Salvador Rueda is the director of the Barcelona Urban Ecology Agency: a consortium between the Barcelona city council, the Barcelona county council (the province) and the metropolitan area.
This article is part of a series of interviews conducted within the framework of the Course on Sustainability of Cities organized by the Initiative of Emerging and Sustainable Cities (ICES), the Menéndez Pelayo International University and the Santander City Council between July 28 and July 1 August 2014. Learn more about the Course here.
ICES: What is the importance of public space for cities? In what way does the promotion and creation of public spaces contribute to improving the quality of life of citizens?
Public space is what defines the existence of the city or not. Because we can have houses, but they are not cities, they are urbanizations. And we don't have public space there, we have urbanized space, because nothing happens, they are like cemeteries. Instead, cities are because they have public space. That is to say, a place where all the uses and functions that the city allows us can be carried out: That the child can play, that there may be a party, that there may be economic exchange, that there may be a political demonstration, etc. It is the public space that makes us citizens. With the passage of time we have lost the origin of the word, but in the end what defines the city is that place, which is everyone's home, and it is the one that allows citizens to express themselves in all its breadth. The problem is that we have occupied the space with some "infernal" artifacts: they make a lot of noise, produce horrible pollution and occupy all the space. They do not allow you to do anything other than that people circulate through those spaces. What we have to do is a change in the mobility model that allows us to free up the space that motorization occupies today.
ICES: What is the concept of superblocks?
The superblocks are new urban cells of about 400 or 500 meters on each side, where the periphery is articulated as if they were basic roads. Connected to each other, it gives us a network that is designed for the passing vehicle, for those who want to go from one side of the city to the other as soon as possible. But the interior we transform. They are areas of 10 km / h, where children can play, where blind people can roam safely. Where you can make all the uses that the city allows us. And that in the current situation, motorization does not allow it. With the superblocks we liberate in a city, in the case of Barcelona, 70% of the space that motorization occupies today.
With this, the superblocks are revealed to us as that module that, arranged one next to the other, allows us to generate perfectly synchronized transport networks: public transport, the car, the trip on foot, the bicycle ... everything fits. But above all it also fits that when you take the superblock itself, you can make an urban transformation project. And we propose to do it through our theoretical development which is called ecological urbanism.
ICES: At ICES we work with medium-sized cities that are growing very fast in Latin America and the Caribbean. If I had the opportunity to talk with a mayor and give him advice on how to manage his public spaces and how to generate cities more and more for the people. What advice would you give him?
With the proposal of the superblocks they do not have to throw away a house or a building. And instead they will radically transform the city. Do you know why? Because we will make pedestrians stop being pedestrians to become citizens. They will be able to walk, of course, especially, but they will also be able to play, they will be able to have fun, they will be able to be doing nothing if they don't want to, they will be able to exchange economically in that space, and then the activity in that space is multiplied by 1000. As in all occasions in the that we have developed it. And there are already quite a few.