Get on the time machine. We are not going far, neither in the calendar, we are traveling to the summer of 2023, nor in space, since the destination is the intersection of the streets of Enric Granados and Consell de Cent, because there is going to be an urban metamorphosis as surprising as the one that in the animal kingdom turns plump caterpillars into light butterflies. That crossroads in the Eixample, where the asphalt of the road and the concrete of the sidewalks now predominate, will be a garden in which almost half of the 2,000 square meters that frame the four corner facades will be occupied by 51 different plant species. If Cerdà lifted his head…, some criticize, and it seems that they forget that the beacon that guided the father of the Eixample was to turn the ‘joie de vivre’ that the hygienist movements longed for into an urban project. “We have to ruralize the urban”, Cerdà wrote, it may be said in passing.
Much (both good and bad, depending on when the war front can be seen from the trench) has been and will be talked about the green axes that the Barcelona City Council has decided to promote against climate change. Of all of them, the most controversial plan (for some) is the pastoralization of Consell de Cent street, which will be reborn as a pedestrian path and where four of its intersections will be refounded as squares, Rocafort, Borrell, Girona and Enric Granados, and of all of them the last one promises to be little less than an orchard. Using what already happened 120 years ago in this city, when the satirical press baptized a portion of Passeig de Gràcia with eternal success as the Manzana de la Discordia, it could now be said that this trip in the time machine has as its destination the Garden of Discord.
Miriam García, a member of the landscaping laboratory LandLab, the studio that won the contest to landscape that intersection by Enric Granados, pilots the expedition through time. “This is no longer about whether cars yes or cars no, the debate is anotherit is about the temperature of the city, the current climate and especially the one that is to come, and especially about the use of every drop of water that the rain gives away & rdquor ;, he summarizes.
The debate that the hard squares provoked in its day is far away. They were urbanized in the 80s. Some are still there, just like that. Green was missing in them, but what was not debated then, because the times were climatically different, is how those concrete squares were wasting water. In a hard square the rain ends up in the sewer. For years this seemed normal. The new thing is to avoid that waste. The hidden feature of what will become Plaza de Enric Granados is the enormous permeability of the soil, which will not only quench the thirst of the vegetation, but will also feed the city’s underground aquifer.
García, and that is predictable, is a convinced enthusiast of the transformation that is coming at Consell de Cent, where work will begin in less than half a year. She ventures that when the project is finished, that is, before the summer of 2023, that will be the Barcelona version of the celebrated high line new york, the park that the authorities of that city literally planted on the tracks of an elevated railway line. That infrastructure was going to be demolished. Rudolph Giuliani, as mayor, even signed the demolition order, but seeing that spontaneous vegetation had begun to colonize the tracks, a salvage process was unleashed, the results of which are now known worldwide. Pioneers are usually known by the arrows stuck in their backs, it is sometimes said in moments of transformation like these. In the case of Barcelona, the arrows still fly. There are those who maintain that projects like this, which put a lock on the era of the car, will mean the death of the city due to commercial starvation, but the city council maintains that in the ‘superilla’ of Sant Antoni it has been the other way around, they have grown by 16 % the hustle and bustle of the shops.
The reason for the time travel was not, however, to rub salt in the wounds, but rather to preview the Enric Granados square a year from now or, if you prefer, because the plant kingdom takes its time to grow, from here to 2025, for example. Of the 51 species that will inhabit the place, some already pre-existing, due to their presence they will be worth highlighting, suggests García, the specimens of Montpelier maplean ancient inhabitant of Europe, from whose wood, or so Pliny the Elder claimed, formidable spears could be obtained, but what is relevant is the pictorial elegance with which they mark the passing of the seasons. Autumns of reddish cups, as the canon marks. Its peculiar three-lobed leaves are also expected to have the effect of reducing the temperature at that Eixample intersection by between two and four degrees, at least compared to other more bare intersections in the same district, with the happy plus, in addition , that the square is equidistant from the interior gardens of the University of Barcelona, home to the city’s historic trees, including a ginkgo, a living fossil, something like the coelacanth of the plant kingdom, and, on the other side, the Plaza de Letamendi, which, although of unfortunate design, is where two centuries ago some 26-meter-high Washingtonian palm trees took root, which is said soon.
The vegetation of the square will be divided, from a bird’s eye view and with organic forms that somewhat recall the architecture of Enric Miralles, into three different areas, a rain forest, an area of Mediterranean vegetation and, finally, face to face with the seminary (which if the wall that separates it from the street were knocked to the ground, it would already be la repera), a corner of a botanical garden. The vegetable mass is remarkable. It will even have the first insect hotel in the urban fabric, because until now they were exclusive to large parks in the city. That as a climax the ornithological life of that oasis is rich and varied will be, in the medium term, the proof of nine that the objectives set have been achieved.
It will be left behind, as García says, “that stage of the meantime & rdquor; which was that of the so-called tactical urbanism. The first deconfinement of the pandemic was faced by the Barcelona City Council with a battery of measures that were already announced at that time as being provisional. Painting half the road of Consell de Cent street yellow was one of the measures and, perhaps because of the color chosen, one of the most striking and criticized. That parenthesis therefore has an expiration date, but not another of the decisions that was made in that eventful lack of confidence, that of betting on a vegetable disheveled city. This was an idea thought about beforehand, to put an end to that obsession with Versailles-like landscaping, which not only requires constant care, but are also large water consumers. Although always within an order, the orchard in the Plaza de Enric Granados will respond in its own way to that ruralization that Cerdà yearned for. The limits have been imposed only by the inescapable demands of life in the city. Like which? Let nothing impede, for example, the passing and turning of fire trucks.
In a year, exam.