BARCELONA TRIP—URBAN TRANSFORMATION, DESIGN AND BEAUTY
Barcelona is an amazing city to discover, conveniently located near a major airport in Southern Europe, with nice weather, amazing architecture, trendy vibe, infinite shopping opportunities, delicious food and diverse nightlife and cultural events. The Catalan capital attracts millions of visitors every year to enjoy Gaudi’s dream-like architecture, try delicious ‘paella’ or ‘tapas’ (small-portion dishes) … or watch a soccer game by world-famous local club FCBarcelona.
Our search in Barcelona is a trip for design inspiration; we can visit masterpieces by Gaudi – major architect with organic shapes in his works like Sagrada Familia cathedral, Guell Park or La Pedrera– or contemporary buildings both by local and foreigner design studios; or discover interesting museums, like the one showcasing Picasso’s paintings; or just walk in the city center enjoying the cultural diversity, graffiti paintings, art showrooms, local shops and restaurants…
From all the interesting aspects, in this text we focus on newest waterfronts and parks in Barcelona. Even if located next to the Mediterranean Sea, the city was not fully enjoying this costal location until the end of the XXth century. When preparing for 1992 Olympic Games, the city was completely transformed, and among other strategies, it was decided to ‘open the city to the sea’. The process created a continuous beach waterfront, some sea-side new neighborhoods in former industrial sites and a series of eco-parks following the two rivers in the edges of the city.
A major case of this transformation impulse is “Barcelona Beach” in the city center, a popular fishermen-neighborhood transformed into a cosmopolitan spot not to be missed. The area has sandy beaches with small bars perfect for drinking a local beer or some fancy cocktails, a place for relaxation time facing the sea in the evening while watching people jog along the waterfront, relax in the sun or swim.
Some kilometers north following the coast we can find the “Forum Park”. Designed by FOA and build in 2004 for a local event similar to an Expo, this coastal park next to the sea in a new development area has circulations and walls with similar materials. Numerous music festivals are celebrated here in summer season, a nice moment to explore the city with music background.
Close to it we can visit “Barcelona Diagonal Mar” (with masterplan by AECOM and Landscape by EMBT), a mix-use residential-commercial example of new urban development: high-density residential neighborhood, creation of a new central park with lake, commercial mall, convention center, hotel, public facilities for citizens. The dynamic shapes in the landscaped areas never stop surprising visitors.
Uphill in the northern side of Montjuic (犹太山) next to the Olypic Stadium and set in an old garbage deposit, local Office of Architecture of Barcelona (OAB Ferrater) designed an amazing botanical garden using fractal shapes to adapt to existing landscape. With a water feature in lowest part and some small buildings for support, the park has a diversity of plants from all over the world with “Mediterranean climate”, from local nature to Australian or Californian plants.
Our design-related trip has a last inspirational visit: the new landscape restoration by designers “EMF M. Franch” in the small peninsula of Cap de Creus（加泰罗尼亚） (two hour’s drive from Barcelona in northern part of Catalonia), background for famous painter Salvador Dali, who was born and lived in the area. The local government decided to restore to original state an old holidays resort sited in an ecological spot, turning out the buildings and creating a network of small paths and artistic elements, while some buildings are refurbished to keep memory of the past. This last example in our trip to Barcelona and surroundings shows us that good design with rough materials – stone, steel, concrete – can transmit feelings of beauty.