Barcelona Sol

Leire Asensio
David Mah

Xun Liu, Lu Wang


Idelfons Cerda’s nineteenth century plan for Barcelona was predicated on an egalitarian ideal of a city where its citizens would have access to light, air and open space.  His rigorous definition of urban form, pre-figuring a systematic parametric urbanization, reverberated with his own training as a civil engineer.

In contrast to other proposed plans for the city’s Eixample, such as the architect: Rovira’s Beaux Arts plan, Cerda offered a system which was calibrated to offer a clear instantiation of his general theory of urbanization.

One of the crucial ambitions that informed his definition of the urban “manzana” blocks was the desire to offer an equal access to air and daylight.  What we have come to associate with the Barcelona perimeter block is a compromised variant on Cerda’s open blocks, rigorously defined by mathematical equations and an associative logic informing its morphology.

Today, with the accessibility of environmental analysis tools, we can revisit Cerda’s ambitions with more nuance and a search for differentiation rather than the imposition of a standardized model.  Interestingly, Cerda himself, offered a much wider array of block types than what was eventually constructed.  The standardization of the Eixample manzanas were more a consequence of landowners wrestling control of bylaws away from Cerda, to allow for a maximization of the block far beyond what he had wished for.

Barcelona-Sol picks up on Cerda’s ambitions for a city shaped by the sun and climate, and extends it with the help of contemporary digital tools.  Rather than an equal and isotropic distribution of solar rights, the new manzana morphologies are determined by reconsidering courtyard configurations, determining different solar rights as well as privileging different parts of the urban field for shade and exposure. The resulting block matrix offers many new possible manzanas and culminates in a highly differentiated fabric with a new emergent landscape of open grounds, sky courts and ascending fields of terraces.  By studying urban form through the lens of climate, an emerging substrate of public and landscaped grounds is produced.

Back to Asensio Mah