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Lessons Learned from Barcelona: An Intern’s Perspective

Our intern, Tori Frydrych, was fortunate enough to study in Barcelona, Spain earlier this summer.  Before she left to go back to school, she wrote about her experience:

During my time abroad, I received an entirely new perspective on design, one that differed greatly from design practices here in the United States. To begin the six-week courses, I was introduced to the history of Barcelona and how it has become the bustling tourist destination that it is today. We learned first of the four main concepts of Ildefons Cerda’s Theory of Urbanization; hygiene, circulation, public services, and code of urban ordinances. These four areas were the main building blocks for the unique gridded expansion of the city in the mid-19th century, otherwise known as L’Eixample. He saw the need for more natural lighting, green spaces, public services, and the seamless movement of people, goods, and services within the City of Barcelona.

To achieve this, Cerda’s new grid system was laid out with an even ratio of roadway and sidewalk width. In other words, the sidewalk would reach out from the buildings 10 meters, followed by 20 meters of roadway, followed by another 10 meters of sidewalk. The corners of all blocks were also cut off at 45-degree angles, making crossing streets safer and helping breezes move through the city more easily.  The interior of each block was meant for public greenspaces.

My focus was then narrowed specifically on the coastline of Barcelona. The goal of my design studio was to transform an outdated, underutilized beach athletic club into a coastline destination that would better link the urban fabric of the city to the shore. The history of Barcelona’s shoreline is not one of nature but one of man’s alteration and construction. As industry grew, it became a dumping and transportation nightmare, only to be manually overhauled in time for the 1992 Olympic Games.

In order to accommodate the Olympics, intense urban renewal occurred throughout the city to prepare for the Games and the immense amount of people that would arrive in the city.  Most of these improvements occurred in the coastal shoreline areas of the city.  Additionally, it was relatively blocked off from people because of the many rail lines that were running along the coast.  In preparation for the Games, these rail lines were redirected and new transportation highways were added. This opened access to the shore and six artificial beaches were created to be used during the Olympics and to attract tourism long afterwards.

Keeping this history in mind, I created a site that both physically connected the land and sea while also visually mirroring the two domains, showing that they will be forever linked in the city’s history of expansion and growth. Overall, I created a design that allowed for public gathering plazas, cafés featuring locally caught fish, performance spaces, recreation areas, and largely a better connection from the nearby commercial district to the popular beaches.

I greatly enjoyed my time abroad and will keep Cerda’s design principles in mind as I enter my fourth year studying Landscape Architecture at Penn State University. I will be studying abroad in Bonn, Germany next fall and I am eager to see how other areas of Europe approach the design process.



















New Park in Export Tells Story About Coal Mining While Serving Families

The Borough of Export is excited to announce the preparation of a Master Plan for a new park in the heart of town. JM Hall Jr. Park is located on the former site of the Export No. 2 Mine off Old William Penn Highway, next to the American Italian Club, and within easy walking distance from downtown Export. The park will aim to connect locals and visitors to the rich history of Export’s founding, former coal industry, and landscapes.

The park will be centered on a plaza simulating features of the mine during operational years. Restrooms inset into the hillside paired with a mural will give guests the illusion of walking into the mines. Extending across the plaza from the restroom “mine entrance” will be rail car tracks and a structure replicating the remnants of a tipple, just as an actual tipple once extended out over Old William Penn Highway. A picnic shelter is incorporated into this interpretive modern-day tipple structure, appearing to be a section of tipple with metal roof still intact.  Adjacent is a seasonal plaza which converts to an ice rink during winter.

A quarter mile scenic loop trail will extend from this plaza, connecting visitors to an open recreation lawn, amphitheater, nature playgrounds, vistas, a second picnic shelter, historic panels, and a woodland hiking trail. Interactive historic references include passing through a black locust tree grove, once used to provide supports for the mines, and recreated grassy tailing pile hills. Nature playgrounds include embankment slides, climbing rocks and logs, a sand pit, small tunnels, and a large grassy “tailing pile” with climbing features and a slide.

JM Hall Jr. Park will be capable of hosting small festivals, family reunions, picnics, and school groups. With the development of the regional trail along Turtle Creek to the entrance of the park and the new community park, visitors will stop and patronize the nearby local businesses during their visit. With the completion of the Master Plan in the fall of 2017, efforts will shift toward funding the construction of this wonderful park. Once built, JM Hall Jr. Park will join the other unique assets of Export, attracting both existing and potential families.