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Sanjay Gangal
Sanjay Gangal
Sanjay Gangal is the President of IBSystems, the parent company of, MCADCafe, EDACafe.Com, GISCafe.Com, and ShareCG.Com.

Squares In Puigcerdà, Spain by Pepe Gascón

April 20th, 2011 by Sanjay Gangal

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.

Traffic is eliminated, concentrating road and service communication on one side, freeing up a large central space. Two large linear flowerbeds protect the pacified area from the bustle of traffic working as filters between the two. A number of elements of street furniture simultaneously emphasise the physical and visual limit of the squares themselves. The space, which is very irregular with a highly uneven perimeter, is geometrised and arranged using granite as the sole material for paving, as a support of the different uses and distinguishing the areas with different formats, weaving a tapestry of great expressiveness. The lighting and urban furniture elements are arranged in line with the directrices marked by this area. Now the squares are conceived as a space conducive to rest and encounters, that allows the surrounding architecture to be heard, the chorus of traditional buildings the squares have as a backdrop.

Squares In Puigcerdà - Photograph by Eugeni Pons

  • Project name: Squares in Puigcerdà
  • Architect: Pepe Gascón
  • Project Team: Josep Gascón, Jesús Gallego, Pau Estruch, Jordi Escofet
  • Photographer: Eugeni Pons
  • Location: Places de Santa Maria i Dels Herois, Puigcerdà, Girona, Spain
  • Developer: Ajuntament de Puigcerdà
  • Construction Company: Flotats, S.A.
  • Project year: 2008 – 2009
  • Project area: 6.000,00 m2
  • Cost: 1.563.130,42€
  • Location link via Google Maps

Squares In Puigcerdà - Photograph by Eugeni Pons

Puigcerdà (1,202 m) is a municipality situated in the Axial Pyrenees in Catalonia and is the chief town of the district of La Cerdanya. It is an important commercial centre and tourist resort throughout the year thanks to its beautiful landscape, excellent mountain sports facilities and its location on the border between Spain and France.

The town centre was in a state of serious decline, presenting the general symptoms of neglect: its squares, as well as the streets in its old quarter, were unable to function properly due to the overwhelming presence of vehicles, which stifled the civic potential and the harmonious qualities of the space.

In the squares to be reformed, the prevailing clutter of the outdoor areas of the commercial premises at street level, with their awnings and sunshades in multifarious arrangements, forms, sizes and colors, together with the mismatch of their various pavings, went so far as to make it difficult to gain access to certain spots due to the badly resolved steps and other changes in level, heightening the overall sense of confusion.

The effect of this was to dilute any perception of the public space by impeding a unified vision of it.

Squares In Puigcerdà - Photograph by Eugeni Pons

The town council produced an accessibility study with a view to reducing vehicular traffic in the old centre. It then organized a competition for ideas on implementing the joint remodeling of Plaça Santa Maria and Plaça dels Herois, the most central and important urban space in the town. The competition included a process in which the town’s residents had a say and concluded in a public exhibition and a public vote on the proposals submitted. The project presented here was adjudged the winner of this competition.

Squares In Puigcerdà - Photograph by Eugeni Pons

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.

This large central area is linked to a smaller space situated around the bell tower, enhancing its presence and defining it as the location of a stage during festive celebrations. A children’s play area with swings, etc. was created at the north-east end of the squares.

The work had to be conducted at ground level due to the existence of an old cemetery in Plaça dels Herois, 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.

Squares In Puigcerdà - Photograph by Eugeni Pons

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.

Squares In Puigcerdà - Photograph by Eugeni Pons

The continuity of the meander is interrupted by transverse side entrances that facilitate access to the squares and connect them with their immediate surroundings.

Squares In Puigcerdà - Photograph by Eugeni Pons

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 paving is laid in such a way as to form transverse strips (in a repeating pattern) that cross the entire square towards the bell tower. 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.

Squares In Puigcerdà - Photograph by Eugeni Pons

This remodeling has given back to the city a space that had been taken over by vehicles.

It is 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.

The new squares have filled the town centre with life and the municipal authorities are now in the process of remodeling the remaining squares and streets that make up the old quarter, following the same approach with regard to forms and materials as in this intervention.

Squares In Puigcerdà - Photograph by Eugeni Pons

Related posts:

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Category: Public Landscapes

2 Responses to “Squares In Puigcerdà, Spain by Pepe Gascón”

  1. Jane says:

    I am so going there for my next holiday! It looks beautiful. It’s nice that the square is secluded from traffic, makes it seem more tranquil.
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  2. Kate Allen says:

    Puigcerdà is beautiful, the combination of modern and traditional Spanish blend beautifully. We went there last year, best holiday ever.

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