Eixample District

L'Eixample

Right until the mid-19th century Barcelona was squeezed in the medieval city wall that stood from the Montjuic hill to the Citadel Park. The order to demolish the wall which was essential for development of the city was approved by the Queen of Spain Isabella II only in 1854. Afterwards the contest was announced for development of the space that appeared between the Old City (Ciutat Vella) and nearby settlements. The contest was won by the ‘Parisian’ project developed by the architect Antoni Rovira i Trias. However Madrid made the decision to start the development of the new territory which acquired the name Eixample (‘extension’ in Catalan) on the basis of design developed by the engineer Ildefons Cerdà i Sunyer.

Octagonal buildings of Eixample District are Barcelona’s major hallmark. The best way to understand the layout of the district is from the helicopter. The architect considered in the design numerous factors including traffic and transport along with sunlight and ventilation. Square blocks with chamfered corners where streets broaden at every intersection contribute for greater visibility, better ventilation and (today) some short-stay parking space. Initially it was planned to launch a steam tram in the street which required the large turning radius but the tram was never launched. Ildefons Cerdà designed the neighbourhoods along the diagonal from northeast to southwest to provide the sunlight to every apartment during the day. It was planned that every neighbourhood would consist of 20 blocks with the gardens in the inner courtyards. Presently unfortunately only few houses have the gardens. Out of two avenues that were to run through Eixample only one was constructed.

The idea of Cerdà about the garden city was not realized. Lands were purchased by rich bourgeois who were eager to outdo each other in the magnificence and intricacy of architecture. This circumstance along with the time period (end of the 19th – beginning of the 20th century) originated the true museum of Barcelona's art nouveau masterpieces under the open sky. Eixample, particularly Passeig de Gràcia is the epicentre of the principle and best samples. This centre, the so-called Golden Square, is limited by Avinguda Diagonal and Ronda de Sant Pere. Numerous art nouveau pieces like Sagrada Família church, Hospital of Saint Paul comprise the pride and heritage of the right side of the Eixample district (Dreta de l’Eixample). The left side (Esquerra de l’Eixample) with the border along Carrer de Balmes is not so rich for architectural landmarks.

How to reach: metro Catalunya, Diagonal, Girona, Passeig de Gràcia
Coordinates: 41.389742, 2.167928