Programmatic recovery of the Tres Turons área

Project for the Environmental and programmatic recovery of the Tres Turons área


Tres Turons is the name used to refer to the mountainous area made up of three hills: el Coll, el Carmel and la Rovira. Until now, it has remained an area of little influx from the city and with a largely precarious level of facilities, urban development and services. This situation, aggravated by a permanent state of uncertainty because many of the families who live there were affected by planning changes in 1976 and then revisions in 2010, represents both a challenge and an opportunity.

The Tres Turons area is an extraordinary section of the city for its views over Barcelona and Collserola because of the height of its summits: 249 m for el Coll, 265 m for el Carmel and 261 m for la Rovira. At the foot of the hills lies the plain of Barcelona, lightly sloping toward the sea.

Geographically, the space remains undefined: far from the park conditions enjoyed by other areas like the Ciutadella or Montjuïc; it has not been declared a Natural Park or Forest like Collserola either.

For historic Barcelona, tangent to the sea, the Ciutadella and Montjuïc are what Manuel de Solà-Morales called “the city’s ears”. The city’s two traditional parks are drawn and developed based on designs prepared during the World’s Fairs in 1888 and 1929, with the aim of showing the city to the world and providing it with the facilities and services understood as “the latest thing” for the period. They are also the first spaces conceived for collective leisure and mass social activities. The Tres Turons area, in contrast, was never designed as an open space intended for collective use; it has been colonised by more or less informal settlements as far as the orography of the hills allows.

If Montjuïc is a topographic reference point for Barcelona, and the Avinguda Diagonal is the lengthwise axis that divides Barcelona, the Tres Turons area could suggest a third ear. In fact, all of the planning for Montjuïc park faces the north, toward the city, the plain of Barcelona, Collserola and the Tres Turons (and turns its back on the cemetery and the castle). There is an interesting duality between these high points. The views from the Tres Turons over the plain of Barcelona (the Eixample) and Montjuïc, as well as the silhouette of the Tres Turons (with the Collserola range in the background) from the highest levels of Plaça Espanya, suggest that these two topographical exceptions could become the two reference points for large-scale collective spaces in Barcelona.


The name Tres Turons actually describes three hills and three parks that function independently and without connection: Park Güell, Parc del Guinardó and Parc de la Creueta del Coll. One of the challenges in the intervention is connecting the parks to one another through horizontal itineraries and park activities located strategically along the routes.

At present, the contact between the mountain and the city is lacking: the edges of the park end with poorly maintained embankments, retaining walls or the fences of private lots. There is little visibility of the natural spaces on the hills as seen from the adjoining neighbourhoods: Teixonera, Carmel, Font d’en Fargas, Guinardó and Baix Guinardó, Can Baró, La Salut, el Coll and Vallcarca-Penitents. The recovery project for the Tres Turons necessarily includes improving the contact between the future park and the city through working on the bordering streets and the provision of facilities to connect, instead of separating.

Above all, what differentiates Montjuïc or Collserola from Tres Turons is the domestic nature of the park. It is true that, from an ecological point of view, anthropogenic pressure can compromise natural space, but we need to remember the specificity and the urban origins of this enclave. Taking into account the former Iberian settlements, the spaces used for farming from nearby farmhouses, the garden city developed by the Güell family, and the emergency housing built during the post-war period, the new vision of the Tres Turons aims to continue working toward consolidating a largescale park, while preserving the domestic character of the area. In fact, we are convinced that, by revising the planning and promoting residents’ attachment to the area, the presence of the remaining housing will help make these hills, with their complicated orography, into a natural space that is preserved, cared for, and maintained for the benefit of all Barcelona’s inhabitants.

As such, the new vision for the Tres Turons park will understand the existing housing in a positive light, adding uses and activities and superimposing them in the areas where the housing is most established. Work will be done from a multi-scalar perspective, taking into account the position of the park with respect to the AMB’s green junctions, the scale of the city and its associated uses, as well as attending to the need for public facilities and services at the points of contact and access to the neighbourhoods.

Because the Park Güell is one of the most-visited points in the city, both for residents and tourists, the project provides for the creation of an itinerary that connects Gaudí’s park with the Turó de la Rovira, descending through the park to Avinguda Mare de Déu de Montserrat, Torrent d’en Melis, and connecting with historic complex of Sant Pau and Sagrada Família. The goal is to extend the area and ease congestion in a space that suffers excessive pressure from tourism, taking advantage of an intuitive downhill path, and promoting pedestrian mobility.

There is also an excessive presence of parked cars on streets where the urban development is insufficient and there is limited accessibility to collective transport. If the new Tres Turons park gathers more density of uses, both on a neighbourhood scale and on a city-wide scale, the project will develops the parking areas and improve accessibility to alternative means of transport.

Each hill has its own particular characteristics and the vegetation changes in section. In terms of the proposal for environmental regeneration, the Tres Turons project will attend to the existing vegetation, which is the result of human action throughout history. The original woodlands will be recovered, in addition to the different plant species introduced over the years to create a variable landscape through the different seasons. Historically, the natural resources of the hills have been used to extract raw materials (iron mines and quarries) and significant infrastructures have been installed for the distribution of potable water, such as the Dipòsit de les Altures. The project proposes a comprehensive energy rehabilitation of the Tres Turons area, and it introduces measures to collect water, to generate electricity and miniature wind turbines to ensure the maintenance is self-sufficient from an energy standpoint.

The proposed uses for each of the Turons are: on the highest levels (from +250 to 261m) overlooks; the levels just beneath will house programmes aimed at recovering collective memory and learning about nature; a little lower, areas will be dedicated to adventure parks and woodland activities. On the intermediate levels, paths for hiking, for running and for cycling will be located. Finally, on the lowest levels and the most horizontal natural terraces, we will see the new programmes for economic activities and local facilities, with special status for spaces dedicated to education, and improvements to the connections between school playgrounds and the Tres Turons area.

Barcelona is an extremely compact and dense city, with few interruptions from open space. There is very little surface area that hasn’t been developed; as such, few interventions are proposed on the surface of Tres Turons, which should not be developed, covered in asphalt. Rather, its wooded mountain character should be preserved. In addition, Barcelona is a “city of cities”, which has grown by integrating urban fabrics with their own character: it has significant urban richness, where very different realities overlap. Complexity, which is one of Barcelona’s virtues, should not be confused with a literal juxtaposition or with fragmentation. Recovering the Tres Turons area and the project for the comprehensive rehabilitation of this entire section of the city, integrating the adjoining neighbourhoods, can help to build a more unified, more coherent whole, and which has a positive impact on the quality of life in the surrounding areas.

Strategies for the Tres Turons park

The recovery project for Tres Turons presents a UNIFIED programme, which is also FLEXIBLE and OPEN; it aims to transform Tres Turns into a “Park of parks” or into a “Mountain garden”. We will need to work with the time factor, accounting for incremental growth and for consolidation. If parks are the quintessential collective space, the Tres Turons will be a place for social inclusion.

We need to transform space’s fringe condition (edge), to create a border (area of exchange). As such, we need to think about the park’s transformation and that of the built ring around it at the same time; they will enter into a feedback relationship in terms of activities, and they will share the benefits of the new fully equipped open space. The schematic design for the park highlights the adjacent urban fabrics, small-scale garden cities and single-family housing typologies with a large proportion of plant life and landscaped plots.

With regard to the balance between neighbourhoods and the productive city, the transformation of the park and the nearby neighbourhoods needs to be aimed at creating an attractive setting for small businesses and at promoting entrepreneurship within the neighbourhoods. Parks help to build a local identity; they improve the image of the neighbourhoods where they are located because, even if residents don’t make use of parks, they know they are there. They exist on the mental map of open spaces in the city (less congestion).

With the contribution from residents and citizens, consideration has also been given to creating a broad program to provide solutions for the different groups of users who spend time in the park. The project is intended to promote different types of physical activity, comfortably and safely, for a wide range of target audiences. The programme of interventions is complemented by the definition of seasonal and temporary programming to attract users throughout the year.

Above all, the specific character and identity of the park as a unique place needs to be preserved: its woodlands, the quarries and the collective memory. The schematic design showcases a space to promote understanding of and through nature. The recovery and connection of the highest levels of the park aims to give the Tres Turons the value of an Observatory over the city, creating overlook areas. At the same time, the topographical singularity is highlighted: the Tres Turons are a sloping park, and this exceptional quality is recognised in the practice of adventure sports.