Jean Nouvel; Sant Martí, Barcelona

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A gyre of flowers forms a centrepiece of Nouvel’s park

words James Richards

Jean Nouvel and Barcelona are getting on well. The French architect’s second major landmark for the city, a park in the Sant Martí district, has just opened.

The Parc Central del Poblenou occupies five and a half hectares in an area that the citywide rejuvenation plans have yet to reach. Its office buildings and industrial sites contrast starkly with the sparkling modern architecture overlooking the city’s harbour area, and Gaudí is nowhere to be seen.

“We wanted the park to form a link to the traditional Barcelona,” says chief project architect Andreas Soufa. “This district had a lot of new buildings but no history, no identity. Visitors should be able to make their own stories here,”

Pritzker Prize-winning firm Jean Nouvel Atelier, whose Torre Agbar can be seen in the distance, won the commission after proposing a shady, verdant landscape surrounded by a concrete wall to isolate visitors from the bustling city. “At the intersection of three roads this area should be very noisy. Now inside the park, it is very peaceful,” says Soufa.

Although it was opened to the public in April, the park is far from finished. The vegetation that will give the space its form and shape is yet to grow. According to Soufa, it might take another five years before the vision is fully realised: “Yes, the plants need to grow. It will give us a chance to get used to them and work out how to look after them properly. Unlike the parks of Paris and London, this one won’t need much attention. We wanted to capture the wild sense of a forest.”

As a counterpoint to the park’s lush future dimensions, Nouvel has interwoven a number of steel sculptural elements. The gated entrance looks as if it has been ravaged by rust or bullets, but up close the small square holes are arranged to look like screen pixels. The benches and metal furniture have a space-age feel, while a gravel surface and rock-strewn border accentuate the lunar element.

images Inigo Bujedo Aguirre

top image A gyre of flowers forms a centrepiece of Nouvel’s park

The park is at the intersection of three roads in the industrial area of the city. Torre Agbar can be seen in the distance
The park is at the intersection of three roads in the industrial area of the city. Torre Agbar can be seen in the distance

Plants will eventually cover the bare structures
Plants will eventually cover the bare structures

The entrance gates are peppered with pixellated holes
The entrance gates are peppered with pixellated holes

The entrance gates are peppered with pixellated holes
The entrance gates are peppered with pixellated holes

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