Barcelona Field Studies Centre

Diagonal Mar - the planning issues

To Barcelona's Mayor, Joan Clos, Diagonal Mar is an urban development disaster, despite winning an Urban Land Institute Award for Excellence. Clos has blamed low density planning for the lack of social and economic life in the district.

Diagonal Mar: empty streets
Diagonal Mar: empty streets

There are few people on the streets and public space, shops or bar terraces are little used by the neighbours. According to Clos, Diagonal Mar's housing densities of 48 dwelling per hectare do not contribute to building a sense of the city. Density determines the nature of community life and the kind of city created. Future projects should involve the recovery of higher levels of density.

The developments are geared to the upper echelon foreign visitors and the younger middle and higher income groups rather than the needs and desires of an increasingly ageing permanent population.

The success of Diagonal Mar may rely on the reversal of counter-urbanisation trends prevalent within Barcelona (and all western cities).

Diagonal Mar Park: a social and physical barrier
Diagonal Mar is effectively a gated community, with a semi-private atmosphere.

Diagonal Mar Park: a social and physical barrier
Diagonal Mar: a social and physical barrier
This has generated distrust amongst neighbouring communities. The park and buildings are surrounded by large fences that that create a sense of exclusion. At night, when the gates are locked, the district becomes a barrier, effectively sealing off access to the sea for inland communities. Gated communities

The sense of social isolation created by Diagonal Mar has led the organisation Project for Public Spaces to describe the Park as one ' designed by lawyers, a place where no spontaneous, unforeseen event can ever happen. It's a classic case of design run amok, where creating a place for human use was merely an afterthought.' more

Is Barcelona really ready for a revolution in shopping habits? The local markets are still thriving, convenience foods are difficult to find, many of the young remain at home until their late twenties, and the traditional family unit, although under increasing threat, is still strong. Currently, only 12% of Barcelonans use their car to go shopping.

Diagonal Mar caters to a hedonistic lifestyle, criticised by Jordi Pujol (the former leader of the autonomous government) amongst others.

Diagonal Mar relies on direct road access from Ronda Litoral (exit 24). This area of motorway sees queues of 5 kilometres or more build up on a regular basis. In addition, this stretch of motorway is largely tunnelled - an uninviting prospect for regular queuing and a potential safety hazard.