American Society of Landscape Architects ASLA 2005 Professional Awards
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Conceptual plan for Parc Diagonal Mar (EMBT).
Site plan developed by the design team in collaboration with, the developer, local governments, and community stakeholders (Hines).
The conclusion page pulled from the Statement of Environmental Sustainability report prepared by the design team (EDAW).
Image displays the existing conditions of the site before the start of design. Diagonal Mar is built on what use to be a former rail yard once hidden behind dilapidated industrial buildings and railroad maintenance sheds (photo: Hines).
Aerial view of site after clean up and before construction started (photo: Hines).
Inspired detailing of this zero edge water condition in the lake provides a memorable moment for visitors enjoying the park (photo: EDAW/Photography by Dixi Carrillo).
Sculptural steel mist fountains grace the edge of the lake creating a fanciful gesture in this diverse park experience (photo: EDAW/Photography by Dixi Carrillo).
View of filtering wetlands is contrasted by the bold geometry of the bridge and adjacent promenade. Inspired detailing and creative use of simple materials gives the park a fresh appearance (photo: EDAW/Photography by Dixi Carrillo).

Parc Diagonal Mar, Barcelona, Spain
EDAW, Inc., Atlanta, GA
EMBT Arquitectes, Barcelona, Spain

"Best constructed wetlands I’ve ever seen . . .centerpiece of a very large development project . . . this is a big success."

— 2005 Professional Awards Jury Comments

One of the legacies of the 1992 Olympic Games was the city’s decision to reclaim and redevelop Barcelona’s waterfront, which paved the way for Diagonal Mar, a $900 million mixed-use project begun in 1997 with a ten-year development plan. The major public space, the third largest park in Barcelona after Parc Guell and Parc de la Civtadella, known as Parc Diagonal Mar, is located on a former railyard once hidden behind downtrodden industrial buildings and railroad maintenance sheds that bordered the Mediterranean Sea waterfront.

Half of the 84-acre mixed-use development is devoted to open space, including the 34-acre Parc Diagonal Mar, which opened in September 2002. In addition to extending the Avenida Diagonal and providing direct access from the surrounding neighborhoods to the Mediterranean Sea, the development comprises five residential projects consisting of 1,400 units within 15 buildings, three hotels with a total of 950 rooms, three Class “A” office towers totaling 613,320 square feet, a retail center of more than 1 million square.

The design concept connects the surrounding working class neighborhoods, with hundreds of thousands of residents, to the Mediterranean Sea, using Parc Diagonal Mar as the greenway. As a gateway to the sea for locals and visitors, Parc Diagonal Mar contains playgrounds, a waterfall, shaded seating areas, sports facilities, an outdoor café, fountains, and viewing mounds, grouped around a large central lake with many fountains and sprays, and linked by paths that lead to the sea. Conceived as an abstract tapestry in plan view, the park is enjoyed from above by high-rise residents.

The plan of Parc Diagonal Mar is a playful and exuberant mixture of pavements, water and plantings meant to evoke a canvas of modern art. It reflects the sensibilities of its site in Barcelona and its strong tradition of modern art and architecture. In this case, the landscape is object, not background, and the frame of high rise residential towers built at its perimeter becomes the unifying backdrop.

The design incorporates a number of engaging, playful, interactive elements such as the musical squares, sculptural mist fountains, custom playscapes and unique seating elements. These, combine with the open space and water elements to create an exciting and memorable user-friendly park. The design process incorporated significant collaboration between the private developer and client and the public agencies for parks and urban design.

The park clearly addresses the main purposes for which it is intended: recreation, strolling, connection to the beach, and stormwater retention. These functions are given poetic expression through the artful use of basic materials: stone, steel, wood, concrete, water, and plants. Inspired hardscape detailing and creative use of native plants give the park a fresh appearance at all scales.

The park features a palette of simple materials: concrete and brick pavements; wood benches and play equipment; and steel arbors and fountain supports. All materials were selected to weather the salty air of the seashore and the intensity of use expected for an urban park.

Ecology played a meaningful role in the park’s design. In fact, Parc Diagonal Mar resulted in the first-ever public/private sustainability agreement in Spain, a pact between Hines and Barcelona’s town hall, which governed the park design, construction, and, now, its operation. Hines commissioned the design team to develop a Statement of Environmental Sustainability Report in English and Spanish/Catalan. The report called for sustainable development principles such as balancing human and natural resources; respecting interdependence of natural systems; respecting biological and cultural diversity, promoting social equity and economic development; balancing short-term and long-term needs and objectives; and conserving natural resources to be incorporated in the design of the park.

As a result of following the sustainable development principles, the park was designed with the following:

· Porous pavements that minimize storm water runoff.
· Native plants specified to curtail irrigation and pesticide applications.
· Time-controlled fountains and smaller fountains spray a mist at low pressure.
· Irrigation system water provided from the park’s lake.
· Wetland areas around parts of the lake for stormwater filtration
· Lake bottoms at two meters below water’s surface, allowing groundwater to be the lake’s primary source of water.
· Lake liner protected with a soil cap
· Recycled soil from excavated materials from the adjoining Diagonal Mar retail development.
· Grass clippings and other harvested vegetation will be composted.

This project is a prime example of the landscape architect’s role in the management of large teams of professionals, contractors, developers, community stakeholders and local governments. In addition, this project is a successful representation of the global collaboration between design firms. The connection that the park provides to new and old neighborhoods, as well as to the reclaimed beachfront, completes an effective collaboration between the city, developer, community and design team.

Parc Diagonal Mar provides the opportunity for the public to use an urban site that was once a vacant brownfield and has become a catalyst for redevelopment of the surrounding beach area. The new Diagonal road extension and the park have spurred many residential, office and retail developments in the area.


Detail view of filtering wetlands. The soft texture of the native plants serves as a foil to the urban pedestrian edge where visitors interact with the water (photo: EDAW/Photography by Dixi Carrillo).
Pervious surfaces are used throughout the park. This along with the native plantings used to filter the stormwater creates a model for ecologically sound urban park development (photo: EDAW/Photography by Dixi Carrillo).
Urban growth scenario: the scattered urban pattern based on the EI at a higher security level.
Custom designed slides add a contemporary and unique dimension to the children’s play experience. Built in seating is composed to facilitate the engagement of the watchful parents (photo: EDAW/Photography by Dixi Carrillo).
Bold steel sculptures overhead define the spaces for couples to rest and stroll. Sculptural seating provides a variety of opportunities for sitting alone, in groups or lying around (photo: EDAW/Photography by Dixi Carrillo).
Simple yet elegant swing is a favorite among the children (photo: EDAW/Photography by Dixi Carrillo).
The park’s overall geometry was conceived as an abstract tapestry in plan view, allowing the park to be enjoyed from above by high-rise residents. The park serves as a public open space linking the adjacent neighborhoods of working class housing (in the background) with the mixed-use development (photo: EDAW/Photography by Dixi Carrillo).
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