Herzog & de Meuron Basel Ltd.
4056 Basel, Switzerland
Phone: +41 61 385 5757
A new pond system for water purification – An urbanistic proposal for Barcelona
We refuse to limit our urbanistic considerations on the “Diagonal” in Barcelona to a housing project. We are not ready to deliver concrete plans with apartment floor plans, sections and façades for an area that raises so many questions. For the most part these are questions other than those that could be settled by any sort of housing project. We would like to contribute first off by raising several questions about the contemporary city and to create prerequisites for future urbanistic considerations in this part of Barcelona.
We do not know which is correct: the extension of the “Diagonal” to the sea, or leaving the present stuttering geometry as it is. Of course, we have sympathy for the present state because it expresses the strength of an urban life independently grown. Therefore, we are not suggesting any form of housing at this time.
We propose instead the construction of a water purification system in the form of a pond. The existing water purification plant now stands looking like the result of an annoying compulsory exercise carried out by municipal authorities – out of the way, as unobtrusive as possible, pressed to the edge like a criminal architecture. The new plan would be a visible part of a circulatory system and would take on an important aesthetic and functional role in the contemporary city.
Technically, the system would represent an amalgamation of both traditional intense purification methods (mechanical and chemical) and an extensive more natural purification method utilizing large-scale pond systems with foliage. Such systems already exist although on a much smaller scale and without metropolitan dimensions.
Thus, where the “Diagonal” extends out into the sea, at the end of the geometry of the Plan Cerda, we propose a pond purification system in place of a defunct railway yard. The yard’s organic form, a product of the movement of trains, will be excavated to hold the liquid of the pond system. The pond system’s forms are made up of paths and water pools laid out in sine curves with animals and plants such as reeds, rushes and algae, each chosen specifically for the site. The pond system is thus an ornamental band located between the city and the sea. The purified water flowing out of the pond system irrigates separately planned gardens, left open like oases in the city’s plan grid and reached by means of a pipe system.
As in Islamic parks the water flows without pumps due to the difference in pressure in the sunken gardens. Sheltered from the wind, this moisture gives rise to a thick and colourful growth of vegetation. These garden oases within the city create the last level, the last “filter” in the purification system.
Herzog & de Meuron and Meili & Peter, 1996
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In: Association Paysage et Diffusion (Ed.). “Pages Paysages. Territoires.” Vol. No. 4, Versailles, Association Paysage et Diffusion, 09.1992. pp. 24-31.
Jacques Herzog, Pierre de Meuron: “Los Ríos de Barcelona. The Rivers of Barcelona.” In: Josep Lluís Mateo (Ed.). “Quaderns d’Arquitectura i Urbanisme. Barcelona: a Virtual Geography.” Vol. No. 186, Barcelona, Colegio de Arquitectos de Cataluña. Association of Catalan Architects, 12.1990. p. 36.