Fighting for Proximity: Acceptance, Opposition, and Political Outcomes of Barcelona's Superblocks


  • Oriol Marquet Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona
  • Monika Maciejewska Geography Department, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona




In the realm of urban development, strategies like superblocks have risen to prominence for fostering sustainable cities. Yet, their deployment has elicited a wide array of responses, from enthusiastic approval to strong disapproval. This research delves into the complex effects of superblocks, with a special focus on their reception and the repercussions for the initiating political entity, Barcelona en Comú, in the locales of their application.

Superblocks aim to cultivate sustainable, close-knit living spaces but have stirred both support and controversy, mirroring the debate surrounding urban planning reforms worldwide. In cities such as Oxford, London, and Edmonton, similar policies have faced criticism from those viewing them as encroachments on personal freedom and part of a broader environmental agenda. This resistance is anchored in a longstanding distrust of central urban planning, a sentiment that has only intensified in the aftermath of COVID-19. The research investigates these attitudes, identifying them as stemming from conspiracy theories, ideological stances, lifestyle disruptions, and valid concerns over issues like gentrification and social exclusion. Furthermore, it examines the influence of post-truth strategies in urban planning discussions, highlighting the challenges misinformation and a general distrust in authorities pose to rational urban policy-making. It suggests that urban planners employ a mix of scientific evidence and participatory approaches to address urban challenges effectively.

Additionally, the study looks into the political ramifications of superblocks in Barcelona, employing Geographic Information System (GIS) data and detailed voting data to apply a mix of Adjusted Difference-in-Differences (DiD) and Propensity Score Matching (PSM) methods. This analysis aims to gauge the electoral reaction to superblocks on a granular level. Results indicate that regions with superblocks tended to support the incumbent party, BEC, more, despite a decrease in their overall popularity in Barcelona. This trend hints at the potential of superblocks to sway the political landscape favorably in specific contexts, helping offset BEC's declining electoral support. Thus, the research underscores the importance of superblocks in influencing political trends and their efficacy in bolstering electoral support for parties promoting sustainable urban initiatives.

In sum, this study offers an insightful exploration of the challenges and political implications involved in implementing urban proximity policies like superblocks. It stresses the need to weigh both social acceptance and political factors in urban policy-making. As environmental and economic pressures mount, the findings provide valuable lessons for policymakers and urban planners on aligning sustainable projects with public and political backing. Barcelona's experience with superblocks exemplifies the delicate balance between urban planning goals, societal approval, and political impacts in modern urban settings.