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Exploring urban design in Barcelona

Urban Design in Barcelona

A streetscape in Europe abounds in thoughtful, functional yet savvy urban design. From innovative streetlights to planters and outdoor sculptures, one can find a plethora of quirky elements that adorn the city.

Barcelona has it’s distinct climate and approach to design. It’s a serendipitous delight to be in the city and soak in its spirit of vitality, “free”-ness and fun. The most striking vibe you do get from this city is on the fun side of things.

Pleasantly walkable, well-planned and easily accessible, it’s my second favorite city in Europe after Munich. The Mediterranean climate that never runs into extremes is also a huge plus.

In this photo blog i share some of the unique urban design features captured while walking around in Barcelona. Don’t be surprised to find some “Gaudi” elements from time to time.

Urban Design in Barcelona: Streetlights

Urban design in Barcelona street light
Curved arm of the lamp post is a unique feature

For some reason, this street light reminds me of the USB light that would hover over the laptop keyboards! Scaled up several times of course. The tubular shaft has an elegant incline and acts as a counter weight to the arm.

For comparison, I’m sharing what resembles the profile of this street light

urban design in barcelona usb keyboard light
Well, do you see the resemblance now? (Source: Logickeyboard)

The idea of focused illumination with LED seems to go with the functionality as well! Since i was in Barcelona as a tourist, i don’t want comment on the technical specifications of the lamp posts. Neither did i try to find out any OEM details. Saw it, liked it, took a snap.

urban design in barcelona regular street light
A regular streetlight in Barcelona

Obviously Barcelona has regular streetlights too and this is how they look… (above image)

Urban Design in Barcelona: Bollards

Life’s all about the point of view. Our perspective defines what we see something as… In this case the view was from the periphery of Parc Guell!

A filigree of bollards overlooking a graphic balcony.

Don’t see the graphics and the balcony yet? Look closer.

Get the drift?
Right alignment gives a more accurate picture

Probably the graffiti was painted on the balcony walls with THIS point of view in mind!

And if you happen to raise the camera altogether, you only see the sky 🙂

“February” Sky

Traffic Junction in Barcelona

Urban Design in Barcelona traffic junction
Traffic junction with signals

This is a typical pedestrian crossing near Sagrada Familia, where 3 roads merge. It has traffic signals facing 3 directions. Also a busy junction for vehicles, and tourists finding directions 😀

Urban Design in Barcelona: Signages

Smart signage flushed with facade

A no-frills smart design for a signage flushed with the vertical members of the facade. The color scheme is also in sync with the overall geometric profile.

Urban Design in Barcelona: Taken by Surprise

How did this come in the picture?

So obviously i wasn’t expecting something like this in Barcelona. Reminiscent of the streets in India, and the cars too! This standalone house is probably an anomaly. But caught my attention nonetheless. Good enough (?) to make it to the Eurotrip album…

Car Parking in Barcelona

Now that we’ve talked about cars, it’s time to look at some types of parking prevalent in Barcelona.

On-street parking lined outside buildings is less by design and more by compulsion.

urban design in barcelona on street car park
A mix of cars and scooters
urban design in barcelona on street parking
Parallel parking outside multi-storey buildings
Cars lined up in narrow streets
urban design in barcelona car parking
On-street parking outside apartments

Probably its time to plan neighbourhood garages and multi-level community parking spaces. But if no one’s complaining, that’s ok. After all its way more comfortable, and faster, to get to your car right when it’s parked right outside the house’s door. And look at those elegant balconies on the right.

urban design in barcelona renting electric vehicles
Renting and electric vehicles, so Europe!

Circa 2013. Evidence that Barcelona is one of the first “smart cities” in the world and the first to host the world Expo Congress… This gateless, single-seater car would be a common feature on the streets and in parking lots. Wonder what’s trending nowadays in the electric vehicle scene.

urban design in barcelona parking with no encroachment
More parking, with no scope for encroachment

Are you used to parking with a handbreak? The inclined streets and roads make for a challenge good enough.

urban design in barcelona inclined onstreet parking
Inclined on-street parking

Urban Design in Barcelona: Outdoor Escalators

A convenient way to navigate those tricky level differences. A robust vertical mode of transportation that can withstand the harsh elements. An easy way to get to the higher side of Parc Guell.

urban design in barcelona outdoor escalator
A robust, one-way stairway to heaven

Viewpoints and Breakout Spaces

A crucial component of any good urban design is the scope and space for appreciation. Breakout spaces help break the monotony and also offer impressive views of the city from strategic viewpoints. They provide people spaces to assemble and celebrate what the city has to offer. Barcelona scores highly on these fronts for its low-rise skyline offering unobstructed views of the city and the sea beyond.

urban design in barcelona parc guell viewpoint
Breakout space cum viewpoint in Parc Guell
urban design in barcelona las ramblas street breakout
Las Ramblas breakout space in Barcelona
urban design in barcelona metro exit
Metro exit onto the street
urban design in barcelona street vista
Barcelona street vista flanked by ornamental balconies
urban design in barcelona plaza and bollards
Pedestrian plaza outside a classical building complex
urban design in barcelona fountain seating
Ledge around the fountain offers seating

The streetlights accentuate the aesthetic quality of the plaza, while the black bollards ensure safety of pedestrians within the zone. The arcade around the courtyard houses cafes and restaurants.

Urban Design in Barcelona: Waste Disposal

Dustbins are usually an eyesore. And sadly, they were in Barcelona too. They stand out way too much in terms of shapes and colors. Probably designers could use more subtle design features to make them prominent for easy visibility and accessibility.

What i saw here in Barcelona is a bit out of context. It overshadows the surrounding architecture, drawing undue attention to it. The colors could be retained for easy spotting, but the material and shape could be chosen in a way to match the surrounding buildings, which are certainly less “utilitarian” and more aesthetic than dustbins!

urban design in barcelona dustbin oarc guell
Dustbins that could match the context better
urban design in barcelona dustbin stairway phone guy
Dustbin near stairway to Parc Guell. The laidback phone conversation was a bonus…

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