Squares in Puigcerdà
Remodelling of the most central and relevant public space in Puigcerdà, originally very much deteriorated, with an excessive amount of traffic that diminished the civic and integrating potential of the space.
The first step was to remove vehicular traffic by concentrating all the road connections and services on the south-east side of the squares, thereby freeing up a generously expansive central space for citizens’ use.
The work had to be conducted at ground level due to the existence of an old cemetery, which prompted the design of two large beds for plants running lengthwise – each of them dubbed a ‘natural meander’, the project’s motto – and slightly raised so that they could be filled with sufficient earth for planting trees in.
Between them, they create a long urban feature that both protects the area from the hustle and bustle of the traffic-bearing road and acts as a filter between them, while emphasising the physical and visual border of the squares themselves.
Each stretch of the meander folds back on itself, embracing distinctive spots, such as the array of benches positioned so that people can sit in the shade and enjoy the view into the square. Other areas include the various underground bins and banks for recycled waste and the loading and unloading parking places on the outer edge of the square.
The continuity of the meander is interrupted by transverse side entrances that facilitate access to the squares and connect them with their immediate surroundings.
The space, which is very irregular in shape and which has a strongly marked perimeter, is geometrically structured and arranged through the use of a single material for the paving (granite) throughout the squares, the various areas within them being distinguished by distinctive formats:
-A perimeter strip paved with small slabs of granite that acts as the transition between the buildings, their entrances and the main central area of the squares.
-The central area, in which the slabs of granite are geometrically arranged and come in two different shapes (one square and the other rectangular and twice the size of the square). In this area, the joints between the slabs vary and the slabs themselves are also bevel-edged. The laying of the granite slabs is intended to remove vanishing points in the lines of the pavement, thus contributing to the perception of the squares as an orderly space and creating the effect of a tapestry of great expressiveness.
All the lighting elements and street furniture are arranged in accordance with the lines established by the stretch of paving. It results in a public space that is open in character and hence allows for flexibility. The harmonious integration of the squares is achieved through simplicity, coherence and formal essentiality.
The squares are now seen as a properly appointed place that encourages people to enjoy a quiet moment and to meet up with others; a peaceful space that allows the architecture of their surroundings to speak, the choir of traditional buildings that serve as their backdrop.
Contributed by Pepe Gascón Arquitectura
Photo © Eugeni Pons
Architecture: Pepe Gascón (Pepe Gascón arquitectura)
Collaborators: Pau Estruch, Jesús Gallego
Client: Municipality of Puigcerdà (Girona), Spain
Contractor: Flotats, S.A. (Puigcerdà, Girona), Spain
Other collaborators: Jordi Escofet (engineer)