"It no longer feels like there's a motorway going through your dining room"

Glòries tunnels reduce pollutant emissions and noise

3 min
Osvaldo Alegría doing cartwheels on the Clariana lawn, with the Tueste Glorias in the background.

BarcelonaShadows are greatly sought after in the Clariana de Glòries, a public garden snatched away from vehicles and smoke, thanks to the demolition of the horrible spaghetti junction and the construction of a new tunnel. Shortly before noon, Barcelonians – and especially tourists – have taken over the shade under the trees, seeking shelter from the sun.

Visitors value this urban park because they find a moment to rest from the hardships of sightseeing. But among the locals there is above all a joy at having conquered for residents an area which for decades had been a vacuum, or even worse: the automobile's paradise. "If you had told me a few years ago that I would be sitting here so comfortably, I wouldn't have believed it," says Teresa Daza, a local 91-year-old who has come out with her 95-year-old husband to spend the morning outdoors. "It's cool here, and especially now, you can breathe," she says. This situation that contrasts with the fumes and noisiness they were forced to live with in the area.

Clariana park is built over the new tunnels that opened just a few weeks ago and which, according to City Hall data, have reduced nitrogen dioxide by 39% and particulate matter by 7%. Noise levels have also dropped by 9 decibels in all time slots, to stand at 65. "It no longer feels like there's a motorway going through your dining room," says Angelita Garcia, a resident of Castillejos street, who is thrilled about the lack of cars. The same municipal analysis shows that the the tunnels have led to emissions in Glòries now being 40% lower, compared to Eixample.

A new symbol for the city

In the nine months since it opened, the Clariana area has become a "new symbol of the city," says Janet Sanz, Barcelona's deputy mayor for Ecology, Urban Planning, Infrastructures and Mobility. She says the commitment to make the area more pedestrian friendly, as locals had long demanded, has been fulfilled.

Teresa Daza reading, in the seating area of the Clariana de Glòries.
The workers of Formació i Treball posing at the entrance of the Clariana.

In this sense, Clariana has a social function for the neighbourhood. Stephanie Tapia, from Ciutat Vella, and Gisèle Celis, from Eixample, have made it their meeting point to be with young children without spending any money. Here they find shaded areas, sun loungers and chairs, clean grass to play on and even books and the occasional free toy. "It's wonderful to have a place like this where you don't have to buy something," says Maria Jesús Vegas, who lives in Sant Martí and came over with her bike to check out what she had discovred on social media.

In a corner, Osvaldo Alegría exercises his body doing somersaults in the shade. He has come from Horta to meet a friend and admits that the space is perfect for his hobby. "Too bad it doesn't open earlier, because in summer it's already too hot by 11 o'clock," another user complains as she breastfeeds her daughter.

In the park, the only things that are not allowed are smoking, drinking alcohol, cycling and going topless, explains Òscar Señé, from the Formació i Treball foundation, the social insertion company that the City Council was hired to maintain order and control the space. "It's very nice, there's a lot of calm and a good atmosphere," Señé says of the initiative. On a large sign nearby, the City Council also promotes the area with a "The future is here" slogan, yet Angelita Garcia feels the phrase "is superfluous", since the neighbourhood, she says, is fed up with "promises and more promises" while a few meters away the machines make their way towards what will be a new urban park.