Oasis from a Wounded Landscape
Nou Barris Central Park in Barcelona is a three-dimensional carpet modeled to human purpose.
By Marc Treib
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 architectwho usually takes nature as the starting pointand the architectwho
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 landscapesaid to be the first in Spain instituted at the Escola Tècnica Superior d'Arquitectura de Barcelona.
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