Dealing flexibly with and learning from resistance in Barcelona

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This intervention has been translated into a brief governance scenario. Take a look at [Inviting citizens to a transformation of street space - flexibly dealing with resistance].

a) Basic characteristics and ambitions of the intervention

1. What is the name and the urban context (e.g. city/district) of the intervention? Please also indicate the geographical scale of the intervention (e.g. neighborhood, district, small/medium/ capital city, metropolitan area ...). [Example: “Brixton Energy in Brixton, London (neighborhood in capital city)”]

This is about the creation of Superblocks inBarcelona, a mobility concept that tries to restructure the city in 503 so called Superblocks lowering the amount of cars and giving streets further functions than mobility, e.g for leisure and neighbourhood activities. Each of the 503 Superblocks will be different in its exact structure as they will be adapted to neighbourhood contexts.

The first Superblock in Barcelona was established in Ciutat Vella (El Born) in 1993 and later on in Vila de Gràcia in 2003 (SMARTEES_01: A114) Between 2012 - 2015 the Superblock Programme started of with four pilot areas in:

  • La Maternitat i Sant Ramón, in Les Corts
  • Sants-Hostrafrancs, in Sants-Montjuïc
  • DiagonalPoblenou, in Sant Martí,
  • Esquerra de l’Eixample, in Eixample (Ajuntament_01: 21)

Starting in 2016 until 2019 the large scale Municipal Action Plan “Let's fill the streets with life. The implementation of the Superblock Model in Barcelona” (Ajuntament_01: 1) continued to work on the creation and implementation of Superblocks, also in other areas in the city such as in Poblenou which was the pilot area for this Programme.

2. What sector(s) (alias domain/ policy field) is the intervention primarily implemented in ? [e.g. housing, mobility, energy, water, health, local economy, biodiversity, CC adaptation, etc.]

Mobility and transport.

3. What is the intervention (i.e. situated experiment) aiming to achieve in terms of sustainability and justice? [If possible, please copy from a project website and give a reference]

The municipality of Barcelona summarizes the strategic goals of the intervention in four points (Ajuntament_01: 25f).:

  • Improving the habitability of public spaces

This is about boosting the use of public spaces (e.g for childrens, meeting, resting etc.) through prioritising pedestrians and increasing traffic calm areas, promoting new uses of public spaces and improving attraction and comfort of those spaces.

  • Moving towards more sustainable mobility

The goal is a healthy, low-carbon model of traffic with fewer noise and exhaust gas pollution. This is done by reducing motorised vehicles in general, promoting alternative fuels in vehicles and switching to more efficient means of transport.

  • Increasing and improving urban greenery and biodiversity

This is about generally increasing green areas, creating micro-habitats for birds and other species, ensuring a broad variety of plants and making the ground permeable for water. Also community managed green areas are promoted to increase public interest and participation.

  • Promoting public participation and joint responsibility

The aim is to open up the process as far as possible and ensure participation in city and territory approaches.

The reclaiming of public spaces, which are currently occupied by private cars, for and by residents stands at the core of the intervention and is the main goal of it. It is about “filling the streets with life again”. (Ajuntament_01: 1f.)

4. What is the interventions’ timeframe?

The initial Superblock Programme took from 2012 to 2015. The Municipal Action plan lasted from 2016 to 2019. To create more Superblocks up to the number of 503 is still a long term goal (SMARTEES_01: A114).

5. By what governance mode is the intervention characterized primarily? (see Appendix 1: Three modes of governance)

Government - led.

6. Why do you consider it worthwhile to study and share experiences made in the context of this governance intervention for sustainable and just cities?[1]

A) The intervention has been implemented and studied on a district as well as a city-wide level B) There are EU- funded studies concerning the intervention C) The intervention aims at sustainable as well as just goals D) It is very well documented (project materials, research, media)

7. In which project deliverable(s) or other documents can information be found on this situated (i.e. place specific) governance intervention?

SMARTEES (2019): Deliverable 3.1. Report about profiles of social innovation “in action” for each cluster [1]

Barcelona (2016). Government measure: Let's fill streets with life. Establishing Superblocks in Barcelona. Commission for Ecology, Urban Planning and Mobility, Council of Barcelona. [2]

b) Additional basic characteristics, links to earlier UrbanA work

8. EU Project-context of the intervention:

  • a. Has the intervention been developed or studied in the context of an (EU-funded?) project? (please name the project, its duration and include a link to the project website here).

It has been studied by SMARTEES - Social Innovation Modelling Approaches to Realizing Transition to Energy Efficiency and Sustainability - from 2018-2021 [3]. as well as GREENLULUS - Green Locally Unwanted Land Uses - from 2016 - 2021 [4].

  • b. According to WP3’s database of approaches, which approach(es) does the intervention best fit under? Where applicable, please indicate if the intervention is found in a project that has been explicitly mentioned in the database.

Energy and Mobility solutions. It is also about Right to the city ideas as it wants to free up public space which is currently taken by cars. It could also fit into Nature-based solutions as some affected spaces are re-naturalised.

  • c. Have some project deliverables been coded in the context of UrbanA’s WP4?

Yes [5]

9. Problematization and priority:

  • a. How exactly has inequality and exclusion been problematized (by whom) in the context of this intervention?

Exclusion of residents from public spaces and therefore the loss of public spaces in general is the core inequality that the intervention and the municipality of Barcelona addresses (Ajuntament_01: 2).

  • b. Has the achievement of justice explicitly been named as a major motivation behind the intervention?

Justice is not explicitly mentioned, although it is definitely a driver behind giving the streets back to its residents.

Drivers of injustices Based on WP4 coding Based on own assessment
1. Exclusive access to the benefits of sustainability infrastructure X
2. Material and livelihood inequalities
3. Racialized or ethnically exclusionary urbanization
4. Uneven and exclusionary urban intensification and regeneration X
5. Uneven environmental health and pollution patterns
6. Unfit institutional structures
7. Limited citizen participation in urban planning X
8. Lack of effective knowledge brokerage and stewardship opportunities
9. Unquestioned Neoliberal growth and austerity urbanism X
10. Weak(ened) civil society X

c) Actor constellations

10. Who initiated the intervention?

The municipality of Barcelona.

11. Who are the envisioned benefiters of the intervention? (both at a local level and higher, if applicable)

Residents as well as other citizens visiting the areas looking for public spaces to let their children play safely, relax… (Ajuntament_01: 1f.).

12. Who else is (going to be) involved in the intervention, and what was/is their main role?

Actor types[2] Yes Actor name and role[3]
Academic organizations X Different universities, other expert institutions.
Religious organizations
Civil society organizations X
Hybrid/ 3rd sector organizations X Biciclot SCCL - a bicycle workshop in Poblenou which supported the implementation of the Superblock in Poblenou and have joined the working group.
Platforms X There are citizen platforms which are in favor of their particular neighbourhood Superblock e.g “Col·lectiu Superilla Poblenou”[4] in Poblenou or in Camp d´en Grassot[5] which have argued in favor of Superblocks as a way to reduce private vehicle circulation.
NGOs X TaulaEix Pere IV. they supported the Superblock in Poblenou and have also joined the working group.
Social movements X It seems that there are different strong movements in favor and/or against Superblocks which are mostly about the effects on the district/neighbourhood level and the perceived positive/negative outcomes of Superblocks and not so much about the city plan in general.

The most controversial debate seems to be going on in Poblenou with strong opinions on both sides.

Political parties X The pilot projects were initially launched by the conservative party “Convergència i Unió”. After 2015´s election the new left party “Barcelona en Comú” is leading the city in a coalition with other left parties. They are giving the program continuity. Opposition comes from “Partido Popular” who defend the priority of private car use.

There are also opposition parties in favor of the concept.

Media X
Unions
Social entreprises
For profit entreprises X Consultancies provide support in the development of the different measures for each superblock as well as assistance and guidance with participation processes.
Local/regional government X Municipality initiated the intervention. Several city council departments are working on it. Primarily, the mobility and urban design departments of the local administration.

The local government formed a technical secretariat which is leading the program. Furthermore district administrations are playing a counselling role and members (which can also be members of the local political parties) sometimes are actively part of the district working group providing expertise etc.

Moreover the Catalan government and the public authorities “Metropolitan Area of Barcelona “and the “Metropolitan Transport Authority” are involved with the formulation of the programme on the city level.

Regional organizations
National government
Supranational government
International networks
Other initiatives X The Urban Ecology Agency which is a consortium of the City Council of Barcelona, the Municipal Council and Metropolitan Area of Barcelona and the Barcelona Provincial Council. Its role is to diagnose every neighbourhood where Superblocks are implemented and to aid with technical solutions that could improve the neighbourhoods sustainability.

13. Which particular interactions among various stakeholders (stakeholder configurations) were crucial in enabling the intervention to emerge successfully? This could include direct or indirect impacts on interventions.

In several neighbourhoods multi-stakeholder decision making processes have been formalised in local, regular working groups that are steering the design of the ongoing superblocks. This was a result of the missing participation in Poblenou and the municipality realising that local Superblocks have to be adapted to local peculiarities. The working groups also serve promotional purposes e.g, presenting the Municipal Action Plan to more residents, engaging citizens, local associations and local economy. They also try to find agreements between different voices and interests of stakeholders (SMARTEES_01: A121).

14. To what extent, in what form and at what stages have citizens participated in the shaping of the intervention?

Citizen participation happens at the neighbourhood level and tries to involve the city-wide plan of implementing superblocks. There is a standard procedure for involving different stakeholders and citizens that is followed for each superblock. It can be characterised in nine distinctive steps(SMARTEES_01: A120):

  1. Definition and analysis of the area;
  2. Internal work by the Technical Secretariat
  3. Technical work with the districts
  4. Work with the Promotional Group
  5. Participation of specific groups
  6. Participation of local residents
  7. Approval of Action Plan
  8. Drafting projects with suitable protocol and participation according to type of initiative
  9. Implementing the initiatives

The process itself is the same over the different districts, but the approval ratings from citizens and their view on their respective Superblock varies for each Superblock. The implementation of a Superblock itself seemed not to be up for debate as it was integrated into the Urban Mobility Plan, just the way of how it could be implemented. The municipality defines its general establishment process of Superblocks in two bigger phases: add the graphs

Over the course of the project participation became increasingly open and informal, as there was resistance in some neighbourhoods and the process had to be adapted. The Technical Secretariat designed this participatory process in the beginning, but politicians were too eager to start implementing Superblocks, so that the Superblock in Poblenou was started without any kind of public participation (Interview_6:01). While working on this scheme, the city council decided to start to implement the first physical changes in Poblenou. The outrage that was generated by this steered the project in a more participatory direction and was crucial for key learnings of this project. (Interview_6:05)

The meeting minutes and a protocol of the deliberative process and public meetings are published on the website of the municipality for transparency (SMARTEES_01: 45).

15. How are responsibilities and/or decision-making power distributed among actors?

The city of Barcelona always had and still has the leadership over the whole project. The Technical Secretariat (see Q. 22; Q24) is in charge of the Superblock Programme, there are only three or four public servants who are members of the city council as well as people from urban designing/planning companies working in the Technical Secretariat (Interview). Therefore, it relies on the help of different consultancies which provide support in the definition of the measures that are supposed to be implemented (SMARTEES_01: 44).

The Urban Ecology Agency has a key role in the project because of its charismatic leader Salvador Rueda (SMARTEES_01: A122). The idea of Superblocks originates from Salvador Rueda (TheGuardian_01). Especially in the beginning this Agency was very important in designing the Superblocks, now they do ecological diagnoses of the areas of new Superblocks.

Local actors, neighbourhood stakeholders and citizens are involved in a co-designing process launched by the City Council in order to develop the action plan which “should be” approved by the district political body (SMARTEES_01: A122). These processes are formalised in local working groups where different stakeholders can participate and which presents the Local Action Plan to the neighbourhood (SMARTEES_01: A121).

16. Exclusion:

  • a. Which stakeholders or social groups were excluded (at which stages)?

Citizens at the earliest stages (see q.14).

  • b. Is there any indication why this may have happened? With what outcomes? Has anything been done to overcome such exclusions?

In Poblenou, politicians wanted to implement changes to the neighbourhood without being patient and waiting for a participation process that was designed at the same time by the Technical Secretariat. The missing participation then resulted in local resistance in the neighbourhood. In response, the project participation became increasingly open and informal to accommodate citizens more.

d) Enabling conditions for the implementation of the intervention

17. What circumstances or events are reported to have triggered the intervention? (In what ways?)

One of the main issues was that streets lost a lot of their traditional functions as spaces for children's games, local resident gatherings, strolls, resting, financial exchanges, sport, culture and protests because over the past few decades, they have developed into spaces only used for travel. Adding to that are issues such as rising air-pollution levels; traffic noise; road-accident rates and a lack of greenery. (Ajuntament_01: 7). Barcelona has developed different integrated plans tackling those issues and also embedding those problems into global issues such as climate change and lack of biodiversity, trying to improve citizens’ quality of life which is deemed to be lowered over the past decades. Superblocks are one of the measures of a systematic change of Barcelona. Reportedly from SMARTEES (01: 42), a critical attitude towards the management of environmental issues in their city started with people from the municipality participating in the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (Rio Summit) in 1992. Environmental awareness and ecological motivations were one of the key drivers of the Superblock Programme as well as a holistic management strategy of such issues in the city in general.

18. Are particular substantive (multi-level) governmental policies considered to be highly influential in the genesis and shaping of the intervention? (If easily possible, please specify the policy, the policy field and the governance level mainly addressed, and characterize it along Appendix 2: Policy typology)

Very important for the implementation of the Superblocks is the so called “Citizen Commitment for Sustainability” which was first signed in 2002 by over 800 organisations (large and small enterprises, community groups, professional associations, political parties and educational institutions …). It was evaluated and renewed in 2012 which led to the “Citizen Commitment for Sustainability 2012-2022”. (SMARTEES_01: A123). The point of that commitment is to improve people's life in the city, furthering participation and implementing small-scale interventions. Superblocks are one of the several actions that are defined in the document and experience support because of that. In general Superblocks are connected to different policies besides the Municipal Action Plan e.g. the Barcelona Mobility Pact (1998), which over 30 mobility linked organizations have formalised and over 100 have signed to reach consensus and increase sustainable mobility (SMARTEES_01: A121). the Urban Mobility Plan of Barcelona (2013-2018), the cities Green Infrastructure and Biodiversity Plan (until 2020) or the Barcelona Commitment to Climate (Ajuntament_01: 22f.) which creates synergies and gives them a vision for comprehensive change in order to develop a common strategy.

Superblocks are therefore embedded in holistic city-wide changes and city level policies which are regulatory, but also informative and some voluntary (See Appendix 1).

19. What constitutional responsibilities and rules does the intervention build upon? In other words, what rights, powers, and/or responsibilities, does the country's constitution (in a broad sense) award municipalities, states, utilities, NGOs, citizens etc. and how does this impact the intervention?

Spain is a decentralised state that comprises a three level governance: central, regional and local; comprising Provinces and Municipalities (Art. 137 of the Constitution).

Provinces and Municipalities (and Autonomous Communities) run their respective affairs autonomously which is also ensured by Art. 137

Municipalities have all kinds of authority and decision - making power which are important for the implementation of Superblocks such as: Concerning municipalities with over 50.000 inhabitants are in charge of “Collective urban transportation” and “Urban environmental protection” (CorSpain).

20. According to project material/and or interviews, in what ways have particularities of (local) political culture influenced the character and success of the intervention? (i.e. trust in political institutions, citizens’ will to interact with policy makers and vice versa, traditions of cooperation etc.)

The eagerness to start “constructing” Superblocks without talking to residents about any of the changes in Poblenou at all have led to a fundamental change of their implementation in other areas of the city and the general participatory process.

21. What are financial arrangements that support the intervention?

The total budget for the Superblock Programme between 2016 and 2019 the “Let´s fill streets with life. Establishing Superblocks in Barcelona.” government measure is 11 million euros (Ajuntament_01: 40). The cost of the superblock project in Sant Antoni is 7 million Euros. It is estimated that the implementation of all superblocks in Barcelona would cost less than 100 million euros (SMARTEES_01: A117).

22. Have any of the above conditions changed within the intervention’s timeframe, which have (significantly) influenced it in a positive or negative way?

As mentioned the Technical Secretariat that was formed because of resistance in Poblenou (see Q.24) is now in charge of the project. This improved communication between residents and government as well as helped to organize the whole process in a better way.

Note: Certain contexts, which provide opportunities to learn from other relevant experiences, may also be a supportive framework condition. Please see section h, questions 26 + 30 on learning context.

e) Obstacles to successful intervention implementation

23. What obstacles to implementing the intervention (both generally, and in this particular context) have been identified, relating to:

  • a. Regulatory framework

Most issues are about legitimacy and public awareness and not so much about regulatory framework issues.

  • b. Legitimacy

Mentioned issues are a perceived unsafety at nocturnal hours where Superblocks become “deserted” and only frequented by young people who drink on the streets. Apparently, the project in Poblenou has also led to a sharp drop in merchants sales in the neighbourhood. (SMARTEES_01: A128). Finally, because of the unchanged habit of some residents, traffic is still the same because people are still using the car (on the perimeter streets) the same amount as before. This is related to insufficient public transport for commuters. (ebd.) There is also a fear of gentrification as the process might transform neighbourhoods into “trendy places” (SMARTEES_01: 47).

  • c. Public awareness

The Superblock in Poblenou was started without any kind of participatory process where the first physical changes in the neighbourhood were done “on a weekend” which led to a lot of resistance in the neighbourhood (Interview_7:51)

Groups in 2016 have emerged in different neighbourhoods called the Superblocks unrealistic because it is deemed to be unrealizable in a big city like Barcelona. They warn of a feared widespread collapse of the city if Superblocks continue to be built and refer to the then (from their perspective) further rising pollution levels. In Sant Marti, resistance groups also criticized missing information and the mobility chaos of the Superblock perimeter. It has also been criticized that the urban configuration itself has not changed at all and only feels provisional (SMARTEES_01:46)

Of 1739 residents who voted in May 2017 in the consultation promoted by the Plataforma d'Afectats of the Superilla de Poblenou, which is a platform against the Superblock in Poblenou, 87% voted against its implementation in their district (SMARTEES_01: 46).

  • d. Finances

The project in general is deemed as a low-cost solution, only for some superblocks like the one in Saint-Antoni investment is more substantial as e.g some roads and sidewalks have to be newly constructed Some critical voices mentioned that the city council should spend more money if they really want people to benefit, as they do not believe these low-cost solutions are truly beneficial for them/will change a lot. (SMARTEES_01: 47).

  • e. Others (please name)

The implementation of Superblocks is taking far longer than expected and it still only involves small areas of the city . This is also partly a result because of the very open participatory process that the municipality adapted after resistance in Poblenou which involves local working groups co-designing parts of each neighbourhood with citizens and other local stakeholders (see Q. 24). According to one technician there are “about 100 areas already pacified, where superblocks could be created quickly and without social contestation.” (SMARTEES_01: A127).

In a few cases the local district council acted against the implementation of their Superblock, thus strengthening critical voices (SMARTEES_01: A129).

f) (Institutional) Work done to overcome obstacles

24. What has been done by each central actor group to overcome which particular obstacles in the way of successfully implementing the intervention? (this may include institutional Work - maintaining, disrupting, and creating new rules, applying to both formal laws/regulations and informal norms and expectations.)

Name of obstacle What work was/is being done to overcome this obstacle and by what actor groups?
Citizen resistance in Poblenou Municipality started a post-intervention participatory process and a dialogue with resident associations as well as institutions e.g schools, kindergartens.. in order to improve the intervention (getting insights from residents about which streets to reopen for traffic etc.) (Interview)
Citizen resistance in Poblenou Local working groups in other neighbourhoods were created to steer the process for each specific neighbourhood to co-design with residents and local actors to improve legitimacy in other areas and to give residents more power. (Interview)
Different fears of negative consequences of Superblocks by residents (e.g. unsafety at night ..) The municipality was and is conducting Measurements/Surveys and empirical research in existing Superblocks to get insights about different effects and to be able to present these results to residents of other Superblocks. This sometimes can help in breaking misperceptions about feared negative consequences. Right now the SMARTEES team is conducting a research on the topic of safety at night in Poble´Nou as well as different perceptions about the Superblocks in general (Interview)

g) Reported outcomes

25. What are reported outcomes of the intervention? This may include economic outcomes, political outcomes, ability to reach sustainability and justice targets, etc.

The Programme proves that is not always necessary to implement huge changes or to invest large sums of money in order to improve the life of its citizens. Small-scale or low-cost actions are sometimes just as effective and far easier to implement.

Observed outcomes concern (SMARTEES_01: A125):

  • Habitability: 25,129 m2 of new public space without cars have been gained, 349 benches have been installed, 2,483 m2 of playgrounds for children have been created.
  • Mobility: The number of cars that access the streets on a daily basis has gone down from 2,218 to 932 vehicles / day. The area for pedestrians has been increased by 80%, similarly the area for cars has been reduced by 48%. Unregulated car parking spaces have gone down (from 401 to 74) while cyclist meters have increased.
  • Green spaces and biodiversity: The green area has increased by 91% from 9,722 m2 to 18,632 m2. 176 units of trees have been planted.
  • Economic activity: The number of economic activities on the ground floor has gone up from 65 to 85.
  • Public housing: In the central area of the Superblock a public housing building is being constructed by the Municipal Housing Trust.

Equally as important are observed changes in the lifestyles of residents (SMARTEES_01: A126). Several residents have reported an increase in the personal use of bikes while reducing use of private cars/motorbikes. Biking has become a trend as it is perceived safer with the lower numbers of cars around.

h) Learning involved in establishing the intervention

Please fill in any information on social learning that has occured in this intervention (conceptualized here as “Learning context, content, and process” in line with the FOODLINKS project)[6]. Where possible, please differentiate your response into learning done by specific actor groups.

Learning context

(i.e. the configuration and social environment enabling the learning process)

26. According to the TRANSIT project’s four mechanisms for empowerment – i. funding; ii. legitimacy; iii. knowledge sharing, learning, and peer support; or iv. visibility and identity – please briefly describe the following, and indicate where the intervention has been developed or supported as part of which formal collaborations, networks or projects:

  • a. any previous experiences in the same urban context (e.g. city…) that the intervention is (reportedly) building upon? This could include any relevant experiences in the same or another sector.

The municipality mentions that the implementation of Superblocks builds on several city-wide plans from the past such as the:

  • Cerdà Plan
  • County Plan (1953)
  • The General Metropolitan Plan (1977) - the “current framework”
  • The Street Plan (1986)
  • Re-developments of Portal de l’Àngel and Plaça de la Catedral
  • The Mobility Plan for Vila de Gràcia (2003) (Ajuntament_01: 8f.)
  • b. any inter-city partnerships, or transfers from experiences elsewhere that have (reportedly) been important in the emergence of this intervention?

The municipality reports that taming the passage of cars through street arrangements based on blocks is also not a new idea and examples can be seen in:

  • proposals for neighbourhood units
  • ideas of environmental areas and traffic management published by English engineer Colin Buchanan[7].
  • the woonerfs in the Netherlands[8].

Barcelona was the first city to implement Superblocks, but the idea is very common in Spain today. There is a lot of exchange about the implementation of Superblocks in each respective city and an especially strong inter-city partnership with Vitoria-Gasteiz which also has a Superblock Programme (SUMP - Sustainable Mobility Plan) that started in 2008 and is supposed to end in 2023 reorganizing the city in 77 Superblocks. (SMARTEES_01: A95). Both cities are continuing to support each other through ii) legitimacy, iii) knowledge sharing, learning and peer support. Barcelona was the first city to implement Superblocks which Vitoria-Gasteiz adapted in 2008. Barcelona again profits from the experiences learned in Vitoria-Gasteiz. (SMARTEES_01: A109).

Learning content

27. Has any acquired knowledge (e.g. technical knowledge, awareness of local political procedures etc.) been reported as particularly helpful to this intervention?

  • a. from previous experiences in the same urban context

Technical knowledge in how to physically change the existing structure of blocks originally implemented in the Cerdà Plan (19th century).

Numerous experiences on how to reclaim space for pedestrians have been reported useful to the intervention especially those based on developments after the Street Plan of 1986 (Ajuntament_01: 10) Learning to not give up on the intervention because of resistance and throwbacks against implementation has further been important. (e.g In the first re-developments of Portal de l’Àngel and Plaça de la Catedral merchants were worried that making streets only accessible to pedestrians would lead to a drop in sales much like in current debates on Superblocks (Ajuntament_01:10).

  • b. from inter-city partnerships, or transfers from experiences elsewhere

It is difficult to measure exact content and learnings from partnerships with other cities as exchanges about information are rather informal but steadily happening.

  • c. from other knowledge gathering/research

From the implementation of the intervention itself: The municipality (had to) learn that it is vital to provide enough information and reliable data about the changes and proposals in each neighbourhood. This is important to break misperceptions and that the plan has more benefits than inconveniences. It is furthermore significant to explain overall ambitions and the city-wide scale of the tackled issues. (SMARTEES_01: 48)

Furthermore the ability to adapt and readapt certain parts of the Superblocks in cooperation with stakeholders from different fields and residents from the area has been one of the key learnings for the municipality (Interview_31:05)

Different best practices about participatory processes have been developed based on experiences (especially resistances) gained including:

  • best practices for engaging people in deliberative processes
  • information and communication strategies and channels
  • the use of ICT technologies (e.g., GIS maps) for illustrating the main changes proposed in the project at the neighbourhood level
  • Maintaining a coherent discourse and practice, building trust accomplishing goals while also being open to people´s proposals are stressed as key elements for making participatory processes successful (SMARTEES_01: A123).

Janet Sanz, a city councillor and today's “Deputy Mayor for Ecology, Urban Planning and Mobility” stressed that "listening to the neighbourhood has been the main learning of this project” (El Periodico).

Learning process

28. In what ways has the intervention been adapted to specific circumstances of the targeted urban context based on the learned content reported in question 27?

In order to reduce conflict and resistance the Technical Secretariat (in Poblenou)

  • Improved communication and participation
  • Improved participatory process and created new channels of communication with citizens (Citizens were invited to formulate improvements in the design of the Superblocks)
  • Started and entered a negotiation process between pro and con-speakers of the intervention

This lead to the implementation of some changes such as permitting private vehicles and public transport from entering Superblocks.

The Technical Secretariat also became important in sharing the knowledge to other cities as it reportedly gave advice and shared knowledge with representatives of New York and Copenhagen (SMARTEES_01: 50).

29. Based on your answers to question 24, how has overcoming obstacles (reportedly) contributed to the learning process?

Especially the resistance in Poblenou that emerged after implementing changes to the neighbourhood without any prior participation process, fundamentally changed the way of how Superblocks were implemented afterwards and will be in the future. The newly created local working groups of each area give residents and other stakeholders the possibility to express issues and the power to co-create their new neighbourhood. (Interview). Speculatively, this might also change the way other projects in Barcelona will be designed in the future, although it is too early to measure this yet (Interview).

30. Please list any tools that enabled the learning process (e.g. various Knowledge Brokerage Activities from pg. 24 of FOODLINK’s Deliverable 7.1 - linked in footnote)[9] and the actors involved in using them.

  • Face-to-Face meetings (all actors)
  • Field visits / meeting the locals (Workshops organised by city council with city technicians, politicians and residents) (SMARTEES_01: A119).

i) Learning involved in establishing interventions elsewhere (transferability)

31. Suggestions regarding transferability.

  • a. Have any suggestions been made about a replicability, scaleability or transferability of the intervention? [e.g. in the documentation of the intervention in a project or the press? Links would be perfect]

The efforts of Barcelona concerning their Superblocks are well recognised internationally and many other cities are in contact with Barcelona to learn about their experience. Barcelona has also received a lot of media attention over the last couple of years from e.g The New York Times (2016)[10], The Guardian (2019[11]), El Pais (2018)[12], Deutschlandfunk (2016)[13], Die Zeit (2018[14]) or very extensively from VOX[15].

The New York Times and Vox are suggesting possibilities to replicate the Superblock idea, the New York Times article is called “What New York Can Learn From Barcelona’s ‘Superblocks’” (NewYorkTimes_01)

VOX is e.g suggesting a possible replicability of the Superblock idea to Portland, Oregon. An interviewee from Bloomberg Associates sees potential in Washington, DC, New York City, San Francisco, and Chicago as they already have grid patterns, walkable blocks and suffer from air or noise pollution. She also sees potential in a lot of smaller cities, basically in “just about every city or town has some central area with remnants of a block pattern”(VOX_02.

  • b. Transferability to what kind of contexts has been suggested?

Districts and city-wide plans, dense cities.

  • c. Who has made the claims?

Media, urban planners, researchers.

  • d. What limits to transferability to broader contexts have been discussed?

VOX mentions different limits to transferability especially regarding US cities:

  • Cities tend to be too wide and focussed around interstates and freeways
  • Missing density and walkability
  • Missing short, regular blocks, orthogonal streets, and mixed-use zoning
  • Missing familiarity with urban transformations and civic pride (VOX_02) Americans are so accustomed to the absence of walkable and accessible public spaces they barely can express what they are missing

These factors are especially prominent in the US but also apply to a lot of European cities.

Furthermore interesting is the relationship between suburbanity and hurdles for reducing numbers of cars: Suburbanity with clear property borders and separated dwellings means less density which means less walkability and slower and less frequent public transport. This leads to an increase of private vehicles and citizens thinking of themselves as car drivers in the field of mobility. Drivers again do not want more people living near them, as that means more drivers and traffic jams.

The idea of vibrant, public spaces does not really work as there is not sufficient density around the spaces. “They become internal tourist destinations, places residents drive to visit” (VOX_02).

32. In what forms has the learning process, including stories of overcoming obstacles, been recorded for, and/or made accessible to city makers also from elsewhere?[16]

SMARTEES has a huge report on all kinds of issues related to the implementation of Superblocks. There is specific section on “Critical issues and How Critical issues have been overcome” (SMARTEES_01: 45f); as well as specific stories (an extra infobox) that show how exactly certain project processes developed e.g resistance in Poblenou (SMARTEES_01: A129f.) As mentioned there is also a lot of media presence concerned with Barcelona's idea and implementation of Superblocks that report issues of implementation and how other cities can profit from it (NewYorkTimes_01)

SMARTEES is actively trying to further networks between Barcelona and other Spanish cities and are creating ways of formalising learning and sharing. SMARTEES wants to develop policy scenario workshops where cities can discuss future steps of Superblock interventions (Vitoria-Gasteiz and Barcelona will be part of these workshops). The goal is to bring researchers and actors from the cities together and discuss strategies and approaches alternatives and lessons from past experiences in Superblocks and how to transfer that knowledge to future implementations.

33. Have any signs of collaboration, support, or inspiration already been reported between actors involved in this intervention and others that follow its example? (e.g. in “follower cities”?)

In Spain the idea of Superblocks is spreading to other topologically diverse cities such as A Coruña, Ferrol,Viladecans and El Prat (SMARTEES_01: A49).

SMARTEES report that representatives of New York and Copenhagen have already visited Barcelona and are advised by the Technical Secretariat (SMARTEES_01: 50).

Other cities in the world such as Melbourne, Toronto, Lisbon, Quito, Buenos Aires are also interested in the Superblock Programme and are in contact with the Agencia de Ecologia Urbana. Seattle is also reportedly considering to implement its first Superblock brought to discussion by Seattle councilwoman Teresa Mosqueda (CapitolHill_01).

A lot of other cities in the world (from Japan, China, India, South Korea, Canada, Ecuador, Mexico and Moscow) have requested information on Superblocks (SMARTEES_01: 50).

j) Structural learning

34. Has the intervention influenced higher-level governance arrangements such that sustainability and justice are considered (together) in a more durable, structural way? In other words, are there any observations about more structural, long-term changes as a result of the intervention?

  • For example: new programs run by local councils, new modes of citizen participation, new mediating bodies
  • Is there other evidence that the project has contributed to enhancing sustainable and just governance in cities in a general sense?

to complete

k) Reflections on important governance concepts

35. What other aspects of governance, that were not covered above, are important to highlight, too?

Barcelona has a long history of involving the public as there are different formal structures already existing for participation such as the Conseils de Barri. (SMARTEES_01: 43) (VOX_02). The Superblock model developed a new model of organizing the public participation pursuing co-responsibility as one of the core strategies of the programme (SMARTEES_01: 43).

36. From your perspective as a researcher, which word or phrase characterizes this governance intervention most concisely? (Please attach your name to the characterization) In other words, what is the biggest takeaway from this intervention about governance arrangements?

This intervention shows how important it is to be able to adapt existing plans to local contexts. Possibly, there will be long term changes in the way the municipality will interact with residents in different kinds of programmes in the city that go further than Superblocks. The learnings from the implementation of the first Superblocks could be seen as a changing moment in time for that in the future (Interview).

Appendix 1: Three modes of governance

(from NATURVATION project)

NATURVATION's NBS-Atlas distinguishes three categories of governance arrangements (dubbed "management set-ups":

  • Government-led (Gov)
  • Co-governance or hybrid governance (mix of responsibilities between government and non-government actors) (c/h)
  • Led by non-government actors (NGO)

Alternatively or additionally, the following four modes of governing (as distinguished also by Bulkeley/Kern 2006 and Zvolska et al. 2019) could be used as a typology: Castan Broto/ Bulkeley 2013:95

  1. Self-governing, intervening in the management of local authority operations to ‘‘lead by example’’;
  2. Provision, greening infrastructure and consumer services provided by different authorities;
  3. Regulations, enforcing new laws, planning regulations, building codes, etc.; and
  4. Enabling, supporting initiatives led by other actors through information and resource provision and partnerships”


Appendix 2: Policy typology

(from NATURVATION project)

Policy typology Description Examples
Regulatory (administrative, command-and-control) Mandatory fulfillment of certain requirements by targeted actors Legislations, regulations, laws, directives, etc.
Economic (financial, market-based) Financial (dis)incentives to trigger change by providing (new) favourable (or unfavourable) economic conditions for targeted actors Positive incentive include subsidies, soft loans, tax allowance and procurments. Negative incentives are taxes, fees and charges.
Informative (educational) They aim at providing information or knowledge to target actors in order to increase awareness and support informed decision-making accomplish or prevent social change Information and awareness raising campaigns, informative leaflets, advertisements in different media.
Voluntary Commitment and/or actions beyond legal requirements, undertaken by private actors and/or non-governmental organisations. Voluntary actions and agreements.


test tableau

  1. Background to this question: Our four main criteria for selecting particular governance interventions and develop rich descriptions of them were: A) The intervention has been studied in a specific urban context (e.g. city), B) this context is located in Europe (and, preferably, the study was EU-funded), C) the intervention considers to a large extent sustainability AND justice (at least implicitly), and D) it is well-documented, ideally including assumptions or even critical reflections on enablers and barriers to implementation and on transferability (i.e. ‘de-contextualizability’). Additionally, we aimed at a diverse portfolio of domains (see Q2.) and governance modes (see Q5): https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1nCPcUd-COIQ1MsBjir20_F1CBbnSu6HqKH9nNLshiVQ/edit?usp=sharing.
  2. Actor types according to TRANSIT’s Critical Turning Point Database, http://www.transitsocialinnovation.eu/about-ctps-in-tsi-processes.
  3. If easily possible mention sources for your association of roles.
  4. https://superillap9.wordpress.com.
  5. https://superillagrassot.wordpress.com.
  6. Deliverable 7.1 Synthesis Report on results from Monitoring and Evaluation (p.14) : http://www.foodlinkscommunity.net/fileadmin/documents_organicresearch/foodlinks/publications/karner-etal-d-7-1.pdf .
  7. Bianconi M., Tewdwr-Jones M. (2013): The form and organisation of urban areas: Colin Buchanan and Traffic in Towns 50 years on. In: The Town planning review 84(3):313-336.
  8. https://www.naturespath.com/en-us/blog/woonerf-the-dutch-solution-to-city-planning/.
  9. http://www.foodlinkscommunity.net/fileadmin/documents_organicresearch/foodlinks/publications/karner-etal-d-7-1.pdf .
  10. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/02/nyregion/what-new-york-can-learn-from-barcelonas-superblocks.html?_r=1.
  11. https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2019/sep/10/barcelonas-car-free-superblocks-could-save-hundreds-of-lives.
  12. https://elpais.com/ccaa/2018/09/29/catalunya/1538246791_684437.html .
  13. https://www.deutschlandfunknova.de/beitrag/superblocks-in-barcelona.
  14. https://www.zeit.de/mobilitaet/2018-04/barcelona-verkehr-problem-autofahrer-smart-data.
  15. https://www.vox.com/energy-and-environment/2019/4/9/18300797/barcelona-spain-superblocks-urban-plan.
  16. Feel free to include learning that has been made available through EU project documentation, intervention initiatives, or other channels. In addition to the forms in which the learning process has been shared with others, please indicate whether the learning process that’s being shared has been recorded in a self-critical/reflexive way.