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Last updated on April 16, 2014 at 1:21 EDT
Barcelona Spain
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Barcelona, Spain

January 20, 2006
Twenty years separate these two Landsat thematic mapper images of Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia, an autonomous region in north eastern Spain.

The comparison of the two images clearly shows the transformation the city has undergone in the last 20 years.

Barcelona is located in the Mediterranean Sea on the north of the Spanish coast. To its north the city borders the River Besòs and the municipalities of Santa Coloma de Gramenet and Sant Adrià de Besòs; to the south it borders the Zona Franca, L'Hospitalet de Llobregat and Esplugues de Llobregat; to the east is the Mediterranean; and to the west Montcada i Reixach and Sant Cugat del Vallès.

It is divided into several districts following Cerdà's extension of the city on a rigid grid system called L'Eixample at the beginning of the twentieth century. The main districts are Ciutat Vella (old city): the Raval, the Barri Gòtic, and the Barri de la Ribera.

After the first democratic elections in 1979, Barcelona, under the then mayor, Pasqual Maragall, embarked on projects for urban, architectural and artistic renewal. The objective was to regenerate the city, laying particular emphasis on the outlying districts. Later, the Olympic Games brought with them the major infrastructures and a more radical transformation of the city. This development and growth can be seen from a comparison of the two images; the 2004 image shows the continued growth but also indicated a trend to the decline in the inner city population and the displacement towards the outskirts which is raising the threat of urban sprawl.

El Prat International Airport, Spain's second largest airport, can be seen as the large bright area on the southern tip of the coast on the images. You can also see how the airport has developed: it underwent a major development for the 1992 Olympic Games with the construction of a new terminal designed by Rafael Moneo.

The yellow triangle shaped area on the 2004 image is the Zona Franca. You can see the development of this area by comparing the two images. Many companies have moved into the Zona Franca, an industrial free-port, which has developed across the flat land of the Llobregat delta between the city and its airport. It is the site of the Logistics Park which is one of the largest projects in Barcelona's renewal program.

The green line which runs from the Zona Franca is the Llobregat delta. The reason that it has become more pronounced is because it is the result of marine erosion that is occurring at an approximate rate of one meter per year. As you can also see from the images, the river has been diverted and channelized to allow for industrial expansion.

Barcelona, with its face to the sea, is both Mediterranean and a cosmopolitan, European city.

Technical Information:
  • Satellite: Landsat
  • Instrument: Thematic Mapper
  • Acquisition: 19-Apr-1990
  • Center coordinates: lat. 41.38, lon. 2.17