L’Eixample means ‘the extension’, and in the mid-nineteenth century, this neighbourhood was planned to be Barcelona’ new ‘suburb’, extending beyond the crowded medieval city. As evidenced by these photos, it was a planned suburb, designed by the architect and planner Ildefons Cerda. I read that the original plan contemplated numerous planned green spaces. However real estate pressures filled many of them with buildings. Today, all of the area has been built out with mid-rise buildings, generally between five and ten storeys. Some green spaces remain, often ‘linear parks’ filled with children’s play areas, adult play areas, and passive seating areas.
Near the centre of L’Eixample is Gaudi’s famous cathedral La Sagrada Familia. While it is most impressive, for me, a most interesting planning concept in L’Eixample is the architect’s decision to require that every building have its corner cut-off at every intersection. As a result, the intersections are much more open, and when adorned with sculptures and other special features, they become plazas and public places. I must confess, this is the first time I have ever encountered this planning idea, but I think it is one worth emulating, especially in higher density neighbourhoods.
In addition to the corner cut-offs, it is worth noting that there are a number of significant ‘diagonal’ streets, one of which is called the Diagonal Street. The development of the area happened around the same time as the ‘Modernista’ period, and so many of the buildings in the area are Barcelona’s best examples of this style of architecture. Here are some more photos.