Sowing spuds on Saint Patrick’s Day

March 17, 2011

5 years ago, the community gardeners of Dublin were celebrating SAINT PADDYS DAY in the tradional way: Planting spuds (potatoes in local Irish speak)

Paddys day spud planting in Dolphins Barn community garden
Paddys day spud planting in Dolphins Barn community garden

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A Transition Vision For Barcelona City

November 30, 2010

Towards a healthier, happier, eco-effective Barcelona.

Greening the city, connecting communities, C2C city

Many of us in Barcelona en Transició believe that Barcelona city is in a very good position to become an urban leader once again, as it has been before, especially 150 years ago with the Eixample vision of Ildefons Cerdà. Those that are in the position to make calls for how the city moves foreward could take bold steps to try to make the city demonstrate to Europe and the world what a sustainable city could be. We in the Transition group have ideas we wish to share about what such eco urban visions might be…

THE SELF-SUFFICIENT CITY: Envisioning the habitat of the future was a recent architectural competition run by IAAC (Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia). A submission from one of the Barcelona en Transició collective, based on Transition and Permacultural ideas, was selected as a finalist, published  in IAAC´s book, and its 1 minute film summary of the proposal was screened in CCCB.

150 word Summary of the proposal and the 1 minute film screened in CCCB:

Create urban greenway / CPUL mesh

Develop more bikeways/ walkways to easily connect from within city centre to nature: rivers, sea, surrounding hills. Allow all abandoned spaces to become indefinite temporary gardens. Specify strategic zones as permanent community gardens, including within all existing public parks and schools. Connect these nodes by greenways. Turn greenways into CPUL´s (Continuous Productive Urban Landscapes), Plant fruit and nut trees, berry hedges, diverse vegetation, food. These bio threads allow nature into the city; butterflies, song birds, pollen. Use city roofspace(s) as one vast CPUL, solar energy harvest, water collection zone and new Public Park. As private car use diminishes turn old “car lanes” into “food lanes”. Create mixed use clusters around gardens, part of the urban fabric: play area, sport complex, café. Make spaces experimental, adaptable and open to everyone. Let all life adapt and grow.

Here is the submission in its totality. Below are the 3 A3 panels that were submitted, click on each panel to view in closer detail. Underrneath is a summary of the ideas examined.

PANEL 1 - BCN

PANEL 1

PANEL 2 - BCN

PANEL 2

PANEL 3 - BCN

PANEL 3

NOTE – C2C stands for Cradle to Cradle city, which is inspired by the copyrighted ideas of Michael Braungart and William McDonough

Proposal outline in more detail:

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9 simple, immediate, intelligent steps for a healthier, happier, eco-effective Barcelona

1 – Healthy cities address their rivers lovingly.
2 – Make a mesh of connected greenways in the city.
3 – Turn greenways into CPUL threads.
4 – Edible Barcelona
5 – Use the city to cleanly power its transport
6 – Barcelona has a water crisis. Time to start using water smartly.
7 – Make urban wandering more joyful
8 – “Let the Eixample mosaic of hidden green zones sparkle in the city”
9 – Passeig de Sant Joan Park

1 – Healthy cities address their rivers lovingly.

These zones could / should become a very high use and very important zone for the city. Recently the river Besos’s edges have been improved and one side included for the Ronda Verde greenway. Presently there is just endless space taken up by grass. We suggest a mix of use, designed in a creative and appealing way. Diversify the land with the inclusion of areas to eat, play, plant food, compost, make art and engage in education. Also include many areas of wildness, biodiversity and habitat. Easy and safe bike access from the city is desirable. Many Aula Ambiental’s should also exist here. Possible future architectural competition zone.

2 – Make a mesh of connected greenways in the city.

Closing the Loop(s): Develop more bikeways/ walkways to easily connect from within city centre to nature: rivers, sea and the surrounding hills. Use these routes to connect presently disconnected nodes: nature spots, city parks, community gardens, schools, libraries… Routes become critical urban threads, developing ecologically with time. Create new nodal points on threads for more amenities as use increases: Expect to grow more eco roots (routes) from nodal points. Ensure all urban street bike routes have edge ramps, for safety reasons. Make all urban bikeway surfaces permeable.

3 – Turn greenways into CPUL threads.

Create CPULS (Continuous Productive Urban Landscapes) for the city. Allow all abandoned spaces to become indefinite temporary gardens. Specify strategic zones as permanent community gardens, including within existing public parks and schools. Connect these nodes by greenways. Turn lands alongside greenways into green zones by planting trees and diverse vegetation, these bio threads allow for flows of animal life, thereby bringing nature into the city; butterflies, song birds. Create mixed use clusters around gardens, part of the urban fabric: play area, sport complex, café. Make spaces experimental, adaptable and open to everyone.

4 – Edible Barcelona

Allow for all parks to have community gardens. Use city roofspace(s) as one vast CPUL, slar energy harvest and water collection landscape, as well as new Public Park. Make Tree lined streets with edible trees; nuts and fruits. Introduce urban berry hedges. As private car use diminishes turn old “car lanes” into “food lanes”. Offer incentives to people to plant own food everywhere. Havana has done it, Middlesborough is doing it.

5 – Use the city to cleanly power its transport

Towards a zero carbon, car free eco city: Promote car pooling and sharing. All City buses and cars become electrically powered, non CO2 emitting vehicles, powered by cities solar roofscape. “Petrol” garages become quick battery exchange points for vehicles. Stationary vehicles also powered in and by parking lots.

6 – Barcelona has a water crisis. Time to start using water smartly.

City must collect, clean, store and reuse its rain water. Use “living machines” to treat wastewater from sinks, bathtubs, toilets for reuse as irrigation in city gardens and flushing toilets. Reduce our demand on potable water. Make much of the city pervious, to allow water back into the natural water cycle.

7 – Make urban wandering more joyful

There are a limited amount of small public parks throughout the city. Presently many parks remain closed until 9am, by which time many people are already at work. Best situation is where parks never close; when not possible insist parks open at 8am. Encourage more entry / exit points for parks, so they become flow through zones. Make parks landscapes of colours, sounds and smells. Create water capturing and storage systems between parks and neighbouring buildings. Allow for community gardens, composting points, outdoor education, Aula Ambiental’s… Make parks the focal point of new community clusters.

8 – “Let the Eixample mosaic of hidden green zones sparkle in the city”

Cerda’s original plan saw each illa’s courtyard as a beautiful publicly accessible garden. Unfortunately most were filled in. Support ProEixample’s work to transform them back to green zones and encourage more public access to these zones. Make more than one entrance to the blocks, to maximize people flow. Explore food production, composting and water collection in these zones.

9 – Passeig de Sant Joan Park

This fine passageway should be finished to the degree it deserves. Presently it is composed of three sections that form an edge to the old town and makes a direct connection between Gracia and the cities lung; Parc de la Ciutadella. The first section is the most pleasant, Travessera de Gracia to Avinguda Diagonal, a continuous zone of rest, play, flowers and fine old trees. Its final section, Arc de Triomf to the park along Passeig de Lluis Companys, is a classical tree lined avenue with some zones for petanca. We suggest that the missing section needs the same area given over for pedestrian and bike use, greenery, food production. This greenway can continue upward via Placa Joanic and Carrer Escorial, to act as a central route way from the city to Parc Guell and beyond to the nearby hills of Collserola.

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Barcelona is one of Europe’s most polluted and dirty cities.  Let her roofscape help remedy this.
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Picking a juicy orange from a nearby tree and eating it, relaxing and talking with friends on a bench, working in a community garden to cultivate food, smelling the colourful flowers. All this in a place that’s always been there, but never been there.
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A vast zone of food production, solar energy harvest, water collection, a series of public parks of varying scales; this is what the roofscape of Barcelona’s old city could easily be like. A many hectored, multi islanded, connected green space, linked by a network of bridges. A very exciting new urban terrain which would help reduce the cities carbon emissions by sequestering carbon while creating clean, cool and fresh air for the city. Presently, about 80-90 % of this area is unused and inaccessible to the inhabitants below. It now acts as a huge heat island, raising the cities temperature and worsening smog levels. Green roofs act as natural rain water drainage systems and also insulate the apartments below, further alleviating need for air conditioning.
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Soon Barcelona’s Ajuntament might have to pay a carbon tax; this money could be used now to offer incentives to landlords to immediately cover their terraces with planted green roofs. From there public–ising of roofspaces might begin. Take this bold urban step and make Barcelona a model urban city once again.
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From the block to the table: a closed loop of waste treatment, food production and much much more.

The Eixample’s macro level sees pedestrian routes through and between block interiors as mechanisms for connecting wider communities by movement through an urban web of various green spaces. At the micro level the inclusion of services in these parks for the immediate community act as strong catalysts: schools, libraries, civic centres, parks, playgrounds, sport zones… these spaces can be altered to radically boost their blocks eco performance, while also becoming even more loved spaces by their communities.

Is a fully self reliant block feasible? Let’s imagine…  Intelligent collection and recyclical use of rainwater being the key, green roof sections are introduced to the blocks roof terraces which begin draining rainwater to a strategically placed storage pond in the parks sunny area. External green facades are introduced on the blocks western walls, both inside and out, to protect against difficult solar over heating. These double up as water purifiers for blocks grey waste waters. The end water is recycled for flushing toilets. In time, these facades might bear fruit. Intelligent planting is set around and in the pond, which is transformed into an urban wetland urban wetland, treating the blocks waste black waters, the outcome of which feeds all the blocks plants.

A communal composter is created in the park for all organic wastes. The output of which is used in the new areas for food planting in the park. The park wetland has created a unique habitat and biodiversity: fish, frogs butterflies and ducks can be seen and heard. The parks air is now cooler and fresher, breezes flow with scents from aromatic herbs, the parks microclimate is felt to be ideal. A garden school starts in the block; soon families are transforming their roof terraces and balconies into food production zones. Most of the time, the kids are the teachers. Community is the vital word here, without it all else falls apart. Bottom up planning offers opportunities to connect and participate. Gardens and food bring people together. At harvest time the community eats together at tables in their park. The park becomes a model for similar parks nearby, in time all blocks copy its simple eco efficient and intelligent techniques. Parks and projects become the major catalysts for local interaction: spaces for education, trial and error, working and learning together. They take time and love to develop and have their own life force. They are the Eixample’s sacred spaces.

Strangers enter the many parks and enjoy the tranquility of the water and the wildlife. Some rainwater is returned to the natural ground table and much is used to run the block, this alleviates greatly from the municipal system, reducing their energy consumption. The block consumes less potable water; in time maybe it will require none at all. Barcelona is well on the road to being a beautiful and healthy, eco effective city.

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Via Verde BCN: A series of greenway ripples, radiating out from the green heart of the city

Parc de la Ciutadella is not only the cities strategically placed central green lung; it happens to make up  one of the most deeply loaded parts of Barcelona’s, and indeed Catalunya’s, urban and social history. In short; it matters. From this much loved city space, and always connecting back to and through it, are the 3 ripples; a series of radiating greenways that form a simple orbital matrix, the spine of a network. This structure forms the organising system through which all future greenways routes (roots) weave, from within the city out to her sea, rivers and surrounding hills. And from there to the wider networks beyond…

Ronda Verda: An orbital 72 km bikeway that is currently being constructed for Barcelona city. It is the first urban greenway loop. It connects the coastal beaches, the river Besos, the mountain of Montjuic and the cities natural backbone, the hills of Collserola.

Ronda Azul: The 25 km blue loop is a very important strategic greenway. It branches from the first loop at Montjuic and Forum and links directly to the 2 major urban nodes that are the train stations of Sants and Sagrera; the future high speed AVE station and expected gateway to the city. It also connects the city to its balcony; los Tres Turons, the 3 hills, the green zone within the city which include Parcs Putxet, Güell, Del Carmel and Guinardo. The remainder connects the treelined walkways of Rambla de Prim and Avenue de Tarradellas with many smaller parks and food gardens of Vallcarca, Maragall and Sagrera.

Ronda Rojo: A 5 km red loop through the heart of the city: From the very sculptural Parc de l’estació del Nord, through Arco de Trinfo and Passeig de Lluis Companys, this greenway passes through Parc de la Ciutadella, crosses its new eco-city bridge to Parc Barcelonetta and onto the sea. After a swim, one can weave back through Hospital Del Mar´s green zones to connect with the parks recently built over the underground rail lines.

Parc de la Ciutadella and her roots:

A series of root like threads weave outward from the park through the urban orbital spinal network, creating new urban nodes: The premiere greenway seeks water: through Parc de les Glóries Catalanes, Sagrera AVE station, to the new Besos river connection at Trinitat. Another leads through the 2 modernista architectural gems of Hospital St Pau and Gaudi’s Sagrera Familia, toward Guinardo Park and Hortas greenway. In time more roots and sub roots connect as citizens adapt it to their needs; an ever growing, organic, open network.

From the city to the sea:  Parc de la Ciutadella Closes the Loop

The final and most strikingly visual section which closes the loop of the entire greenway network are the changes to the green heart of the city; her park. With the removal of the zoo to Forum, the park expands over her old barriers, the dirty old rail and car arteries, and connects to the “sea side” with a spectacular new colourful tree filled bridge. From the Sagrera gateway along the greenway to the sea; Barcelona has a bold new eco-urbanism!

(NOTE – this post first appeared on the Barcelona en Transició blog: A Transition Vision For Barcelona City)


Greening the city – IAAC

April 7, 2010

THE SELF-SUFFICIENT CITY: Envisioning the habitat of the future was a recent open competition from IAAC (Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia). We have subsequently been invited to submit work for their upcoming book and  a 1 minute film as part of expo in CCCB. Below are the 3 A3 panels we submitted, click on each panel to view in PDF. Underrneath is a summary of the ideas examined. Our proposal was entitled:

Towards a healthier, happier, eco-effective Barcelona.

Greening the city, connecting communities, C2C city


PANEL 1 (1,76 MB)

PANEL 2 (1,06 MB)

PANEL 3 (2,98 MB)

150 word Summary -

Greening the city, connecting communities, C2C Barcelona

Create urban greenway / CPUL mesh

Develop more bikeways/ walkways to easily connect from within city centre to nature: rivers, sea, surrounding hills. Allow all abandoned spaces to become indefinite temporary gardens. Specify strategic zones as permanent community gardens, including within all existing public parks and schools. Connect these nodes by greenways. Turn greenways into CPULS (Continuous Productive Urban Landscapes), Plant fruit and nut trees, berry hedges, diverse vegetation, food. These bio threads allow nature into the city; butterflies, song birds, pollen. Use city roofspace(s) as one vast CPUL, solar energy harvest, water collection zone and new Public Park. As private car use diminishes turn old “car lanes” into “food lanes”. Create mixed use clusters around gardens, part of the urban fabric: play area, sport complex, café. Make spaces experimental, adaptable and open to everyone. Let all life adapt and grow.


CCCB Com serà l’hàbitat del futur? Demà, l’Any Cerdà Cerdà organitza el 3r Concurs d’Arquitectura Avançada. – 3r Concurs d’Arquitectura Avançada – Any Cerdà

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Patcha Mama smiles again in Gracia

October 27, 2008

The Gracia Community Garden Radio Documentary (28 mins)

Els espais buits no fan Gràcia : The empty spaces are not funny

So read the new banner that now hangs on the end wall of the new Hort Comunitari, or community garden in Catalan, that was opened in Gracia on Saturday morning. From just being another quite and dry street, theres now a hive of activity in Caller Banyoles; people, laughter, color, sounds, music, dancing, kids playing. Being there one knows that Patcha Mama smiles again in Gracia.

Well over a hundred people entered a site that had been left derelict for the last 5 years. The concrete ground was smashed apart and the soil underneath was broken open with pics, forks, spades and hoes. People arrived in with recycled large construction bags with soil inside, once inside these bags had young plants put into them and were watered.  that was lovely and brown and full of nutrientsdue to having horse manure mixed into it. Other soil was added to the freshly broken red earth and new plants were inserted here too. a large heap of soil at the end wall gave endless hours of healthy mucky enjoyment to kids who dug tunnells and rolled around, laughing and shrieking with delight as they did so.

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Transition Culture: radio shows about transition towns and more

October 16, 2008

The advent of Peak oil and solutions to it are perhaps one of the most critical issues we are facing today. A recent movement has exploded in Britain, transition towns. It began in Kinsale in Ireland with Rob Hopkins who set up the Permaculture college there. They set up the Kinsale Energy descent plan, looking at how their town could make the transition to less oil dependancy over a 20 year time frame. From there Rob went back to Witness in the UK and from there the model has exploded. You can find out whats going on on their WIKI (with translations) and they have set up a fantastic website Transition Culture.

Here is an excellent short video made by —- as part of the Lewes Transition town movement. It was shown in the local cinema of Lewes before all the films. It starts by asking the townspeople what are the causes of climate change and finishes with a rap about how oil is now used for the production of nearly everything we use

Rob Hopkins elaborates on the origins, the growth of and the future of the transition towns movement

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Towards a healthier, happier, eco-effective Barcelona

October 8, 2008

We, at EIG, recently proposed some BOLD ideas for how BCN might grow. We think these ideas are feasible and that many of them could be implemented immediately and cheaply. Apart from radically changing the eco performance of the city, we believe that they would hugely affect the livability of the city, and indeed enliven the very soul of this strange city.

We would like if you viewed the short PDF document, Towards a healthier, happier, eco-effective Barcelona of only 9 pages with many images and with that, should you agree with all or some of the proposals, give us suggestions as to how best we can realise these dreams.

Here are just 2 of the ideas proposed:

Vias Verdes BCN + Green Roof BCN

Vias Verdes BCN: greenway network for city of BCN

Ciutadella and her green routes: A series of organic root like threads come from BCN´s park, her green heart, and weave to and through the rest of the greenway network.

Parc de la Ciutadella is not only the cities strategically placed central green lung; it happens to make up one of the most deeply loaded parts of Barcelona’s, and indeed Catalunya’s, urban and social history. In short; it matters. From this much loved city space, and always connecting back to and through it, are the 3 ripples; a series of radiating greenways that form a simple orbital matrix, the spine of the network. This structure forms the organising system through which all future greenways routes (roots) weave, from within the city out to her sea, rivers and surrounding hills. And from there to the wider Euro and Global network…


Read the rest of this entry »


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