Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona, Spain

Since joining the Partnership in 2018, Barcelona’s Public Health Agency (ASPB) has been conducting a health impact assessment of three of the city’s Superblocks—a leading urban design initiative aimed at reducing traffic, air and noise pollution. The assessment included surveys with local residents to understand health benefits, specifically changes in physical activity and in the communities’ use of the newly designated public spaces.

Photo: courtesy of Ajuntament de Barcelona

The main results? A drop in air pollution in the Superblock around Barcelona’s central Sant Antoni market, specifically a 25% decrease in NO2 levels and a 17% decrease in PM10 particle levels. More than 60% of people surveyed in the Horta neighborhood Superblock are more comfortable walking in the interior, narrower streets, and that accessibility for strollers and people with reduced mobility has improved. In Poblenou, the new green spaces are frequented by residents and by people who work in the area, as a lunch spot or a place to enjoy at the end of the day.

Residents and workers in all three of the evaluated Superblocks reported a perceived gain in well-being, tranquility and quality of sleep, a reduction of noise and pollution and an increase in social interaction. The built environment of the Superblocks clearly influences walkability and physical activity, and reduced car traffic has led to improved air quality measures.

As Barcelona looks to create a more sustainable, healthier, and safer future, the evidence points to the Superblocks as a remarkably successful intervention.

Read the case study

Using Urban Design for Health: Barcelona, Spain

In 2016, Barcelona turned heads when the city introduced its first Superilla, or ‘Superblock’—a local urban design initiative that seeks to redefine the public space of a city by placing people and communities at the heart of its design. In September 2021, a report from the city’s Public Health Agency (ASPB), developed with support from the Partnership for Healthy Cities, showed that the project paid off.