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Sumit Singhal
Sumit Singhal
Sumit Singhal loves modern architecture. He comes from a family of builders who have built more than 20 projects in the last ten years near Delhi in India. He has recently started writing about the architectural projects that catch his imagination.

Encants Barcelona in Spain by b720 Fermin Vazquez Arquitectos

March 20th, 2014 by Sumit Singhal

Article source: b720 Fermin Vazquez Arquitectos

Els Encants is a centenarian marketplace set outdoors in an informal way. Its former location was close to the market’s new grounds both at Glories Square.

A flee-market dedicated to auctions and the sale of second hand objects, furniture, clothing and all sorts of curious and bric-à-brac. Its origin goes back to the 14th Century. It began its activity at Glories in 1929 occupying a public site of nearly 17.000 m2 in an improvised way, and developed under a temporary basis, becoming a much loved, unique space in the city. The new market is the first step of an important City project: the reform of Glories Square, Cerda’s central square at the junction of the three main avenues of his Plan.

Image Courtesy © b720 Fermin Vazquez Arquitectos

  • Architects: b720 Fermin Vazquez Arquitectos
  • Project: Encants Barcelona
  • Location: Barcelona, Spain
  • Gross floor area: 35.440 m²
  • Competition: October 2008
  • Project: 2008-2009
  • Execution: 2010-2013
  • Construction Cost: 50.000.000 €
  • b720 Fermín Vázquez Arquitectos: Fermín Vázquez, Francesc de Fuentes, Cristina Algas, Sonia Cruz, Guillermo Weiskal, Pablo Garrido, Albert Freixes, Gemma Ojea, Javier Artieda, Angel Gaspar, Oriol Roig, Juan Pablo Porta, Leonardo Novelo, Jorge Mascaray, Francisco Marques, Helia Pires, Elies Porta, Tosca, Salinas, Myriam Gonzalez, Nastascha Gergoff, Egbert Oosterhoff, Leopoldo Bianchini
  • Client: Barcelona d’Infraestructures Municipals (BIMSA), Barcelona City Council
  • Structural Engineering: BOMA
  • Services Engineering: Grupo JG

Image Courtesy © b720 Fermin Vazquez Arquitectos

Over the years all projects for the Glories Circus have assumed the removal of the market, as its nature has always been considered incompatible with the noble centrality meant for the new Glories. However, there has always been a strong and effective resistance of Encants merchants against any relocation that may take them away from Glories.

Image Courtesy © b720 Fermin Vazquez Arquitectos

The city finally decided to keep the market in Glories but relocating it on a smaller land across the square.

Although popular and much visited, the previous grounds where run down and had inadequate facilities with hardly any investment despite being the most profitable market for the city.

Image Courtesy © b720 Fermin Vazquez Arquitectos

The project won a public competition launched by the client: Mercats de Barcelona, Barcelona’s public markets.

Had to deal with the requirements of the City’s plan to redesign the area transforming a dull traffic junction with undefined edges into a large representative public square.It had also to respond to the operational requirements for a new market in Barcelona, which meant high standards of logistics, safety, accessibility, signage, etc.

Image Courtesy © b720 Fermin Vazquez Arquitectos

The design had to satisfy the merchants who had in many cases worked there for generations and had grown considerable scepticism towards City’s promises. They felt anxious about moving; feared that their businesses, which for most of them are a true way of life, may be jeopardised.

Image Courtesy © b720 Fermin Vazquez Arquitectos

The design developed through a continuous follow up with client and merchants representatives in a two way process that included many meetings, workshops and assemblies.

To a considerable portion of public opinion, maintaining the Encants in the square would betray the intent of creating a quality central public space.

Image Courtesy © b720 Fermin Vazquez Arquitectos

The land assigned to the project was roughly half the area of the former premises.
The main design aims where:

  • Preserve the market’s soul
  • Dignify its role in Barcelona’s civic life.
  • Make it a large public space as opposed to a “commercial building”
  • Provide it with a strong visual identity.
  • Contribute to formalising the future Glories Square

Image Courtesy © b720 Fermin Vazquez Arquitectos

The main objective was to maintain the nature of the on-the-street outdoor market. The size of the new grounds (8,000 m2) was a great constraint, as the commercial programme was more than double that area. So the program had necessarily to be stacked in some way. Its design intends to avoid multiple floors, rejecting a building model.

Image Courtesy © b720 Fermin Vazquez Arquitectos

Instead of that, a continuous area was designed taking advantage of the slopes of the surrounding streets. The street walkway peels off becoming a series of gentle ramps that climb on top of each other generating an endless loop. The visitor’s experience is a stroll through a pedestrian road on top of which the stalls are arranged. The different levels of the streets around the perimeter are reconciled; therefore the various entrances are blurred.

Image Courtesy © b720 Fermin Vazquez Arquitectos

A suspended canopy hovers 25 metres above all the lot. It creates a prominent landmark that identifies the market in the urban landscape and protects to a considerable extent shopkeepers and users from the rain and sun heat without loosing the characteristic open air atmosphere. Arranged by variable-width bands, its underside is fragmented in triangular planes. Stainless steel golden mirror polished finish makes it feel a light mechanism of kaleidoscopic reflection of the city into the market and vice-versa. The golden refection provides also a consciousness of common presence to the visitors and a warm atmosphere as well as a playful hint at the nature of the merchandise at offer.

Image Courtesy © b720 Fermin Vazquez Arquitectos

Cabins and cabinets for the stands were soberly designed in order to create a neutral functional background to the colourful and chaotic goods displayed. Made out of lightweight metal structure that express their mobility in contrast with the solid streetlike base on which they seat.

The project has two underground levels. The first one is for the logistic needs of the market and the second one houses a public car park for the users.

Image Courtesy © b720 Fermin Vazquez Arquitectos

The New Encants Market is an extension of the surrounding streets and despite its different levels works very successfully as a permeable public space.

The dignity of this new public space is equivalent to that of the future Glories Square and that deserved by a centuries old public institution that will remain proudly there where they belong.

Image Courtesy © b720 Fermin Vazquez Arquitectos

The roof creates a visual landmark that provides it with a strong identity, makes it recognisable and inviting in the distance.

Despite not being a building and lacking façades, its canopy provides the volumetric entity that makes it possible to establish a proper dialogue whit the neighbouring solemn National theatre. It also creates a clear enough limit to the future Square without compromising its openness.

Image Courtesy © b720 Fermin Vazquez Arquitectos

The new Encants Market has almost doubled the number of visitors. What is more relevant, it has broadened the type of people that visit it without expelling its traditional customers. It has even become a tourist destination.

Image Courtesy © b720 Fermin Vazquez Arquitectos

It has improved dramatically the quality of its premises with storage areas, parking spaces, loading docks, roper management offices and meeting and assembly rooms, minimising disturbances into the city without changing its typical open informal atmosphere.

But most important of all the new proud and vindicated new Encants Market has kept its soul.

Image Courtesy © b720 Fermin Vazquez Arquitectos

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