The Barcelona Planning Studio: Analyzing Public Life Data







Participants in PLAN 545: Barcelona Planning Studio included UBC students at SCARP, SALA, Civil Engineering and Architecture Students from the Barcelona School of Architecture






The Barcelona Planning Studio:
Analyzing Public Life Data

How can planners, architects, and engineers use public life data to improve the everyday use of our cities? What are the methods for analyzing public life data and how can the collection of this data be put to the service of local residents and communities? Students considered these questions during the first two weeks of June 2019 as part of PLAN 545: The Barcelona Planning Studio, which included students from the School of Community and Regional Planning (SCARP), the School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture (SALA), and Civil Engineering. The course was taught in coordination with the Barcelona School of Architecture (ETSAB) and the neighbourhood group Taula Eix Pere IV.  Students studied four sites in the Poblenou neighbourhood using observational methods developed by the Gehl Institute and following the institute’s public life protocol. Participants observed public life for a total of 16 hours and recorded data on people moving through the site, people staying, and social interactions amongst the users of public space. Students were responsible for synthesizing this information and developing planning proposals that would address the issues found. The groups identified spaces that were highly used and successful, but also areas that were not well used because of an absence of facilities or services. The students presented their report to neighbourhood groups and residents for feedback at the public library in an event open to the public.   

Barcelona is under global pressures that are typical of highly attractive global cities including gentrification, tourism and the contestation of public space. The Poblenou neighbourhood provides an entry point for examining how planning practice may respond to the needs of local residents who are confronting global pressures. Students heard inspirational stories about neighbours organizing themselves to reclaim abandoned spaces and convert them to green spaces, gardens or resting places. Students also saw a city government open to testing innovative ideas about pedestrianization and traffic calming.

The Barcelona Planning Studio provided students with the opportunity to use, assess and evaluate various observational methods in the public realm. Students worked with local residents to synthesize, analyze and interpret observational data on public life and propose planning interventions based on our original field research. We focused on four sites in Poblenou: Superilla, Rambla Poblenou, Marbella Skatepark and Pere IV-Trullàs.

This edition of the Barcelona Planning Studio built on the work from last year, in 2018, in which students studied the same site using the same methods. The 2019 cohort was able to compare their observational results with the data from last year and build on the ideas proposed. For example, students at the Mar Bella skate park observed that more women and girls are using the space, suggesting that the gender gap may be narrowing. Our results also confirmed that the Rambla of Poblenou is the place that has the highest pedestrian traffic, with an estimated 23,508 people moving through the site in the 16 hours observed. Students also observed greater appropriation of the community space at Pere IV which was formerly a parking lot and has been converted into a community green space.

Participants in the course have been invited to present their results to a team of planners at the City of Vancouver led by UBC alumni Thomas Daley in September 2019.


Poblenou neighbourhood, Barcelona 14 June 2019.

More photos here:

and more photos here – all by our students

You can see a preview of what the students produced here: