Ask anyone in Barcelona about their take on Plaza Lesseps in the northern part of the city where Gracia and Sarria meet, and they will most likely say something like, “There is too much concrete there and not enough green in it.” Aesthetically, it might not appeal to visitors as it is a confusing mixture of old and new, with little symmetry. Traffic flows in all directions, as pedestrians traverse the plazas and streets. Scattered about, several massive steel structures occupy the open space, grounded amidst the fragmented intersection, drawing you into the moment. With so much going on, of course people do not understand the plaza’s chaos and complexity, yet somehow it works.
There is a confluence of 10 streets, 12 bus lines, and a metro line that intersect there, and approximately 120,000 vehicles and 20,000 pedestrians manage to make their way through it unscathed daily. The 17th century square was first reformed in the 1950s, bringing two plazas together during the construction of its ring-road, Rondal del Mig. The plaza’s modern renovation, a project designed by minimalist architect Albert Viaplana and under reconstruction since 2005, has always been controversial and will be a work in progress for at least 3 more years. Its large horizontal steel structures are actually a fountain, paying homage to the French diplomat, Ferdinand de Lesseps, an old resident of the plaza and the engineer behind the design and construction of the Suez Canal in Egypt.
In an interview with El País in 2008, Viaplana promises, “the green will come.” About his architectural style, he asserts, “I don’t have a style, I do what I think needs to be done in each moment.” A fitting statement for more aptly understanding how Plaza Lesseps functions, which also seems to be getting greener each day. And perhaps most importantly, proof there is, in fact, method to its madness.