The concept behind the ‘Superblocks’ model (Superilla in Catalan) was originally conceived in the 1980s and aims to reimagine how urban spaces can be radically transformed to increase active and low-carbon mobility, support biodiversity and encourage greater social cohesion.
The concept was first implemented in Barcelona to introduce nature-based solutions and ‘tactical urbanism’ interventions such as painted cycle lanes, planters and street furniture. In doing so, Barcelona’s superblocks have been successful in creating more walkable, mixed-use public space that have helped to reduce air pollution, noise and accidents from road traffic, whilst increasing access to green space and encouraging less sedentary lifestyles.
Linen Quarter BID has commissioned Dark Matter Lab / ARUP to produce an initial report that explores how the model could be implemented in the Linen Quarter. Initial scoping has identified two potential superblocks located between (1) Great Victoria Street, Bruce Street, Bedford Street and Howard Street; and (2) Bedford Street, Ormeau Avenue Adelaide Street and Donegall Square South that incorporate a number of interventions:
- Pedestrian priority and shared space where vehicles and pedestrians coexist;
- Low (10 kilometers-per-hour) speed limit and only allow access for local residents, public transit, delivery vehicles, and emergency services;
- Great emphasis on nature-based solutions, both tree planting and sustainable urban drainage systems (SUDs);
- Integrated children’s play spaces and outdoor adult fitness equipment;
- Other street furniture to encourage communal use of the public realm, usable for both office workers, residents and visitors of all ages and abilities;
- Encouraging positive use of the public realm by adjacent ground-floor businesses, for example outdoor dining or pop-up events;
- Creative interventions using light-touch, low cost methods like painting over former street surfaces.
These interventions would all culminate in the full pedestrianisation of Linenhall Street including a linear park; children’s play features; and outdoor meeting facilities – a bold move that would create a new high-profile heart to the Linen Quarter.