Barcelona is now developing one of its most extensive natural public spaces in an outlying area of the city, near what was wasteland, where the most pollutant service installations were once relegated. The project is part of a clean-up operation of rundown peripheral areas, often marred by disused factories and utilities.
The new facilities demonstrate environmental sensititivity and cultural variety, returning a wide stretch of land to public use. Both the hardscape and landscape of north-east coast park reflect the sustainability aims of Barcelona’s Forum 2004 programme. The area now contains a number of energy supply plants including a gas mains, used tyre collection, water storage, waste disposal, an extension to the existing incinerator, but also an Eco-Museum and offices, a recycling plant and an ecopark.
Abalos and Herreros wanted to dissolve the contrast between the natural and artificial, and create a radically new concept of “natural” by blending architecture and landscape, aesthetics and the hybrid elements of contemporary construction. In fact the project is at the same time a re-naturalising and architectural exercise by designers who do not disdain a brief that involves waste-disposal and creating artificial beaches.
It was soon realized that the sheer size of such a complex venture required modification of the coastline to gain back a hundred meters from the sea and create an artificial beach for the city. Infrastructural tensions called for ingenious architectural and landscaping strategies. The stark, desolate – almost surrealist – location has been treated with great sensitivity. Abalos and Herreros have applied their “latent garden” principle to respond to the challenge of creating a park, and find the gentlest ways of integrating an industrial landscape with a public amenity. In fact only by constructing a strikingly unusual public space, picturesque yet contemporary, can an appropriate civic sense of popular identification develop around this Coast Park scheme.
This hybrid project par excellence has been built using natural components - sea, wind, sun, beach, meadows, dunes, mountains, plants - together with new construction elements. The geography of the area has been redesigned, and a former industrial wasteland returned to the city and its Mediterranean coastline in a way that affords both fluidity and fixity.
Given the coastal nature of the park, vegetation comprises palm trees in the environs of the beach and a variety of shrubbery further inland, creating an ecosystem that affords greater biodiversity. The office building and Eco Museum, a steel structure with alternating polycarbonate and glazing panels, fits easily into the landscape. It contains a lecture room and exhibition centre illustrating energy-producing plant.
The urban waste disposal plant is linked to the offices and incinerator. Its metal frame has a green roof while a system of walkways facilitate guided tours.
The whole project was realised using recyclable industrial materials and green roofs. Energywise the complex is self-sufficient. The parallel programme of the exhibition centre and observation platform turn an infrastructure into a public amenity that increases public awareness of sustainability issues.
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