Barcelona is a city with a densely urbanized surface. Explains Xavier Querol, professor and researcher of the Superior Council of Scientific Research (CSIC, for its acronym in Spanish), that the European population lives “packaged in cities”, and that in “Barcelona we are a lot in a small space”. This provokes a demographic distancing from nature and an urbanization of life that little responds to human nature.
Since the nineteenth century, there have been many attempts to “naturalize the city“. Being the most characteristic example the plan of Ildefons Cerdà for the Eixample (1860), an orthogonal structure that was planned to use of the movement of the winds to facilitate the renewal of the air, and that had a uniform distribution of natural areas and parks. In theory, this urban project would take advantage of the reduced geographical arrangement of the city, compressed between Collserola, the sea, Montjuïc and the Besòs, but today it is clear that the objectives have not been met and most of the district is dedicated to the car, leaving little space for pedestrians and nature.
But despite this denaturation that reigns in Barcelona, there are still many places and spaces in the city that breathe biomimetic inspiration and bring us closer to nature. These are a few of them:
1. Botanical Gardens. This garden located in Montjuïc is a tribute to all the regions classified as Mediterranean in the world, which occupy 5% of our planet and are not limited to the “mare nostrum“.
It is an ambitious project founded in 1999 by Barcelona’s City Council that had the intention of recovering an abandoned and mistreated space and turning it into a space for citizenship. Nowadays it is one of the most interesting natural spaces of the city and the location of the Botanical Institute of Barcelona.
Direction: Carrer de Doctor i Font Quer, s/n.
2. La Font del Gat, in Poble Sec, has a history that goes back to the Universal Exposition of 1929. It is located in the gardens of Laribal in Montjuïc and has a terrace with some orange trees where nature is the protagonist. The owners say that the green spaces surrounding the bar “make you feel as if the city had disappeared“. An ideal place to have a (biomietic) drink in the most monumental mountain of Barcelona.
Direction: Passeig de Santa Madrona, 28.
3. La Sagrada Família. Although it is not an “alive” building nor does it have a direct connection with nature, its design is unquestionably biomimetic: it copies the structure of a forest in its interior columns.
But the Sagrada Familia is an example of an old-fashioned biomimetic architecture, which has a more aesthetic component. Nowadays it has evolved into a new and more modern biomimetic architecture, such as London’s Gherkin Tower, which imitates the respiratory system of anemones to consume less and contribute to the creation of a more sustainable city.
Direction: Carrer de Mallorca, 401.
4. Cervantes Park. Catalan culture is closely linked to roses thanks to the tradition of Sant Jordi. Barcelona also has a history very connected to these flowers: between 1929 and 1936, the Catalan capital hosted the international roses contest at the Palau de Pedralbes. With the outbreak of the Civil War, however, the celebration stopped.
Years later, the authorities wanted to recover this tradition and the Cervantes Park became the center of the culture of the roses of Barcelona. After failed attempts in the 80s to revive it, it has been since 2001 that Barcelona has managed to renew the links with the gardening tradition with the hybridization of roses contest that takes place in this park, an essential natural point of Barcelona.
Direction: Avinguda Diagonal, 706.
5. Alma Hotel. The hotel’s terrace, in the Eixample district, transports you away from Barcelona. It is a green oasis in the heart of Barcelona, and a perfect place to taste haute cuisine in a green environment that has nothing to do with the usual metallic or traditional aesthetic that interior designers normally use on restaurants.
Direction: Carrer de Mallorca, 271.
6. El Botànic. Probably the only Gayxample establishment where you can have a drink surrounded by nature. Its name says it all: its terrace is a garden where green dictates the norm. Open from 6 pm until early morning, this bar is the most gay-friendly biomimetic proposal.
Direction: Carrer de Muntaner, 64.
7. El Teatre Grec. This theater, built for the Exposition of 1929, imitates the structure of the typical Greco-Roman theaters. Surrounded by the nature of Montjuïc, it is one of the greenest areas of the city where you can attend a cultural show.
Direction: Passeig de Santa Madrona, s/n.
8. Carretera de les aigües. 9 kilometers of unpaved natural track. Everyone knows this route as the runner paradise of Barcelona, but it is also one of the most natural areas accessible by public transportation.
9. Antic Teatre. A garden in Ciutat Vella (near Palau de la Música) that looks like the typical school playground. Without green colors or large vegetations, this terrace reminds us that nature is not always green, but that many ecosystems (including the Mediterranean) are eminently sandy and rain-fed trees. And if you go, prepare to queue because it is always full.
Direction: Carrer de Verdaguer i Callís, 12.
10. Park of the Labyrinth of Horta. It is an ideal place to get lost in nature. Literally. Jokes aside, it is the oldest historical garden in Barcelona and one of the most biomimetic places in the upper Barcelona.
Direction: Passeig dels Castanyers, 1.
11. Romantic Garden from the Ateneu Barcelonès. The Ateneu Barcelonès is one of the cultural epicenters of the Catalan capital. This historic institution promotes debate, culture, and dialogue in one of the most emblematic Gothic buildings. In its interior, it is hidden the Romantic Garden, a small natural cloister with a pond, trees and green life, available to rent for all kinds of cultural events.
Direction: Carrer de la Canuda, 6.
12. The rivers of Barcelona, Llobregat and Besòs. Geographically they are outside the city limits. Even so, these places configure and condition its natural life and are the essential water resources for its historic foundation. For that reason, they deserve to be included in this list.
The Besòs has left behind the days of pollution and abandonment, and thanks to the push of the municipal executives it has acclimated and recovered its banks to be a natural and recreational space to practice sports and all kinds of leisure activities.
The delta of the Llobregat is one of the centers with the greatest variety of fauna and flora in the region. The mixture of living beings has created a great natural ecosystem where biodiversity reigns and where it is easier to connect with nature.
And for those who have just landed in this discipline: what is biomimetics? It is a science that teaches us to look at nature when it comes to creating to inspire us. From the teachings of this science take advantage of a large number of disciplines, ranging from the most technical and material to the most humanistic and social. Thus, biomimetics has been present in human life since the first stages of it. For example, it allowed hominids, based on natural models, to learn to dominate agriculture and livestock, crucial aspects of the process of creating the first complex societies.
We invite you to visit some of the most bioinspired points of Barcelona, ideal for those who seek to reconnect with nature.
Biomimetics Sciences Institute