CAT/SP VIP Person Nr. 14 – Ildefons Sardà – Organizing Modern Barcelona

Ildefons Cerdà i Sunyer, (December 23, 1815 –August 1, 1876). He originally trained as a civil engineer in Madrid. After the death of his brothers, Cerdà inherited the family fortune, and left the civil service. He became interested in politics and the study of urban planning.

When the government of the time finally gave in to public pressure and allowed Barcelona’s city walls to be torn down, he realized the need to plan the city’s expansion so that the new extension would become an efficient and liveable place, unlike the congested, epidemic-prone old town within the walls. When he failed to find suitable reference works, he undertook the task of writing one from scratch while designing what he called the  Eixample, borrowing a few technological ideas from his contemporaries to create a unique, thoroughly modern integrated concept that was carefully considered.

He continued to create projects and improve existing designs throughout his lifetime, as well as to develop his theories taking on larger planning scopes (at the regional planning level), until the very end.

Cerdà focused on key needs: the need for sunlight, natural lighting and ventilation in homes (he was heavily influenced by the sanitarian movement), the need for greenery in people’s surroundings, the need for effective waste disposal including good sewerage, and the need for seamless movement of people, goods, energy, and information.

His designs belie a network-oriented approach far ahead of his time. His street layout and grid plan were optimized to accommodate pedestrians, carriages, horse-drawn trams, urban railway lines (as yet unheard-of), gas supply and large-capacity sewers to prevent frequent floods, without neglecting public and private gardens and other key amenities.