• LOCATION Esplugues de Llobregat
  • > CLIENT Private
  • YEAR 2019
  • STATUS In process
  • CATEGORY Urban Planning
  • SCALE Municipality

“Knowing how to interpret the rules is crucial to enable fairer, more equitable, egalitarian and sustainable cities”

A Strategic Residential Area (ARE) is an existing urban development sector in several municipalities in Catalonia, in areas with good communications, equipped with the necessary services, with guaranteed urban development quality and where at least half of its dwellings are protected. This project is based on the modification of the ARE Montesa (an area of Baix Llobregat) with the aim of integrating and improving the urban implantation of the area. Núria Noguer, head of OUA’s Urban Planning department, gives us the keys to the project.

What is the most outstanding characteristic of the area covered by the ARE?
The area occupies the land of the former Montesa factory, located at the junction of the municipal boundaries of Esplugues de Llobregat, L’Hospitalet de Llobregat and Cornellà de Llobregat. Until recently, the area constituted a peripheral environment that had been destined for the establishment of factories and industrial estates. Over the years and the growth of Barcelona towards its metropolitan area, the area has become a strategic spot with excellent communications and a great potential for growth, making clear the importance of a new plan.

What is the objective of the modification of the ARE Montesa?
Rethinking the ARE Montesa is an opportunity to make a city, a major operation on three different scales (metropolitan, city and neighbourhood) in one of the few outstanding areas within the urban context of the Metropolitan Area of Barcelona.
The project has two objectives. On the one hand, it must cover the needs at a user or citizen scale to generate a new housing stock that will increase the provision of facilities and quality green spaces. On the other hand, on a city scale, we have attempted to improve the connection of the main green areas of the existing urban fabric to give them continuity in the form of boulevards, where pavements and trees take priority, leaving road traffic in second place and directly improving the environmental quality of the surroundings.

What have been the main challenges of the project?
The project has been approached with four major challenges in mind: increasing public initiative, ensuring economic viability, making improvements in general planning and thriving in the environmental field.
In terms of public initiative, we have proposed a change in the management system so that the promoters are not only private consortia but also public institutions.
In terms of economic viability, the aim has been to reduce the sector’s internal development costs and to adopt building solutions based on criteria of greater environmental sustainability that translate into greater economic sustainability.
The improvements in general planning are aimed at better integration into the environment (based on a careful social and urban planning analysis), rationalisation of the road system (with the aim of promoting walking and cycling), integration of open spaces into the general system of the municipality and the surrounding area (favouring routes and connectivity of existing systems), typological improvements (based on a planning that favours much more housing with cross ventilation) and a careful study of the location of uses.
Finally, regarding environmental challenges, it is established that the construction of buildings with the objective of almost zero energy demand will be compulsory for public buildings as of 2019 and 2021 for private buildings.

How do you see an urban planning project like this one on a visual scale?
The formal criteria in urban planning projects define parameters such as the visual continuity between roads, streets, or landmarks such as squares or roundabouts that mark the beginning or end of a route. They also define the width of pavements, whether there is vegetation or not, or the height of buildings and what their limits would be in relation to the surrounding elements. Outside this area, urban planning does not go beyond aesthetic considerations but rather resolves functional needs.

What profiles were involved in the project?
Apart from the Urban Planning team, we have had the support of OUA’s Engineering, Legal and Architecture teams and, finally, a complementary external team of collaborators made up of specialists in mobility, specialists in economic viability and sustainability, architects and geographers specialised in social memory and environmentalists.
Separately, a Monitoring Committee was set up formed by Esplugues City Council, the Department of Territory and Sustainability, the Provisional Board of Owners, Cornellà de Llobregat City Council, L’Hospitalet de Llobregat City Council and the Catalan Land Institute.

Would you say that this project contributes to the sector?
The added value of this project lies in the ability to articulate and work with urban planning tools to define and generate new city models. Knowing how to interpret the rules to enable fairer, more equitable, equal and sustainable cities is the challenge of our century, and it is essential to do it hand in hand with public administrations but also with private investors. This project is a realistic implementation of new city models and a model that can be reproduced in many other cities in Catalonia and throughout Spain.