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The Living Flat

Masterplan for the Harbour Logistics Area at the Port of Barcelona, Spain. International competition, 3rd prize

site plan


Size : 300 hect.
Capacity : 300.000 t/day
Employments : 10.000 -15.000 pers.
Permananet inhabitants : 8.000 - 10.000 pers.

Team : Thomas Pucher, Siegfried Pavel
Urban planning advisory : Joost Meuwissen
Photos : Steffen Strassnig

THE LIVING FLAT is a modell of urbanity in three steps

The port of Barcelona is an expanding system. The joint of Spain and the EC opened a market of 300 million people, and the increasing development of Asian economies makes Barcelona the leading southern port of Europe. With the construction of the private railwayline to Madrid, Barcelona becomes the harbour not only of the capitol but of many regions in Spain and Europe.
The site of the zona franca logistica has the opportunity to play an important role in that distribution structure. Situated right in the center of the global transport network it may become much more than just another logistics-service-area, it may even turn into a MULTIMODAL HUB; a powerful extension of the Port de Barcelona and a central element of the world-wide distribution-service-net.


The world "logistics-area" has a taste of "barren land", the bigger the less meaningless, heartless, timeless.
In general it is a huge area, covered with many many sheds, structured only by streams of asphalt part of the dense highway-net. Stronger than in "classical" urbanism is the weight of the lost explanations. No one wants it, everybody needs it. Luckily it is outside the city - strictly speaking it does not exist.

Suburbia or Urbanity

Wouldn't it be fruitful to think of a place - a town - where the functions of modern life are no longer separated, no longer devided into good and bad, no longer seperated into existing and none existing ones?

First Step: density

Barcelona is full. The overwhelming increase of the city from the beginning of the industrial development up till now filled the whole available area, the natural vessel built by the mountains, the sea and the Llobregat river. The momentary southern border of this vessel, the Llobregat devides the Barcelona plain into two parts, the northern artificial one - the city - and the southern mostly natural one - the landscape.

Further growth will overroll the whole Llobregat delta within years.

Open spaces of traditional trading or industrial areas are used for traffic and disposal at about 50%. The rest is parking and wasteland. The analysis of the existing production area ZONA FRANCA shows the consumption of land in comparision to the actually built up area:

Analysis of the existing ZONA FRANCA: At a gross land area of 584hect. the used floor area is only 227hect. or 38,8%. In a two storey building mass this rate drops to 21,3% and in a three storeyed one to less than 15,5%!

How it works:

THE LIVING FLAT is an extreme range of sheds. On a maximum area of 1,5km? 150 to nearly 200 different sized buildings are situated against one another, each with a minimum of one side open to the tracks of the railway, necessary for railway-charging and natural lightning. The complete road-traffic is separated from this ground level to the overall roof of the building. The charge between train, trucks and different storeys is managed by material hoists and freight elevators.

The disposition offers perfect automatisation (separation of train-network and road traffic) and densification (only 20 to 30% of land area are needed in comparision to traditional distribution areas). A further step is the densification of the occupancy by structures for energysupply, office- or community settlements, green-areas or residential buildings. Even a stronger adjustment of production is thinkable.

On an average of two storeys per building the gross floor area of THE LIVING FLAT is 252 hect. In comparision to the ZONA FRANCA these are 10% more of usable floor area and at the same time 78% less of gross land area. In comparition to the yet projected ZAL it is an increase of 51% gross floor area and a saving of 50% gross land area, that means a hightening of the occupancy-density at about 200%:

Second Step: landscape

Automatisation and densification turns THE LIVING FLAT into a big pulsating distribution-machine, perfectly working, absorbing goods like a black hole.
But still a none-place, void, residual.
The surface of the machine would be big: 1,5qkm only used by trucks and structured merely by light areas. It is not a building anymore. It is too big. It is something new.
To use the potential of the huge surface, it is interpreted as a traditional landscape, transformed and covered over the whole area and its surroundings like an overcoat. By the combination of land-art and the existing requirements of space an environment is processually being built, which is able to create a very specific character. The precise use of tilts, flats and volumes, distances and surfaces, edges and transitions, relations and connections is able to filter special areas and qualities out of the entire surface, the non-place will turn into a real place, a TOPOS, a place of identity.

The first surface

The main parts of the landscape are very simple. A surface-envelope is set over the whole building mass ? THE FIRST SURFACE. It defines only a few but essential elements. The smooth inclination of the main area, the opening gesture of the entrance area and the coastal area, the horizon and the clear urban edge at the harbour, the defined transition to the river-delta and to the backbone-hills. Other main parts of the landscape are the lightning-areas, the wind-wheels and the ever whirling trucks. Besides the technical importance of this elements (water-draining, natural lightning, energy-supply) and their means for orientation, they get the effect of "technical nature"- strong and new.

Landscape and the organisation

The development of the landscape is tightly bound to the organisation of the building mass.

1) The whole area is devided into several zoning layers which handle different conditions of THE LIVING FLAT.
2) Each storing/production unit has several parameters wich handle the individual conditions of these entities.
3) The layers as well as the parameters are variable up to a certain point. By combining them a special software handles all demands to find the optimum arrangement of the building mass and the definite form of the landscape -

Third Step: Urbanisation

Step two of THE LIVING FLAT development prozess has shaped a surface with special landscape areas and different conditions ? the basement for urban settlement.
Urbanisation means offices, infrastructure, dwellings, recreation, sports, commercial-, community- and social-facilities and people.

THE LIVING FLAT turns the seperation-tradition of the 20th century upside down. Landscape is combined with distribution, dwellings with storing-sheds and offices with wind wheels. What looks strange at first sight offers the huge potential of creating something new at second. It's the only way to fight against monotony and devastation, and the single straw to twenty-four- hours urbanity which is not possible without any people actually living there. The confrontation of different programs with one like the ZAL may create a kind of urbanity which is much stronger than that of the traditional city-center. Alternation and variety come together with contrast and surprise - the combination of a multifunctional environment for our multiindividual society.

The urbanisation of THE LIVING FLAT is ? besides the program of the ZAL ? devided into six different but coherent parts. The parts are numbered from A to F , beginning with the service area near the entrance-ramp. (see site plan)

A. Service zone: the entrance and head of THE LIVING FLAT. A fast mixture of office-occupancy, limited dwellings and all kind of facilities for the benefit of truck-drivers.
B. Villages: Lying inmidst the natural Llobregat delta there are some small villages smooth and romantic. A minimum of urbanity is guaranteed, a shop, a bar, a computer-service. Hotels and accommodation are mostly used by truck-drivers. C. Fast city part one: The development-structure of the 20th century is the PERIPHERY. The land-area of zone C is the continued plane of THE LIVING FLAT and the only regulations are minimum values for building densities and a computer-controlled occupancy organisation.
D. Fast city part two: Area D is the best building-site of all. Open to the horizon, connected to THE LIVING FLAT a mixture of building and city. The price of the site forces a radical mixture of functions, living, working, recreation. Cruise-terminal and theatre are situated right next to residential buildings and the first-class hotel, training-camp, fishrestaurant and the swimmingpool.
E. Fast City part three: The location of area E on the top of an artificial hill (the parking garage) with a fantastic view over the sea creates a traditional heroic situation, useable for important monumental buildings. It is absolutely undetermined what else is possible up there, important is the intimacy of the site. F. Last of the independence: Light architecture on heavy ground. People who can't or don't want to afford living in real houses find a place to live in area F. Light buildings like tents or sheds.