La Rambla Analysis - A Pedestrian Paradise
01 - 14 - 2010
There are many different elements that factor into creating a successful streetscape that people can utilize and enjoy: openness and walkability, the uses offered along the streetscape, vegetative quality and aesthetic, etc. However, the most important element, in my opinion, is to understand the users of the space and hone in on their specific needs, and La Rambla seems to do that just perfectly.
It is an incredible space that suits Barcelona residents and pedestrians alike, with all the various markets that it has to offer to attract all walks of life. There are more touristy sections, flower markets, an artist corridor, and even an area that sells small animals and pets. There is no end to the unusual items that can be purchased along La Rambla. And the street performers add another layer of entertainment and visual stimulation to the whole experience that brings all kinds of people to the pedestrian corridor. This unfortunately means that it is an environment that people have to become very aware of their surroundings in, in order to avoid any potentially uncomfortable and harmful situations (pick-pockets). However, if visitors can get past that, La Rambla is a dynamic and enjoyable space to be in.
Even beyond the uses of the space that make it successful, the structure is what really allows people to mold La Rambla to their needs. The street is layed out with a strong pedestrian corridor as the central element of the street. This is where all of the kiosks, venders, and performers are located, which makes it ideal for people to meander from one area to the next in a leisurely fashion, or speedily walk through to avoid any conflict with vehicular traffic. Lining the corridor are rows of mature London Planetrees, which create an implied barrier between the pedestrian and vehicular traffic. The narrow vehicular way includes a driving lane and a shallow parking aisle, the near minimum amount of space needed for this use to succeed. This really emphasizes that La Rambla is intended for pedestrian travel because it severely downplays the impact that vehicles have on the entire thoroughfare and makes the people the priority, another key to the success of the space. La Rambla also includes wide sidewalks along the buildings that allow for easy access to the commercial uses that line the space. And the heights of the buildings add to the importance of the space by creating an almost funneling effect that attracts attention to what is happening at the human scale. In many cases, having five and six-story buildings surrounding a pedestrian corridor would create an uncomfortable, overpowering feeling, but because the distance between the width of the street is quite significant, the tall structures do not have that effect on this space.
I thoroughly enjoyed experiencing La Rambla and really think that I could spend the entire day exploring everything that it has to offer and still miss a great deal. There is an incredible sense of animation involved in the bustling street that provides incredible entertainment if nothing else. And the great thing is that there is a sense of non-permanence, like La Rambla could change with every venture down the corridor, which is what brings people back to the space again and again.