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Two-way street: how Barcelona is democratising public space

Citizens are finally getting the urban patios and parks promised when the cramped medieval city was extended in the 1900s

At the turn of the 20th century, the Catalan engineer Ildefons Cerdà had a revolutionary idea for extending Barcelona beyond the cramped confines of its medieval walls. In the grid system of the extension he planned, each city block would be built around a large open space or patio, designed to be a park for residents.

When he began his work, the old city was hemmed in physically and psychologically, desperately overcrowded and disease-ridden, with frequent outbreaks of cholera and a lower life expectancy than London or Paris.

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