Guallart Architects



With Max Sanjulian

Implementation of the Cerdà Plan for Barcelona, originally drawn up in the mid 19th century, will finally be completed in the 21st century. C/ Cristóbal de Moura, a street that lies between the Gran Via and the Diagonal, on the right-hand side of the Eixample, is one of the last in the city to be urbanized. The orthogonal grid created by the engineer Cerdà is laid out between the sea and the hills, with a basic regular sequence of streets twenty metres wide set a hundred metres apart; every third street parallel to or perpendicular to the sea is wider and grander, constituting what are known as ‘superblocks’. C/ Cristóbal de Moura is one such street. Its ordering invites a reflection on how a street whose basic parameters were defined by the conditions of life in an industrial economy should be designed for the information society. In effect, most of the main processes of urban development in our cities are oriented toward the simple functional fitting out of a space in response to a generic way of living.

Our project set out to map out how the design of a vital space can respond to the lifeways of the information society. The scheme addresses various issues associated with new lifestyles that arise here and there in our cities: issues that, considered as an interrelated whole and integrated in a unitary design, can give rise to new kinds of urban space. People will work in or very close to their own homes, and will be related more by the type of technologies they utilize or the amount of space they need than by the fact of working for the same company. This has the double benefit of saving both energy and time spent in daily commuting. Public spaces should generate at least part of the energy they consume, and should accommodate urban orchards and gardens for growing fresh produce in the immediate vicinity of the housing.

There should be provision for sports activities in the public space immediately adjacent to people’s homes, to allow them to exercise at any time to compensate for the intrinsically sedentary nature of telematic work and television-centred leisure time. Rainwater will be collected from at least 30% of the surface area, as an alternative to the sealing off of the soil and the reduction of the phreatic water level.

Our project proposed the creation of a linear pattern three metres wide as the initial basis for the organization of the different circulation systems that coexist in a public thoroughfare (pedestrians, cars, cyclists, joggers) by means of mobility lanes. This two-dimensional system is then overlaid by a structure based on the potential crossings between points on the street and the noise levels of the different lanes. The interaction between the linear pattern and the oriented amorphous mass determines position of the various sequences of trees and the permeability of the soil.

The importance of the soil is manifested in the design of a metal matrix which distributes water, electricity and information along linear channels. This matrix will be capable of emitting light and changing colour, spraying water vapour and supplying the various urban elements in need of connection, while at the same time serving to determine the degree of permeability of the soil.

The vegetation is organized on three levels, as it is in the typical Mediterranean market garden: the ground level is planted with grass and flowers, the intermediate level is occupied by orange trees and other fruit trees, and the upper level is occupied not by palms but by photovoltaic ‘trees’.

This linear pattern accommodates a variety of elements. Sequentially ordered sport rocks allow people to exercise in the street, running and stopping according to previously established criteria. The rocks can be used for different types of exercises, making use of various urban elements (basically cars, barriers, rubbish bins, etc) to support different parts of the body to perform an extensive range of exercises.

The urban avatar is a sculptural element with a function different from its form. It acts as a digital avatar similar to the adaptable personalities we assume when we operate on the Internet. In this case we designed urban elements in the form of wire-frame trees that can operate in functional terms as digital instruments by means of presence detectors, PA and lighting systems. The urban icons and sculptural elements should reinforce the connection between the physical world and the digital realm. The town needs to know as much about the cars that drive around it and their destinations as their occupants know about the town. If the city authorities know where vehicles are going to they will be better able to manage circulation and redirect traffic flows. Though public spaces can be occupied temporarily by cars, they should be prepared for complete pedestrian use.


The photovoltaic tree is an element that demonstrates the possibility of creating artificial elements that behave according to the logic of the natural world. In this case it is a matter of integrating photovoltaic panels —a purely technological element— into the urban space. However, considered in terms of their capacity to transform the sun’s energy into electricity, these panels can be compared to the leaves of a tree. In the case of a photovoltaic tree, the fruit is light. We carried out a detailed analysis of the optimum positioning of these elements in the street to ensure the best insolation and energy yield, in addition to the urban function of creating shade for people to rest in. Like trees, these elements have a common pattern of form and growth and can be adapted to different environmental situations. We decided to limit the height of the tree to twelve metres, so as to be able to use standard metal bars, which can be bent into shape for specific needs. An analysis of the most appropriate insolation for the production of energy in a given latitude and longitude makes it clear that there is no need for the solar panels to have a single orientation; they can operate within a range that in Barcelona is between 30 and 70 degrees longitudinally and from -20 to +20 degrees of latitude. A family of elements adapted to the public space thus emerges. These structures also support lighting systems using optic fibre or LEDs. The most effective system at present is to supply all of the energy generated to the electricity network, given the incentives for the generation of energy by means of passive systems, and to consume the necessary amount at night, the net balance being always positive. In the centre of our cities, a new species emerges.


Date: 1998
Client: City of Barcelona
Site: C/ Cristóbal de Moura (Barcelona)
Architecture: Vicente Guallart, Max Sanjulián