Ruralizing the urban and urbanizing the rural was one of the wishes of Ildefonso Cerdá, promoter of urbanism as a scientific discipline worldwide and architect of the original block, presented in his plan to deploy Barcelona in 1859 and with which he Cartesian aligned the Eixample neighborhood.
When the writer Gabi Martinez (Barcelona, 1971) he went to the doctor suffering from hearing problems and they detected tinnitus, he remembered several people, including Cerdá, but when an ambulance passed by with the siren at full blast bursting his eardrum, he remembered of some more. “There I began to wonder how we are ordering our cities so that this is possible, how we relate to our environment and how it affects our health,” says Gabi on the bench in a plaza in Gracia, not by chance, sheltered from traffic .
Gabi recovered from hearing, but not from reflection, and also began to write, with the speed that characterizes her, the short essay with which she returns to bookstores: Naturally Urban (Destination). It is not a novelty that Gabi puts in writing and publishes her vision of reality. He did it, for example, with An unexpected Spain (a 600 page book in 2006). “While they said that Spain was doing well, I did not trust the written word much because I had the feeling that everything that was culture was blocked and there was no interest in creating alternative stories to those that the mainstream media were telling us. However, the repeated crises have caused society to stop to think and people who try to be honest with what they transmit have been given prominence, so I do not know if the written word has a future, but it must be defended in its original sense. Between writing and doing, better to do. But deep down, writing is doing ”.
Writing, then, he has made a manifesto in favor of the superblocks, a project by Salvador Rueda, urban planner and director of the Barcelona Urban Ecology Agency, who in 1987 proposed to reinvent the city based on Cerdá’s original idea. To outline a supermanza, it is enough to gather nine of those apples in a super square of three (vertical) by three (horizontal). Children are encouraged to play in the street and walk at the pace of talk, for which it is required not to walk at more than five kilometers per hour and with an ambient noise of less than 65 decibels (which is achieved by reducing cars and the proliferation of green spaces).
Superblocks are designed to put nature at the center of everything. Rueda’s wish, his ideal, would be to create 503 superblocks in four years. Utopian? We’ll see. In 2016, when the first superblock was implemented in Poble Nou, from the Platform for People Affected by the Poble Nou Superblock, he was labeled a “man who lives in the Matrix, disconnected from reality and basic concerns”, something that the urban planner was taken as a compliment. Time has given it a reason. Today you do not see a banner against it in the entire neighborhood. The green area has doubled with 176 trees. The daily traffic of 2,218 cars has dropped to 932.
There are 30 percent more businesses. Gabi Martínez is clear about it: “To those who denigrate Rueda and the superblocks I would say the same thing he says: first ask those who are against, then those who are in favor, and finally those who have been there for ten years. living (in those of Gracia and El Borne in Barcelona, or in Vitoria), or four in the case of Poble Nou. The bloody offensives that have been launched against the idea have been extinguished after a year or two by the people who have lived the experience. And now tell someone who lives there to leave it, it is practically impossible, because it is an urban solution that allows you to live much better ”.
For Idelfonso Cerdá green meant free, for Gabi Martínez green has always been his reference color: “When I was fifteen I used to wear green, it must be by intuition, but apart from that anecdote, green is oxygen, it is space and it is, as Cerdá said, freedom, and it is also the future ”.
As I am with one of the authors of nature writing (here called liternatura) most prominent of the current literary scene, I ask him what place nature should occupy in the cities of the 21st century: “I believe green calls for green, whether you allude to nature from the rural, from the wild or from the city, a green feed the other. The more we work to include it in our lives with urban gardens, with ecological corridors so that animals can make migrations through the cities or with the increase of green roofs, some things will feed the others and doubts will dissipate as soon as everything is perceived. good that brings oxygenated life “.
We remember times gone by, when smoke meant progress and modernity. According to Martínez, that smoke today “prevents us from seeing the horizon beyond the buildings, the sea, the mountains. It is synonymous with a red alert, it is no longer that there are fumes but smoke, a haze that is the concentration of all the harmful fumes that we have accumulated in recent decades. These effects must be minimized and clean air restored. If we breathe better we will be better but, since everything has been commercialized, even the air, the risk is that green will end up being a speculative currency ”.
Towards the middle of the test there is a fact that draws attention: about 80 percent of the public space is designed for cars to move at ease. But how is it possible? Martínez believes that “it is a summary of how we have oriented ourselves so far and what story we have wanted to accept. That has led us to assume that we are defined as pedestrians rather than citizens. One way to get out of this is to recover the idea of citizenship and recover spaces, which is the objective of the superblocks ”.
Before saying goodbye, we vindicate figures such as Cerdá, Jane Jacobs or Salvador Rueda, creator of superblocks, while we attend the constant parade of bicycles that certify the paradigm shift in Barcelona. The transition from fuel to pedal is a reality, although for him “there is still a lot to do … it is a clear step, which certainly helps. The will exists. Vitoria is at the forefront and is a benchmark in terms of mobility, and yes, Barcelona too ”.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.