Learning from the Grid

Master of Architecture
Semester 2, 2018

Studio leader(s)

  • Eduard Fernàndez

A dialog between Melbourne and Barcelona

Part I – The Grid and The City

Is it possible to reread Melbourne from the way we understand Barcelona? How can we stablish parallels between both cities?

Barcelona is considered one of the densest cities in the world, with almost 58.000 habitants per square kilometre in the downtown. A single block on its grid contains, in some cases, more than 500 people. Every day 150.000 vehicles pass through the Eixample district more than they do through Manhattan. Its regular and homogenous grid configures a regular and isotopic block of 113x113m that distributes its architecture and variety of uses evenly, without relegating them to distinct areas. On the other hand, Melbourne has growth exponentially in the last years due to an extensive grid, becoming a very low-density city. However, we can draw an interesting reading of the later development of the Melbourne block from how Robert Hoddle initially had understood. From Melbourne town until Brunswick, the block has been transformed in many different ways. So, can Melbourne’ and Barcelona’s grid be mutually beneficed?

To answer these questions, this studio will study the structure, the form and the shape of the city. Recognizing through the streets, plots and buildings the different forms of urban growth. We will work on the large scale to find out the reasons why Ildefons Cerdà (in 1860) and Robert Hoddle (in 1837) and its subsequent development. We will deal with issues related to mobility, infrastructure, topography and the territory.

Part II – The Grid and The Street

The city is not a blank canvas. This studio views the city as a continuous project, such as a series of layers that are settled over time and which are the evidence of the history and culture of the place. That is why at this stage we will work within the midscale, where we will study the features of both cities' streets. Understanding the street as the urban element that better represents the city, and employing the tools of morphological analysis, we will find out the various features that make the city works: the layout of the street, its longitudinal and cross section, the front (façade) and the back (patio), the ground floors, and the rooftops.

To better concentrate the effort of the class, we will work around two axes, respectively. In the case of Melbourne: Russell St. - Lygon St., which born along the Yarra river, in the initial Hoddle grid, and continues north through several city suburbs becoming one of the most important commercial strips in Melbourne. On the other hand, in Barcelona we will study Urgell St. - ParaHel Av. A vertical street that links the old district of Sarria - St. Gervasi with the sea, passing near by the historical quarter of Barcelona

This stage will be a seminar course. The students will work collectively as a research team using drawings and models for describing and proposing, but they will also study "on site" by: interviewing residents, elaborating photographic reports, videos, surveying ... This all will conform an inventory of opportunities. By groups, students will give a critical view and elaborate a real proposal in response to the topics, providing a strategic and systematic solution to both cases of study.

Part III – The Grid: Block by Block.

By observing and interrogating what is going on each individual block we will test five ways for rethinking Melbourne’s grid by: inserting, dismantling, adding on, pasting and replacing.

In this stage, each student will have to materialize the urban strategy worked collectively to respond by means of architecture and urban design to the problems of the site. Improving the living conditions of its inhabitants and providing a current way of understanding Melbourne through Barcelona.

Mondays from 4.30 to 7.30