In Barcelona’s Turó de la Peira quarter, green space is scarce. Densely packed with mid-century housing, the vibrant neighbourhood is relatively underserved by the public spaces and amenities that characterize much of the Catalan metropolis. When a 2014 design competition laid out a brief for a new mid-block urban sports complex, the contextually attuned design by Barcelona’s own Arquitectura Anna Noguera that integrates landscape and greenery into the complex was a deserving winner.
The project transforms what was once a liminal, residual space between two apartment buildings that was formerly occupied by a sports court, an obsolete and underused pool and an urban landscape of hard paving. The site has been re-imagined as a living community hub that combines green infrastructure and public sports facilities.
The rectilinear building – which houses a heated indoor swimming pool and a multi-purpose gymnasium – is comprised of a prefabricated laminated wood structure surrounded by a simple but striking greenery-infused lattice system that overlooks the courtyard.
Chosen for its lightness, durability and water retention, the hydroponic plant life creates a vivid green facade that frames the more spartan curtain wall behind it. While the living facade lends the complex a more visually engaging presence – making it read almost as an extension of the block’s small inner courtyard – it also makes the bioclimatic conditions in the outdoor passageways that flank the building more comfortable. As the blooming plants change throughout the year, the building itself also becomes a reflection of the seasons.
Complementing the bioclimatic benefits of the living lattice wall, the high-performance structure integrates numerous sustainable features. Skylights and photovoltaic panels line the roof, reducing both the intensity and carbon costs of heating. An aerothermal system also offers heat recovery, which is used to supply the complex with hot water. Finally, the careful integration of skylights and lateral windows allows natural cross-ventilation – a system optimized by sensor monitors.
While a technically sophisticated structure ensures impressive thermal efficiency, the seemingly untamed living wall is a pleasantly organic complement to the small courtyard garden at the heart of the busy urban block. Deep in the city, it is a wild – and vital – respite.
A striking biophilic facade enlivens an elegantly pared down community hub in the Catalan capital.