Urban Hygiene Awareness in a suffocated Barcelona
Concienciación de Higiene Urbana en una Barcelona asfixiada
Marie el Haddad
Barcelona’s old town had been suffering from overpopulation, congestion and several epidemic outbreaks that raised awarness concerning urban hygiene. One of the first intents of urban hygiene began when Carlos III and Carlos IV issued Royal Decrees concerning the exhumation of cemeteries. The first prohibited burial grounds next to churches and hospitals and imposed the conversion of existing ones into public squares, and the second enabled the construction of extramural cemeteries away from populated areas. This gave way to many of Barcelona’s open spaces and small scale squares. The second intent of creating public spaces was taking advantage of the confiscation of
ecclesiastic assets, like the Álvarez Mendizábal’s Act (1834-1837) in particular, and the burning of convents in 1835 where the Catholic Church lost a large number of its convents, churches, and colleges to new buildings, streets and squares.
In the 19th century, Spain also witnessed a hygienist movement and several doctors and scientists were prominent including Pere Felip Monlau who thoroughly discussed hygiene in all its aspects. Spain, and Barcelona in particular, experienced large waves of immigration coming from rural areas in search of work, and a massive industrial growth. By the 1850’s the old town became overpopulated, increasingly dense, unhealthy and degraded, and was left in an unstable political and social tension. Basically, the old town was suffocating within its own walls. Monlau, as did Cerdà after him, described in his writings the drastic living conditions, the occupied spaces and exceedingly high buildings, the lack of sanitary infrastructure, clean water, sunlight and ventilation. He stressed on the importance of creating open spaces, squares and gardens and their impact on improving urban hygiene. He called for the demolition of old town’s Roman Walls and the expansion towards the urban land reserve of ‘Pla de Barcelona’ or Barcelona Plain. After many debates the destruction of the walls began in 1854 and lasted until 1868.
The Eventrement of Paris and the configuration of the Aphand-Davioud- Hittorff
Paradigm on urban design
El Eventrement de París y la configuración del paradigma Aphand-Davioud-
Hittorff en diseño urbano
Marie el Haddad
In the first half of the 19th century and the Industrial Revolution, cities like Paris were faced with health problems brought upon them by the rapid growth of industries and the waves of immigration from rural areas. As a consequence the cities, especially their historic center, suffered from congestion, overpopulation and hygiene that lead to various epidemics. To improve hygiene conditions, measures were taken through major urban developments such as the transformation of Paris under the hands of Baron Haussmann the Prefect of the Seine Department between 1853 and 1870. In accordance with Napoleon III, Haussmann traced Paris’s new plan and started with the ‘eventrement’ of the city’s unhealthy neighborhoods by opening large rectilinear and longitudinal streets. In
fact, he was continuing the work already proposed by Napoleon I and iniated later by Comte de Rambuteau in 1839 under the same concerns of hygiene. Haussmann’s objectives were to embellish and modernize the city, and foremost, to improve living conditions and public health, and provide all citizens with light, air, water, public parks
On one hand, he was able to assemble a distinguished team the likes of Alphand, Barillet-Deschamps, Davioud, and Hittorff who created and built the promenades and squares of Paris. Their designs and urban elements were standardized and systematized becoming an urban model and influencing the cities’ urban design.
The fact that led Remesar to develop the ‘Alphand- Davioud- Hittorff paradigm’ where replicas of their style still predominates in shaping the landscape, spaces, and elements of our historic center.
On the other hand, Haussmann received harsh criticism from political opponents that resulted in his dismissal. Due to the ‘eventrement’, he was criticized for destroying the old parts of the city causing a loss in historic and monumental buildings and neighborhoods. The new wide open streets and spaces made means of communication hard especially for pedestrians. In addtion, he was blamed for social disruption, inequality, and displacement caused by the amounts of demolitions and expropriations. Moreover, he was accused of squandering money over this long and costly procedure and over passing the budget.
However, one cannot deny the fact that many defended him for all the promenades, parks, squares, gardens, and sewage system created without forgetting that these kinds of plans and procedures had already started before Haussmann dating back to the time of Napoleon I.
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