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Ildefons Cerdà
Ildefons Cerdá (1878).jpg
Portrait by Ramon Martí Alsina
Born Ildefons Cerdà i Sunyer
Centelles, Catalonia, Spain
Died 21 August 1876(1876-08-21) (aged 60)
Las Caldas de Besaya, Los Corrales de Buelna, Cantabria, Spain
Nationality Spanish
Citizenship Spain
Known for Designed expansion of Barcelona known as the "Eixample"
Scientific career
Fields Urban planner, civil engineer, politician
Firma Cerdá.svg

Ildefons Cerdà i Sunyer (Catalan pronunciation: [ildəˈfons səɾˈða i suˈɲe]; Spanish: Ildefonso Cerdá Suñer; 23 December 1815, Centelles – 21 August 1876, Caldas de Besaya) was a Spanish urban planner and engineer who designed the 19th-century "extension" of Barcelona called the Eixample. Because of his extensive theoretical and practical work, he is considered the founder of modern town planning as a discipline, having coined the word "urbanization".


Tumba Cerdà
Cerdà's gravestone, modelled on his plan for Eixample in Barcelona

Cerdà was born in Centelles, Catalonia, Spain, in 1815. He trained as a civil engineer at the Escuela de Ingenieros de Caminos, Canales y Puertos [es], in Madrid. He joined the Corps of Engineers and lived in various cities in Spain before settling in Barcelona in 1848 and marrying Clotilde Bosch. After the death of his brothers, Cerdà inherited the family fortune, and left the civil service. He became interested in politics and the study of urban planning.

When the government of the time finally gave in to public pressure and allowed Barcelona's city walls to be torn down, he realized the need to plan the city's expansion so that the new extension would become an efficient and livable place, unlike the congested, epidemic-prone old town within the walls. When he failed to find suitable reference works, he undertook the task of writing one from scratch while designing what he called the Ensanche or Eixample, borrowing a few technological ideas from his contemporaries to create a unique, thoroughly modern integrated concept that was carefully considered rather than whimsically designed.

He continued to create projects and improve existing designs throughout his lifetime, as well as to develop his theories taking on larger planning scopes (at the regional planning level), until the very end. In the process, he lost all his family's inheritance and he died in 1876 a heavily indebted near-pauper, never having been paid for his chief masterpiece, the design of Barcelona's Eixample.


Cerdà was a multi-faceted man who, in pursuit of his vision, gave up a steady job in the civil engineering service, stood for election and became a member of the Cortes (the Spanish Parliament); drafted useful ground-breaking legislation, drew up a detailed topographical survey map of Barcelona's surroundings, and wrote a theoretical treatise to support each of his major planning projects. He actually coined a number of important words in Spanish, including urbanización.


Ensanche - eixample - Barcelona
Original plan of the extension of Barcelona (1859)
the plan for new barcelona
a plan for street

Cerdà focused on key needs: chiefly, the need for sunlight, natural lighting and ventilation in homes (he was heavily influenced by the sanitarian movement), the need for greenery in people's surroundings, the need for effective waste disposal including good sewerage, and the need for seamless movement of people, goods, energy, and information.

His designs belie a network-oriented approach far ahead of his time. His street layout and grid plan were optimized to accommodate pedestrians, carriages, horse-drawn trams, urban railway lines (as yet unheard-of), gas supply and large-capacity sewers to prevent frequent floods, without neglecting public and private gardens and other key amenities. The latest technical innovations were incorporated in his designs if they could further the cause of better integration, but he also came up with remarkable new concepts of his own, including a logical system of land readjustment that was essential to the success of his project, and produced a thorough statistical analysis of working-class conditions at the time, which he undertook in order to demonstrate the ills of congestion.

Major works

  • Teoría de la Construcción de Ciudades ("Theory of City Construction", 1859), written to support his 1855 preliminary project for the Barcelona Extension.
  • Teoría de la Viabilidad Urbana y Reforma de la de Madrid ("Theory of Urban Roadspace and Reform of That of Madrid", 1861), to support his inner-city reform designs for the capital of Spain.
  • Teoría del Enlace del Movimiento de las Vías Marítimas y Terrestres ("Theory of the Linkage of movement on Landways and Seaways", 1863), to accompany a Preliminary Project for a road-rail-sea intermodal system at the port of Barcelona, evidence of which is conclusive though most of the content has not yet been found.
  • Teoría General de la Urbanización ("General Theory of Urbanization", 1867), to support his 1859 project for the Barcelona Extension.
  • Teoría General de la Rurización ("General Theory of Ruralization")

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Ildefonso Cerdá para niños

  • Urban planning of Barcelona
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