The primary objectives of the OPEN NATURE (Opening Public Edge Natures as Networks for Accessible Transitional Urban Re-connection and Education) project are to re-connect citizens with nature through the aesthetic and ecological regeneration of degraded spaces at the urban boundaries of Barcelona’s Collserola Natural Park, to educate young students in methods for re-naturalizing their city toward improved urban sustainability, and to promote feelings of co-ownership and collective stewardship of public green areas through participatory processes. OPEN NATURE will achieve this re-connection via the co-design, fabrication and deployment of aesthetic structures and elements made of sustainably harvested local materials in peripheral public sites linking the park to the surrounding urbanization. OPEN NATURE is coordinated by the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia (IAAC) with the partnership of Edenway and the Consortium of the Serra de Collserola Natural Park (CNP).

To begin, on September 20th, 21st and 22nd, a series of three half-day immersive forest lessons were hosted at IAAC’s Valldaura Labs in the Collserola Natural Park for three groups each of 35-60 students age 14-17 from urban schools in Barcelona (Collegi Montserrat, Collegi Mare de Deu dels Angels and Collegi Natzaret) which otherwise have limited access to nature. Edenway managed communication with these schools, whereas IAAC’s Valldaura Labs team and the 2022-2023 cohort of the resident Master in Advanced Ecological Buildings & Biocities (MAEBB) programmed and facilitated the sessions. Beforehand, the three schools primed the participating students by asking them to “imagine how you feel everyday in your city through the 5 senses methodology, referring to experiences of sound, touch, taste, smell and sight”. These sessions then familiarized the students with the concepts of ecosystem services and nature-based solutions transferable to urban contexts, by comparing experiences noted through the 5 senses methodology during their time in the forest to those from their time in the city.

Next, on October 14th, the IAAC Valldaura Labs team and MAEBB cohort visited the site chosen for the OPEN NATURE installation by the CNP, under the guidance of MAEBB Co-Director Vicente Guallart. The main feature of this site is the Font del Gos, an historic but currently degraded natural landmark fountain. The present state of the site was thoroughly documented with photos, videos, drone images and measurements.

Subsequently, on October 18th, 19th and 20th, three half-day co-design workshops with the same groups of students from 3 urban schools in Barcelona were again arranged by Edenway and programmed and hosted by IAAC’s Valldaura Labs team and MAEBB cohort within the Collserola Natural Park. In preparation, the three schools prompted the participating students to “search and explore wood-made projects and imagine the functionalities and uses you would like to incorporate in the Font del Gos installation”. These sessions engaged students in dynamic drawing and full-scale, hands-on building exercises using prefabricated modular timber elements to generate an expansive catalog of self-proposed structural and social arrangements and uses for the project site.

The IAAC Valldaura Labs team and MAEBB cohort then proceeded to develop ideas derived from the student co-design sessions into feasible design proposals. On October 28th, the MAEBB cohort and program Co-Director Vicente Guallart met with Font del Gos community representatives and Mrs. Maria Elena Amat Serrano, Manager of the Horta-Guinardó District, to discuss these proposals . During this meeting, the local commun?ty shared the history and significance of the area.

As the first phase of physical work, the MAEBB cohort collected trash and gathered dead plant matter in order to be able to conduct a 3D scan of the area and define the physical boundaries of the site.

On November 10th, the MAEBB cohort and Co-Director Michael Salka once more presented their advanced design proposal to local residents at a second meeting at the community center. The further developed proposal was well received and elicited offers of volunteer engagement from the community.

IAAC’s Valldaura Labs team and MAEBB cohort then finalized the design proposal and fabrication strategies. The elements ultimately determined for installation include: [i] a fractal rammed-earth erosion control retaining wall which also provides seating and gathering opportunities; [ii] a rustic stone masonry renovation for the basin of the fountain; [iii] a large bench seat and gathering space made from full tree trunks steam-bent then joined to form a continuous loop of curved timber named the ‘woodle’; [iv] small, moveable seating elements made from randomly packed tree branches carved into ergonomic forms; and [v] bioswales improving ecological diversity and water retention. All elements were constructed entirely using materials from the Font del Gos site itself or the forest of the Collserola Natural Park surrounding Valldaura Labs. Prefabrication activities were completed by the MAEBB cohort within the Green Fab Lab at Valldaura Labs, before being implemented on site over the dates of December 1st – 3rd. Volunteers from the Font del Gos neighborhood joined the MAEBB cohort for the installation process, and an inauguration was held on Sunday, December 4th welcoming political leaders such as the councilor of the Horta-Guinardó district and neighborhood residents to engage with the project and its partners.

The design and fabrication strategies for every element of the OPEN NATURE installation are fully open source. All documentation necessary for replication is available for free download at the following link:

EIT Community New European Bauhaus OPEN NATURE is supported by the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), a body of the European Union.

Year Completed: 2022

Duration: 6 months

Site: Font Del Gos, Serra de Collserola Natural Park

Budget: 12.000€

Parent Program: EIT Community New European Bauhaus

Project Coordinator: Michael Salka (IAAC)

IAAC Project Managers: Vicente Guallart, Michael Salka

Designers (MAEBB Students): Austin Gregory Brown, Basant Abdelrahman, Carla Susana Alvear Arízaga, Jacek Antoni Kostrzewa, Jackie Williams, Julia Aurora Guzman Conde, Larsen Bidstrup, Rafaelle Schiavello, Ruhani Adlakha, Sneham Pandey, Mariano Rodriguez Alonso, Sadegh (Ata) Raoufi Fard, Charles Louis Roger Casbolt, Aishwarya Shyam Balsekar, Disha Arora, Indraneel Ravindra Joshi, Laila Nabulsi, Nicolas Rotta, Nisanth Maheshwaran, Pradyumna Lalit Vikharankar, Prati Mahavir Jain, Rujuta Chauhan, Shruti Sahasrabudhe, Santwana Malakar

Partner Organizations: Edenway, Consortium of the Serra de Collserola Natural Park (CNP)

Collaborating Organizations: Collegi Montserrat, Collegi Mare de Deu dels Angels, Collegi Natzaret, Ajuntament de Barcelona Districte Horta-Guinardó