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.