Three series of maps assess three complementary views on the topic: the intensity of use to which each service is subjected, the physical proximity between services and the alterations in regular urban fabrics due to different balances between activities through the specific case of the Eixample. All maps are elaborated under a specific methodology so the resulting graphic materials show a wide range of views on the topic. The formulation and partial results are described in the following subsections.
3.1.1. Density of Services and Intensity of Use
The first series of maps shows the spatial distribution of activities related to population densities. According to the method described in the previous section, a density of inhabitants is assigned to each Voronoi cell to obtain a theoretical model of allocation of the population to each service point. Figure 4
shows the resulting map of division of space into polygons and subsequent allocation of potential users to the tiles. The results for each of the six types of activity are divided into quintiles, and extreme values are taken for a new analysis. This gives two groups of activities designated as “over-assigned” (when the population served is in the top 20%) or “under-assigned” (in the bottom 20%).
The figures can be compared with the average allocations for each type of service in relation to the total population of Barcelona mentioned in Section 2
: there are 702 people per supermarket, 804 per specialized grocery store, 1048 per bakery and 1507 per pharmacy.
Considering the over-assigned activities, the minimum number of inhabitants that set the maximum quintile ranges from 1001 people per supermarket, 1221 people per specialized grocery store, 1582 people per bakery, or 2035 people per pharmacy. In the assumption that the average service figure in the city ensures balance, the smaller the difference with the aforementioned average, the better balanced the service can be considered. In this way, pharmacies set their threshold for the maximum demand only 35% above the average, while supermarkets set it at 42%, and bakeries and specialized grocery stores, slightly above 50%.
In cases of under-assigned activities, the ranges are up to 318 people per supermarket, 261 people per specialized grocery store, 357 people per bakery or 882 people per pharmacy. This indicates that pharmacies are the most constant of the four services analyzed, since this quintile of minimum service remains at 58% of the average population supplied. At the other extreme are the specialized grocery stores, in which the figure drops to 32%, and bakeries, to 34%. In an almost medium position are supermarkets. In the quintile that serves the least amount of population, the figures for supermarkets stand at 45% of the average population served in the city.
shows the territorialization by layers, representing on the urban fabric the cells that in Figure 4
corresponded to the highest quintile. This image allows the establishment of distinctions between activities that have a higher number of assigned inhabitants and are considered to have more potential to be in critical condition than those that have a lower density of assigned inhabitants:
Given that, as explained above, market halls follow a fairly balanced territorial distribution logic, it is expected that nuances appear when looking from the perspective of how much population they serve, since they then account for the heterogeneity of the fabrics in which they are inserted.
In the case of supermarkets, those that are supposed to serve a greater number of people are scattered throughout the city. However, some fragments of significant axes are highlighted in the drawing. In addition, a series of other sectors show a high density of discontinuous tiles all over the city.
The layer of grocery stores is difficult to describe since several different types of specialty stores are considered under the same category. Broadly speaking, there is a greater concentration of areas in which the stores are assigned to a greater number of people north of the Diagonal. The central districts of the city (the entire Eixample and Ciutat Vella) have very few places where the Voronoi tiles indicate services with an over-assigned population.
Bakeries reproduce the footprint of grocery store distribution with one exception: in the central areas there are no outstanding quintiles, since the number of establishments (that in a large number prepare breakfasts and take-away food for tourists and office workers) is greater.
Healthcare facility premises that are over-assigned define a relatively continuous mosaic distributed around three large areas.
The largest number of inhabitants corresponds to the most requested health centers. In this case, it is convenient to highlight two areas in which there is no over-allocation in health centers but there is in pharmacies.
3.1.2. Topography and Physical Proximity between Services
focuses on rectilinear distance to services, considering radii of 400 m from the geometric center of each one of the plots containing an activity. With very few exceptions, images show a 100% served city that can be explained by the short distances with which the services are distributed. Seen under the lens of the minimum distance, supermarkets and pharmacies in Barcelona share the same territorial distribution criteria: they are, on average, less than 100 m in a straight line from any plot in the city. Bakeries or specialized food stores reach a minimum average distance slightly higher than 120 m.
The proximity between services is such and the proportion of areas that are not served is so lateral that, once the guaranteed minimum service has been assumed, the discussion focuses on determining the contrasts between the amount of activities accessible from each individual plot. The quantification of the number of units of the same category that each plot has within the same 400 m radius provides a reference to understand further partial data: excluding facilities, industrial buildings and infrastructure services, each plot in the city has, on average in a 400 m radius, 24.86 supermarkets and almost the same amount of grocery stores (23.44), 17.05 bakeries and 10.8 pharmacies. This means that with the lens of urban daily services, all the plots in the city have 75 basic activities within five minutes’ walking distance.
Given the logics of territorial implementation of each use, the determination of extreme values (top and bottom 20%) reveals plots that have a large number of services around them and, at the other end, plots with few daily activities in their vicinity. Looking separately at each of the four activities and dividing the results into quintiles shows what could be called hyper-served plots (when the number of activities accessible from a given plot is in the top 20% citywide) and underserved plots (in the bottom 20%). It must be stressed that this research looks at six essential urban services. Therefore, a number of many other activities that complement them are not included, so the qualifiers of hyper-service or under-service are relative to this exceptional still urban photography.
In hyper-served areas, plots have up to 92 grocery stores within 400 m, 79 supermarkets, 61 bakeries and 27 pharmacies. Compared to the average supply figures, this means values between 2.5 (for pharmacies) and 3.9 times higher (for supermarkets). Plots in under-served areas are not literally without any service around (approximately 50 hectares, 400 m radii) but they belong to the lowest quintile in which the numbers of establishments per category are less than: five bakeries, seven pharmacies, nine grocery stores, or eleven supermarkets. The range of differences in relation to the average is lower than in the case of hyper-served areas: pharmacies are only 64% below the aforementioned average, while bakeries decrease more than two thirds, up to 29%. Among them, grocery stores in these weaker areas are 38% below the mentioned average, and supermarkets, 44%.
A parallel reading of the 400 m radius series offers complementary information to the previous perspective. The higher the intensity of the color, the better served the areas in each category, whereas the faintest hatches indicate areas with minor service. At a glance and from this perspective, it is reconfirmed that a very substantial part of Barcelona has a very good level of essential services and that there are no broad differences among the mapping of the four categories (except markets and healthcare facilities). Actually, the maximum and medium service quintiles (darker shades) extend in all cases from the old town upward, reaching in many cases urban fragments above the Ronda del Mig-Ronda del Guinardó.
A quick overall comparison shows the most outstanding characterization of the outcome of the six maps. The most clear-cut cases are the two regarding facilities:
Market halls service clearly illustrates their isolated condition and quite regular distribution that creates only some tiny overlaps either in the very central area or in the most peripheral.
Healthcare facilities service intensifies along some axes.
Regarding pharmacies and bakeries, a relatively uniform intensity is shown in a wide central area that blurs towards the boundaries of the city. Avinguda Meridiana and most specifically the parallel railway tracks, from Ciutadella Park to Sagrera northwards, appear as an important inflection that signals historical limits between the older and the newer city, the most residential areas and the former industrial districts. Supermarkets and groceries service maps offer similar diagrams exaggerating two very singular situations: the Passeig de Gràcia area as a blank within dense hatches, and Carrer Marià Aguiló and Rambla del Poblenou as a pair of axes depicting the reverse situation, as hyper-served areas within the underserved tissues of [email protected]
The scarcity of essential services is summarized in a citywide overview of the underserved areas during the lockdown. It does not literally correspond to areas “without services” but to areas with the lowest number of services around (lowest quintile) in comparison with the whole city (see the aforementioned indexes quantification per category). The exercise of overlapping the four categories results in a map that reveals potential needs on the base of the absence of one of the services in relation to the almost total presence that the four of them have in the municipal built fabric, shown in Figure 7
The overlapped view is described together with the topographical base of Barcelona in the background in order to provide some clues from this perspective. Actually, the cross-analysis illustrates once more the importance of the geographical support to determine the form and distribution of the activities over the city. It could be guessed that the more rugged the territory, the less served it is.
Identically, a similar basic principle could be taken regarding the logics of center–periphery. As Barcelona was founded in the middle of a vast plain, it is not strange that the level of services decreases towards the edges of the city because of two factors coinciding: central and flat areas versus peripheral and sloped zones. Nevertheless, looking at the central flat area, outstanding exceptions are mentioned below, while Table A2
in the Appendix A
of this document gives a more detailed explanation with more precise place names for knowledgeable readers of the city:
Areas previously pointed out for their past or current industrial use (or proximity to such uses) can be listed. In some cases, the overlap with the topography is representative of the tradition of the industrial buildings occupying the least healthy and humid areas, as was the case of the Besòs delta that was subsequently completely urbanized, but still recognizable in this map. Their current morphological configuration (block size, street layout) exemplifies different phases of transformation. Despite the fact that many activities can be normally found in their streetscape, the quantity of essential services is still quite low. The [email protected]
District fabric clearly expresses the underserved condition in opposition to the old Poblenou, where the intensity of greys (lack of service of one to four categories) emphasizes internal variations (Table A2
The main example of breaking the basic center–periphery principles is the Passeig de Gràcia strip. Around the central backbone of the Eixample, which is considered the epicentre of the city, there are paradoxically a number of underserved blocks. This question, already discussed in the previous sections, enriches the result of the research and underlines the effects of tertiarization and “globalization” of the commercial network in this area.
Due to its position on the seafront (an edge from the methodological perspective), but also its own functional configuration, almost the entire waterfront is identified as an underserved area. This situation is strong in the renovated areas from La Vila Olímpica to Diagonal Mar, and has a lower presence in the traditional neighborhood of La Barceloneta, where only the plots on the edge share a similar condition.
Finally, the underserved condition in the flat central area can be identified in some of the plain boundaries (for instance, around Montjuïc) and in some stretches alongside the infrastructural axis, such as Meridiana, Gran Via and the railway tracks at Sagrera.
Despite the many exceptions, the flat urban zone coincides with the well-served areas, whereas the highest urban fabrics next to the urban boundaries have in common their underserved condition. In between, the research shows a reference limit over which there is room for improvement due to the limited concentration of essential services.
A contour line at an altitude 60 m above sea level is a clear limit in the southern area—west Diagonal, whereas in the central area the limit references rise to lines of 120–130 and 90 m above sea level around the Guinardó district.
In the Three Hills area there are some important nuances among neighborhoods around the hills. While La Font d’en Fargas, La Teixonera, el Coll, Penitents and Vallcarca are areas with little service, the dense structure of El Carmel distinguishes it from this category.
Finally, in the northern part of the city, the critical situation is observed in three very different neighborhoods from a morphological point of view. The low proportion of services is common in Ciutat Meridiana, Torre Baró, Trinitat Nova and Trinitat Vella with quite different population densities but a similar proximity to the city borders.
3.1.3. Regularity and Intensity of Mixture
Due to its extension and homogeneity, the Eixample district is a paradigm observed repeatedly in urban research on Barcelona. In this case, the choice of the district as the scope for a detailed study is justified by the diversity of situations represented in the thematic maps of distribution of essential activities described in Section 3.1.1
and Section 3.1.2
Despite the fact that the Eixample is considered the downtown of Barcelona [38
], there are remarkable differences in the distribution of activities and the intensity with which they are carried out in the district. The analysis of essential urban services stresses internal nuances in their distribution and proportion and confirms this heterogeneity. By comparison with the centers of the old villages such as Gràcia, Sant Andreu or Sants, the isotropic nature of Cerdà’s grid gives no clue as to which are the most central spaces within the grid. Nevertheless, the administrative delimitation establishes a total of six neighborhoods inside the district, from southeast to northwest, clockwise: Sant Antoni, Nova Esquerra de l’Eixample, Antiga Esquerra de l’Eixample, Dreta de l’Eixample, Sagrada Família and Fort Pienc (Figure 8
shows these administrative perimeters and some references to the main axes mentioned in following paragraphs).
Among the 14,006 active establishments in the Eixample, 3854 (27%) are located in La Dreta de L’Eixample (212.3 hectares), which is the administrative unit with a higher commercial supply index (CSI), set at 8.72 establishments per 100 inhabitants [28
]. In this case, there is no doubt about the role of centrality of this area where the strong and diverse commercial offer coincides with a lower density of population together with a higher concentration of tertiary uses. On the other side of Balmes street, the Antiga Esquerra de l’Eixample (123.4 hectares) is the second most endowed neighborhood with 2730 establishments (19% of the city total) and a CSI of 6.33. The remaining four neighborhoods vary their relative position on this commerce endowment list: La Nova Esquerra (2163 establishments and a ratio of 3.69), La Sagrada Família (2114 and 4.07), Sant Antoni (1943 and 5.04) and Fort Pienc (1202 and 3.68).
Commercial performance decreases notably in the Poblenou area, where Cerdà’s grid extends beyond the northern border of the Eixample district itself. The contiguous neighborhood of El Parc i la Llacuna del Poblenou only has 721 establishments but has still a CSI index higher than Fort Pienc, with 4.59 establishments per 100 inhabitants due to the lower residential density.
Besides the administrative position drawn from the municipal report of commercial activities of 2019, a more in-depth analysis of the grid data and spatial configuration reveals striking nuances within each neighborhood. This study is based on ongoing research by the authors [39
] that analyzes the various proportion of uses on the ground floor of the Eixample in an area that includes several of the administrative districts. It encompasses the blocks between Tarragona street, Paral·lel, Josep Tarradellas and Diagonal, avenues Travessera de Gràcia, Ciutat de Granada street and the seafront to determine some factors in the mixedness that characterizes this area, which is usually considered as a model of the compact city.
The investigation starts by comparing an average block of the Eixample in the studied area, which has a total surface of 12,319 m2 and, in normal conditions, an average of almost 37 active premises on the ground floor occupying 8172 m2. Of these, the average commercial floor area is 6390 m2 with 28.9 activities. The rest of the non-residential floor area is intended for an extended list of activities that can be grouped as hospitality, services, public facilities and production and logistics. A remaining set corresponds to undefined activities and closed establishments.
Three figures accurately describe the composition of the activities: two graphs focusing on blocks that have a density of activities as a reference for the quantification; and a drawing focused on the streets that evaluates the intensity of essential services as a reference for the qualification of public space. All graphs count the number of activities at ground floor level, excluding for the purpose of this research residential spaces, public facilities, production and logistics.
shows the variety in the mixture. The ideal average block of this area presents a proportion of the number of activities divided into 26.6% of commerce (red), 28.2% of services (magenta), 10.9% of food trade (orange), 24.6% of hospitality (yellow) and 9.7% of facilities (blue). In general terms and with specific exceptions, all the blocks have 25% of the activities on the ground floor for services. The blocks between Balmes and Pau Claris streets, a large portion of Aribau street and some fragments of Consell de Cent street (on the left side), Gran Via (in the centre) and València street (both on the left and the right) are significant for having a much bigger proportion of activities aimed at commerce.
In an analysis of regular urban conditions, Balmes street (administrative limit of the neighborhood) also marks a limit to the left in which the number of activities is greater than in the rest of the district. Towards the northeast, Aragó and Lepant streets enclose a square delimited by the seafront in which the number of activities (that determines the diameter of the graph) is drastically lower. Within each of these areas, four clusters stand out, in which blocks with the greatest number of activities are concentrated (around three of the Eixample food markets: Sant Antoni, Ninot and Sagrada Familia, following a grouped concentration pattern, and on both sides of the Rambla de Catalunya, following a linear concentration pattern). In addition, three blocks in peripheral positions stand out from those that surround them also due to their greater number of activities (in Diagonal Avenue, between Casanova and Muntaner streets; in Travessera de Gràcia, between Castillejos and Cartagena streets; in Ronda de Sant Pere, between Roger de Llúria and Bruc streets).
describes the proportion of essential services (in black) in relation to all the activities at street level (hatched with grey). Only 9% of the non-residential ground floor surface in the Eixample responds to the essential urban services analyzed in this research, which means that on average, there are 25.3 (86%) of other activities per block. Four blocks stand out for having a higher proportion of essential services than other activities: these are the four market halls, Sant Antoni, Ninot, Concepció, Sagrada Familia and Fort Pienc. In addition, another 14 blocks scattered around show values well above the 14% average of essential services. On the opposite side, blocks that in regular conditions host shopping centers, department stores or are located in known commercial axes (such as Passeig de Gràcia or Rambla Catalunya) stand out in the image for having a practically insignificant proportion of open activities.
illustrates the real impact of essential activities on the streets: it compares continuous fronts with at least one essential commercial establishment (represented in red; blue shows those fronts with other activities or stores). This figure is clearly influenced by the lockdown situation in which the investigation was carried out, since the facade fragments represented in red were those with some commercial activity in operation, and those represented in blue, those that did not have any raised blinds.
The representation of the grid through essential services eliminates in most blocks one or two streets out of the four that define the emblematic octagon and its chamfers, blurring the characteristic, robust continuity of the Cerdà grid. The drawing shows three streets that are structured in urban terms but that nevertheless remain off from the perspective of essential services: Passeig de Gràcia, due to the global nature of the activities; Gran Via from Plaça Universitat to Plaça de les Glòries, with a minimum activity on the south façade; and Marina street. In addition, other streets like Enric Granados, Bailén or Sardenya (vertical) or the perpendicular Diputació or València (between Josep Tarrradellas and Diagonal avenues) disappeared from the grid.
On the left side of the Eixample, the intersection between Gran Via and Urgell street outlines two quadrants that behave differently: while the dense commercial network of Sant Antoni market keeps certain activities open in each street, Roma Avenue creates a void emphasized by the irregularity of the intersections. On the right side of the Eixample, Carretera de Ribes defines a kind of border of the activity of the center and signals the major inactivity of the streets in the area of Poblenou, where the regularity and continuity of grid activity completely disappears in the image.