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© Lourdes Jansana
© Marc Soler/Alamy
© Lourdes Jansana
The raised city expressway that for decades had reduced Plaça de les Glòries Catalanes – the central square in Cerdà’s Plan of Urban Expansion of 1855 – to a derelict “green strip” is now only present on obsolete satellite images. In just a few months the wrecking equipment helped implement an urban renovation project named 22@Barcelona that had been in the works for many years: where the Avinguda Diagonal cuts across Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes, a green oasis is emerging that is destined to be the dense city’s cultural hot spot.

Situating the Disenny Hub between Torre Agbar and the cheerful tilted mirrored roofs of a beloved flea market (2014) on the southern corner of the square is akin to placing a pearl in its setting. A library, 4 design institutions and a restaurant now provide a basis for urban vitality. The competition brief (2001) specified that only one fourth of the volume was to rise above the ground plane: with its roof terraces and a series of glazed skylights, the 160-metre-long partially subterranean wing for temporary exhibitions and administration doubles as the park’s topography. Oriol Bohigas and his colleagues envisioned the 30-metre-high structure as visual culmination of the Avenida Avila, but this will not be palpable until buildings ­occupy the flanking empty sites. (Frank Kaltenbach)