Remodeling Ódena's Plaza Mayor
The remodeling of the old city center of Ódena, in the outskirts of Barcelona, which is the result of an architectural competition, introduces a new structure that organizes and defines public space with simple means and formal clarity. The project spread a uniform stone paving throughout the whole study area, where vehicles and people coexist, prioritizing pedestrians.
The economic situation of small towns such as Òdena does not allow them to devote many resources to the maintenance of public space; once they obtain a subsidy or help to carry out a project, they must certify that functionality, quality of the materials, proposed technical solutions and their implementation are as successful as possible, in order to ensure good use, durability and low maintenance costs. The commission, therefore, was not only to give a solution to the plaza as a central and symbolic element of the town, but also to develop a system of interventions in the public space (pavements, furniture, lighting, trees, facilities, commissioning, etc.) that could extend, in the future, to other streets in the urban core.
Prior to its remodeling, Ódena’s Plaza Mayor was not in fact a square but simply the center point where the six main streets cutting across the old city center intersected and converged. This condition, added to the intensely sloping ground between the north and south ends, turned the place into an incoherent accumulation of road crossings that left small, scattered and isolated spaces. Citizen use of the central space of the municipality was thus fragmented, greatly hampering the development of community life.
To reverse the image of a road junction where cars were the protagonists and left the remaining urban spaces to pedestrians, the project extended a uniform stone paving throughout the whole affected area. This device does not isolate or delimit the center but instead joins all the spaces of the square into one, where people can move easily and safely, having priority over vehicles. To confront level differences and soften the slopes, to be used as meeting places (mainly in front of the Church and the City Hall), a common system is used that is deployed throughout the area in the form of stands or stairs. These new places, in turn, become shared benches, playgrounds, communal spaces and meeting points. The result is a continuous public space, well connected and essentially empty, ready to become the stage upon which a renewed urban community life is projected.
The town of Òdena is located on the border between two geological formations: stoneware and marl. Their encounter favors the presence of chalk, a material that characterizes the geology of the place. There is a quarry of this mineral in Òdena, exploited since the 19th century, and still active today. The castle and the walled enclosure of the municipality, dated in the 10th century, are located on a mound of this stone that is sourced as the predominant construction material. This mineral, with its typical grey-whitish hues, is a reference to the town and it is closely linked to its landscape, its history and its social development. The cracks included in the project to break down and structure the uniform paving spreading across the plaza allow this whiteness to emerge from within, symbolizing and enhancing a meaning consistent with the town for generations, that will now have its own representative memorial space at the Plaza Mayor.