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Monday, August 13, 2012 (read 146 times)
Barcelona: L’Eixample Quarterby Seun
In response to the growth caused by the Industrial Revolution, Barcelona, too, half way through the 19th Century saw need for growth. L’Eixample is the second district of Barcelona and its very name, which in English translates to Expansion, is a rather clear explanation of its purpose. Occupying an area of 7.5km2, L’Eixample forms the geographical centre of Barcelona. Several of the city’s most well known streets, squares and buildings are found in the Eixample district, including Gaudí’s incomplete masterpiece, La Sagrada Familia. The district is set in a rigid grid which is roughly perpendicular to the coastline: something akin to the layout of New York City, but split in to two with the avinguda Diagonal cutting across the district from west to east.
In 1855, the Ayuntamiento de Barcelona bestowed the job of designing L’Eixample to Ildefonso Cerdá, a Catalonian engineer and politician. His original projection for L’Eixample was a district rife with city gardens, wide streets, buildings higher than three stories. Cerdá had also hoped through his plan to provoke a fluid mixing between social classes but such luck he had none. In accordance with the influential bourgeoisie of the time, L’Eixample was built with streets much narrower than Cerdá had planned, the buildings were taller, and there was a clear separation between social classes.
Nevertheless, Cerdá’s L’Eixample is a remarkable feat in the field of urban planning. It was so designed that each building, regardless of its eventual purpose, receives light throughout the day. The aforementioned grid into which the district is built is composed of cuboids for buildings with truncated corners (thus creating octagonal blocks) such that sunlight enters every floor of every building from sunrise until sunset.
The most distinct feature of L’Eixample is perhaps its wealth of Modernista architecture. As well as Antoni Gaudí and his Casa Batlló, Casa Milà and of course his Sagrada Familia, the district of L’Eixample also plays host to the works of his lesser known contemporaries, Josep Puig, Josep Vilaseca, and Enric Sagnier. Although L’Eixample does not share such an extensive past as the Ciutat Vella, it fervently tells the story of Barcelona’s first steps into modern history.
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