The Superblock model: A review of an innovative urban model for sustainability, liveability, health and well-being

Environ Res. 2024 Jun 15;251(Pt 1):118550. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2024.118550. Epub 2024 Mar 1.


Introduction: Current urban and transport planning practices have significant negative health, environmental, social and economic impacts in most cities. New urban development models and policies are needed to reduce these negative impacts. The Superblock model is one such innovative urban model that can significantly reduce these negative impacts through reshaping public spaces into more diverse uses such as increase in green space, infrastructure supporting social contacts and physical activity, and through prioritization of active mobility and public transport, thereby reducing air pollution, noise and urban heat island effects. This paper reviews key aspects of the Superblock model, its implementation and initial evaluations in Barcelona and the potential international uptake of the model in Europe and globally, focusing on environmental, climate, lifestyle, liveability and health aspects.

Methods: We used a narrative meta-review approach and PubMed and Google scholar databases were searched using specific terms.

Results: The implementation of the Super block model in Barcelona is slow, but with initial improvement in, for example, environmental, lifestyle, liveability and health indicators, although not so consistently. When applied on a large scale, the implementation of the Superblock model is not only likely to result in better environmental conditions, health and wellbeing, but can also contribute to the fight against the climate crisis. There is a need for further expansion of the program and further evaluation of its impacts and answers to related concerns, such as environmental equity and gentrification, traffic and related environmental exposure displacement. The implementation of the Superblock model gained a growing international reputation and variations of it are being planned or implemented in cities worldwide. Initial modelling exercises showed that it could be implemented in large parts of many cities.

Conclusion: The Superblock model is an innovative urban model that addresses environmental, climate, liveability and health concerns in cities. Adapted versions of the Barcelona Superblock model are being implemented in cities around Europe and further implementation, monitoring and evaluation are encouraged. The Superblock model can be considered an important public health intervention that will reduce mortality and morbidity and generate cost savings for health and other sectors.

Keywords: Air pollution; Green space; Health; Superblocks; Transport; Urban heat islands; Urban planning; Well-being.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cities*
  • City Planning
  • Humans
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Spain