PLAÇA DEL MAR
The XARRANCA pavilion at Plaça del Mar in Barcelona is the product of a collaboration between the Brillembourg & Klumpner Chair of Architecture and Urban Design at ETH Zürich, Urban Think Tank, and ESARQ-UIC. Inspired by the children’s game of xarranca (hopscotch), the pop-up structure leads visitors on a journey through a sequence of linear steps from sòl (ground) to cel (sky) symbolizing the hope and idealism that shaped the development of post-war Europe. As a uniting influence in a continent historically beset by conflict, the contemporary European project allows for both the celebration of difference and erasure of boundaries. XARRANCA references this transformational quality by culminating at the Mediterranean Sea – a connector between cultures.
Like Europe, the pavilion casts its gaze simultaneously to both the past and the future, reflecting on existing layers of heritage and identity as a means to explore unseen potential. As a site of play and cultural exchange, XARRANCA evokes the memory of the original fisherman houses or ‘merenderos’ that once stood in the area now reserved for a beachfront promenade. The jettisoned informal urban fabric of La Barceloneta is echoed in the design of the structural frames and walls. These tactile elements invite the visitor to explore new forms of interaction in public space, building on the rich sense of community that still characterizes the area despite enormous changes in the built environment.
Embodying the foundational European values of solidarity and equality, the creation of the pavilion – from design to construction – was infused with a participatory ethos, including drawing upon the existing collective knowledge of the neighborhood. Students from ESARQ UIC informed the design process through in-depth site analysis, public intervention studies, and engagement with the community. Materials (recycled sails and fishing nets for the canopy) and expertise (knotting techniques to fasten the nets and sails) were sourced directly from local craftsmen, fishermen, and sailors. Similarly, the compressed earth walls, with soil from Catalonia, were built collaboratively via a process involving students and local social collectives.
With the XARRANCA pavilion, Alfredo Brillembourg and Hubert Klumpner, along with their research and design teams and collaborating partners, reinforce their broader vision of an alternative framework for reading and acting within the city, highlighting social and cultural diversity while remaining committed to the idea of design as a collaborative and participatory act. As a temporary site dedicated to public use and playful interactivity, XARRANCA is a place for cultural exchange and social activation, embodying the pluralist and humanist European inheritance.
ETH Zürich + Urban-Think Tank
(Alfredo Brillembourg & Hubert Klumpner)
In collaboration with