Magazine article Sunset

Plaza to Plaza in Barcelona

Magazine article Sunset

Plaza to Plaza in Barcelona

Article excerpt

Plaza to plaza in Barcelona

A Mediterranean appreciation for the high drama of daily life makes Barcelona a city of plazas. It's there that Barcelonans become most themselves, gossiping, cuddling babies, and coaching the babies' older siblings in the proper methods of booting a soccer ball.

Barcelona is also a city of exuberant art and architecture--a city half-drunk on visual pleasures, you might think, as you eye the undulating walls of a Gaudi apartment house or the brilliant surface color of a Miro sculpture.

It's fitting, then, that the two passions-- for society and for art--have come together. In 1979, Barcelona's city government embarked on a program of creating new public spaces. It invited world-famous artists, from Roy Lichtenstein to Salvador Dali, to shape the results.

The new plazas (or placas, as this Catalan-speaking city calls them) amuse and intrigue. Like the red pepper that spices zarzuela, Barcelona's famous shellfish stew, they're small but vital ingredients in a piquant mix.

Our first tour focuses on Barcelona's main train station, Estacio de Sants.

1. La Placa dels Paisos Catalans. In front of the station, a steel canopy rises forbiddingly from a granite base.

2. La Placa de Sants. West from the station, this heavily trafficked intersection holds in its center Jorge Castillo's charming Cyclist, who seems intent, as you may be, on getting across the street in one piece.

3. El Parc de l'Espanya Industrial. Directly south of the station lies one of the wittiest public parks we've ever seen. It was in Catalonia that Spain's industrial revolution was born; this park both honors and parodies the native work ethic, with futuristic towers and a rusted dragon that might have been forged in the bowels of a steel mill.

The wit is saved from grimness by lawns and terraced ponds. (You can float the ponds on boats rented for about 80 cents per person for a half-hour.)

4. El Parc de l'Escorxador. Walk south from the station on Carrer de Tarragona to reach this park, which has a lush palm garden. There's a striking sculpture by Barcelona native Joan Miro, Dona amb ocell (Lady with Bird), pictured at upper left on the preceding page.

Plazas on our second route lie in popular tourist areas. …

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