• The stalls of L’Eixample

    The inner courtyards are filled with neighbors and supportive music during confinement.

Concerts between neighbors

If we are realizing something during this confinement, it is that the imaginative capacity of people has no limits and that music, as a universal art, manages to do magical things. In Barcelona, and -in particular- in L’Eixample, we are experiencing it in a particular way. The courtyards that enclose the historic blocks of this neighborhood have experienced something these days that, surely, had never happened before.

In a daily basis, when night falls, at eight o’clock, balconies are filled with neighbors who share a long applause of solidarity to pay tribute to the health personnel. At the end of those palms, magic occurs. Whether a cappella, with the help of instruments or with a simple loudspeaker, music begins to occupy that enormous gap between buildings that was once the patio. Between shouts of encouragement and dances that want to go beyond the railings, the neighbors share a song of joy that, despite lasting a few moments, reminds them that they are not alone in this.

L’Eixample, cultural focus in quarantine

Today I went out on the balcony because I had the need to sing. Together we will get out of this, together we are stronger and we will return in style. ” This is the message that singer Ruth Lorenzo sent to her neighbors before starting a small concert in a courtyard in Barcelona’s Eixample. The Murcian woman delighted her neighbors with the famous aria ‘Nessun dorma’ from Puccini’s opera Turandot and they responded by applauding the neighborhood, as seen in the video.

Images similar to this have been repeating themselves in recent days throughout the city, especially in common patios in the Eixample like the one Ruth shares with her neighbors. Perhaps due to the “intimacy” that this type of space fosters, isolated from that “external”, any show of solidarity in the form of music in the courtyards of this particular neighborhood becomes a unique cultural event.

Solidarity opera from the balcony

In another inner courtyard of the Eixample, one of the most viral videos since the quarantine began was recorded. In it you can see the Barcelona soprano Begoña Alberdi exciting the neighbors of her block. “We went out with my husband on the first day of the applause to acknowledge the work of health personnel and the situation was so exciting that I felt the need to sing,” the singer explained. Thus, without knowing the extent of his initiative, Alberdi started to sing the aria “Oh, mine babbino caro” by Puccini, a cappella and without heating.

The neighbors’ response was impressive and from the balconies they applauded him and asked “Tomorrow more!” That’s what these kinds of initiatives are about, to overcome anguish together and give hope. These emotional moments are a slight relief in a few days of extreme difficulty that punish the population and, indeed, also the musicians, who have been forced to cancel multiple concerts, functions and recitals.

The origin of L’Eixample

As we pointed out, one of the keys to understanding the success and magic that comes from these impromptu concerts between neighbors in the Eixample is the intimacy that these interior courtyards generate. Until now spaces almost ignored for those who shared them, have become stalls that have nothing to envy in the great theaters. But, what is the origin of those hidden holes within the blocks of this famous neighborhood of Barcelona?

To understand the beginning of the Eixample’s history, one must go back to 1859, when a competition for urban projects was launched to widen the city. Ildefons Cerdà would win it, with his famous Pla Cerdà, controversial for his commitment to green spaces. Constituting a unique modernist architectural complex in Europe, the Eixample was built in the years of the industrialization of Catalonia, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The central part, the Dreta de l’Eixample, was the neighborhood of the bourgeoisie who introduced their own style to their house, modernism, a reflection of that moment. Although a significant number of significant buildings were concentrated in this area, the rest of those in other neighborhoods, such as Fort Pienc, Sagrada Família, Sant Antoni or Esquerra de l’Eixample, were influenced by this trend.

The Pla Cerdà

With his urban plan, Cerdà wanted to design an egalitarian city, where neighborhoods did not differ from each other due to the living conditions imposed. He planned to offer the same services to everyone. Cerdà’s plan was based on a large network of perpendicular and cross streets, all of them uniform, except for two superimposed biased roads (Diagonal and Meridiana) and Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes. With great rigor, the architect foresaw the uniform distribution of service areas, such as markets, social centers and churches, in addition to large parks.

The apples were not exactly square, since, to facilitate visibility, the corners were cut in the shape of a chamfer. Inside each block, only one or two sides were allowed to be built, and the rest of the space was left for the neighbors’ garden. The houses should not be more than three stories high (16 meters), nor be very deep. Cerdà conceived it this way because he considered that the health of citizens depended on whether they lived in well-lit houses where the clean air from the gardens circulated. Regarding the gardens, in addition to the trees in the streets and the gardens of each island of houses, in each neighborhood there was a large park between four and eight blocks long.

The charm of L’Eixample, which even today, as we have seen, continues to amaze us, is not only the most valuable buildings it contains, but the entire complex.

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This post is also available in: Spanish Catalan



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