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A Revolution of Urban
Design: Going Deep into
the Mindset of Urbidermis

We packed our bags and crossed an ocean, just one thing on our minds-immerse ourselves in the romance and distinctive design ethos that is Urbidermis. Born from Barcelona's rich legacy of art and design, Urbidermis is at the forefront of a 21st century urban design revolution, pushing cities to a future that is greener, more inclusive, more human, and more connected. And after nearly two decades of inspiring collaboration with Urbidermis, we were long overdue for a visit.

Join us in this series as we dive deep into the history, culture, city, inspirations and innovations of these artists of modern-day urbanity.

Plaça de les Glòries: Beneath the Urban Canopy

Back With Invigorated Inspiration

Optimizing the Urban Ecosystem at Belloch Forestal

Belloch: A Beautiful Place

Barcelona: A Cradle of Urbanization

Origin of Urbidermis: Design for Triumph

Plaça de les Glòries:
Beneath the Urban Canopy

Designed by celebrated Barcelona urban planner Ildefons Cerdà as the heart of "new Barcelona," the large square was slow to be accepted as a primary public gathering space. But this is changing. Entitled Canòpia Urbana or "Urban Canopy," an ambitious urban landscape transformation is bringing a new genre of public outdoor space to the city.
Landscape architecture firm Agence Ter and Catalan architect Ana Coello de Llobet worked with Urbidermis to reimagine Plaça de les Glòries as a lushly planted park-square hybrid. Now free from vehicular traffic, the destination is dotted with dense islands of vegetation that line generous promenades and frame larger clearings for community gathering. All throughout, Urbidermis-designed solutions like Harpo and NeoRomántico seating and Arne and Rama lighting make comfortable spaces to appreciate the re-greened landscape day and night.

Back With Invigorated

As longtime design partners of Urbidermis, we knew that they were kindred spirts of ours. But after experiencing first hand their city, culture, history, and inspirations, our appreciation runs that much deeper.

Urbidermis is able to harness the spirit of Barcelona—the history of urban resilience and innovation, the passion for boundary-pushing art and design, the devotion to built environment intertwined with nature—and faithfully translate it into a better vision for urbanity worldwide. There’s a deftness to the Urbidermis ethos that is both unique yet universal, true to their identity yet inclusive of others, and fluent in the common languages of nature, art and design. It’s a recipe for great change and a compelling vision for restoring balance in cities across the globe. And this, for us, is truly inspiring.

Optimizing the
Urban Ecosystem
at Belloch Forestal

We have returned to the Urbidermis campus to explore a destination dedicated to fostering health of urban ecosystems. The Belloch Forestal Nursery is unique in that it focuses on optimizing urban forestry. While much urban planting is based on what's easy or what "looks good," Belloch Forestal has spent the last two decades developing a specialized catalog of woodland and urban plant elements that actually enhance human and ecological health in cities on the Iberian Peninsula.
Based on scientific research called the Canon de Belloch, the Belloch Forestal Nursery has identified 40 species that are not only particularly suited for success in urban spaces, but also give their environments valuable ecological benefits like climate regulation, the capture of atmospheric pollutants and resilience in the face of climate change.

A Beautiful Place

Spanning 200 forested hectares just outside of Barcelona is Parc de Belloch, a verdant estate whose history dates all the way back to 972 CE. Translated as "bello loco" or "beautiful place," Belloch is a gem among gems in the Spanish countryside, a convergence of people and nature with a powerful story to tell. While the complex has since closed, its architecture and its mission live on. Since 2003, Parc de Belloch has served as the headquarters and proving ground of urban revitalization and re-naturalization for Urbidermis as well as Santa & Cole, the interior division, and Belloch Forestal which will explore later in this series. Exploring the intersections between design, management and ecology, it's here that Urbidermis is laying the groundwork for a greener, cleaner and more equitable reorganization of our global cities.
Modern history at Parc de Belloch begins in 1964 as a portion of the plot was transformed into a hub of education and innovation. The resulting Belloch educational complex designed by architect Manuel Baldrich is a shining example of mid century Catalan Rationalist architecture, a series of buildings magnificently related to the landscape.

A Cradle
of Urbanization

Throughout a history of promise and peril, a fact remains: Barcelona is an ideal location for a city. Since it was first settled, development has almost always been defined by a sense of purpose. With few exceptions, Barcelona has never sprawled. Instead, each period of growth has been intentional, carefully designed and realized by central planners.

Probably the most notable of these planning visionaries is Ildefons Cerdà, a Spanish engineer and coiner of the word "urbanization" whose 1855 expansion plan for Barcelona was way ahead of its time. His vision was surprisingly egalitarian, designing around equitable access to key resources like hospitals, parks and plazas. The following period around turn of the 20th century gave birth to international architectural icons like Antoni Gaudí's Sagrada Família and Park Güell, both of which we will explore next in this series.
But as seen throughout Barcelona's history, great promise can be met with great peril. The mid-20th century is a difficult period in Spain to say the least, bringing about the hard-fisted rule of Francisco Franco and the violent suppression of Catalan culture. And yet, the spirit of the Catalan capital persisted. Small, locally-focused urban revitalization projects bolstered the city just enough to win the bid for the 1992 Summer Olympic Games, the tipping point that set off an urban transformation so innovative, so progressive and so successful that it continues to serve as a model for developing cities to this day. It's from this era of modern urban renaissance that Urbidermis is born, taking up the mantle from Cerdà and Gaudí, nurturing the spirit of inclusive and equitable urbanism, and empowering cities around the globe to evolve for the better.

Origin of Urbidermis:
Design for Triumph

This history of urban design in Barcelona is one of triumph, toil and rebirth. And the story of Urbidermis is no different. Founded in 1987 as Santa & Cole División Urbana, Urbidermis entered the Barcelona design scene on the heels of political upheaval and on the cusp of urban transformation. They cut their teeth creating elements for the '92 Barcelona Olympic Games, the catalyst that would spark a design revolution in the Catalan capital heralded as a worldwide benchmark of urban revitalization. Today, Urbidermis continues to build on their city's seminal design heritage, inspiring and empowering cities around the globe to humanize, evolve and restore balance between landscape and community.