In Barcelona's Parc Diagonal Mar over two months this past summer, area residents were observed making good use of the Mediterranean port city's newest major park. They strolled along lakeside walkways, stopping to admire ducks and swans, and cooled off in the mists of the park's sculptural fountains. Joggers, bikers, or dog walkers were usually in sight. Children of all ages enjoyed the park's playgrounds and sports facilities. Elderly people sat reading their papers, chatting with friends, or watching grandchildren. During the day, young mothers pushed strollers and kept toddlers in check, and when evening came, entire families ambled through.
The Project for Public Spaces (PPS) has a different take. The Manhattan-based urban-planning nonprofit's web site (www. pps.org) lists Parc Diagonal Mar in its "Hall of Shame" and reports that during a site visit there was very little useexcept for a brief period in a playgroundand virtually no visitor contact with the site's plentiful water. The architecture of the surrounding apartment buildings and shopping center contributes to a "look but don't touch" attitude, the PPS says.
Inclusion of Parc Diagonal Mar in the Hall of Shame is premature at best; more to the point, it suggests a cursory visit. There actually are three playgrounds, and they were in constant use by young people during my repeated visits to the site. The fountain basin adjacent to the children's playground was made very shallow, given the inevitability that on hot days children would be drawn to its water. It is true that because of the park's natural water systems, direct visitor contact with the water isn't otherwise encouraged (except for the fountain-generated mist). There's a user trade-off, however, in a park in which chemically untreated water and plants provide habitat for fish, turtles, frogs, and birds.
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