage of the very strict lockdown measures to expand pedestrian space by taking over a couple of lanes. The result is a street that used to be less than pleasant and mostly devoid of life at night now is used by people in the neighbourhood at all times of the day.
These images belong to one of the newest “superblocks” in the Sant Antoni area. The painted areas show a tactical intervention that is meant to be replaced by a more sober and permanent style of design, as seen in the last image. Because of the cost of transforming the public space, rather than waiting for years to find the necessary funds, it was decided to go ahead with a non-permanent action to try and see how the neighbourhood might react to change. The result is that streets that were once busy with traffic are now busy with pedestrian movement most times of the day and that the temporary greenery has contributed greatly to the sense of place.
This is another tactical intervention in the Eixample area, which is generally really busy with car traffic. Some streets have been earmarked to become green axes. Again, instead of waiting for the final project to be ready, the local authority decided to take advantage of lockdown measures to expand pedestrian space by painting and depaving areas previously devoted to car traffic.
These are images of an activity called “Obrim Carrers” or “We open streets”. This street is called Creu Coberta and it is now open to pedestrians on Saturday and Sunday. Initially, local businesses were furious at the decision, they believed that most of their business came by car, but a few months later, they were delighted. Business is up and the scheme has proven to be incredibly popular.
Not all streets work equally well, some perform better than others, and that is why it is important to carry out tactical tests that through some light on what happens when you open streets to people. You can view the webpage in English here: https://www.barcelona.cat/obrimcarrers/en
The following images are of the latest tactical intervention carried out in Pelai Street, a very busy thoroughfare very close to the famous Las Ramblas. It is a busy shopping street but its pavements are rather narrow and difficult to negotiate when busy. One side of the street is not very popular because there aren’t many shops and it is very exposed, so pedestrians tend to concentrate on the other side, precisely the one that has been expanded to accommodate people instead of traffic.
Gabino Carballo is a landscape architect and project manager working for Barcelona Parks and Gardens Department as a senior technical officer. He reads, he writes and give talks about nature based solutions and other contemporary subjects. He is a board member of the Spanish Association for Public Parks and Gardens (AEPJP) and the spokesperson for NBS. He cycles and walks to most places – I haven’t owned a car for over 17 years, benefits of living in a compact city- but I like hitching a ride on the bus too.