L'Eixample, which means extension, is the section of the city which stretches out from the Casc Antic (Old Town) in a grid pattern. Here is a little history to get started....
Before 1850 Barcelona was still enclosed by its medieval walls due to sanctions imposed upon the city after the Spanish War of Succession. The zone outside the walls was still technically considered a ‘military zone’ and was only used for farming. During the boom of the industrial revolution it became clear that due to a rising population, sanitary issues and the location of the new factories, which were outside the walls in places such as Sants and Sant Martí, Barcelona must expand beyond the old city boundaries.
Between 1854 and 1856 the walls were demolished and a competition was run for architects to submit their ideas for the expansion of the city. At first an idea by the architect Rovira I Trias was selected but this plan was vetoed by the Spanish government and the ‘Plan Cerdà’ by Ildefons Cerdà was implemented by royal decree. This plan had several aims, one of the main ones being the health of the people of Barcelona. The city inside the walls was crowded and disease spread easily. Water was often contaminated and the small streets didn’t allow air to flow and circulate. Cerdà wanted the Eixample (which literally means extension) to be a healthy place. He designed wide streets for better air flow and blocks where the flats would be built with the idea that on each block there would only be building on two sides and the rest of the area would be gardens to bring some nature into the city and have places where people could meet and children could play. Unfortunately with the rush to build houses and make money from the new expansion of the city Cerdà’s wish was ignored and now almost all blocks have been built on all four sides.
The Eixample certainly brought better living conditions to the city and also allowed architects such as Gaudí, Josep Puig i Cadafalch, Josep Domènech i Estapà, Josep Vilaseca i Casanovas and Enric Sagnier i Villavecchia to create their Modernista masterpieces, for example Sagrada Familia, Casa Batlló and Casa Milà are all located in the Eixample. The expansion of the city also brought former separate villages into the city itself such as Sants, Gràcia, and Sant Andreu de Palomar. Currently the Eixample is separated into six different neighbourhoods; Sant Antoni, Fort Pienc, Sagrada Familia, Dreta de l’Eixample, l’Antigua Esquerra de l’Eixample and La Nova Esquerra de l’Eixample.