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American Society of Landscape Architects


February 2004 Issue

Oasis from a Wounded Landscape
Nou Barris Central Park in Barcelona is a three-dimensional carpet modeled to human purpose.
By Marc Treib

Oasis from a Wounded Landscape
Photo by Marc Treib

The Parc Central de Nou Barris, sited on the northwestern edge of Barcelona, is hardly a landscape on the Olmstedian model. Instead of planted woodlands, meandering streams, and pastoral meadows, one encounters triangles of glazed brick, serrated parterres, and agitated water. The park's second phase, which opened last fall to great celebration, is a vigorous, assertive design that treats the land as a three-dimensional carpet to be modeled to human purpose.

The park's designers, architects Andreu Arriola and Carmen Fiol, were not timid about shaping structures, ground, and space. In their design, geometry has been assigned a prolonged vacation. In contrast to the minimalism of the 1980s, the new park forcefully employs geometries other than the rectangle. Their approach reveals not only the cultural differences between Catalans and Americans, but also the professional differences between the landscape architect—who usually takes nature as the starting point—and the architect—who often responds with spatial and formal propositions. Architects still dominate the design of public spaces and parks in Spanish cities due to the nascent state of the landscape architecture profession. Only within the past five years, for example, was a complete undergraduate curriculum in landscape—said to be the first in Spain— instituted at the Escola Tècnica Superior d'Arquitectura de Barcelona.

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