An International Ideas Competition for Young Architects

Leave a Mark on Barcelona

John Hill
13. June 2024
An example of a dividing wall already transformed with openings in the facade and greenery. (Photo courtesy of Fundació Mies van der Rohe)

Party walls, also called blind walls, are a fact of city life. These walls, perpendicular to the street, are left exposed when one building is taller than its neighbor, or when a building abuts an empty lot. While that exposed surface may be covered later, when a building gets built, the neighbor adds more floors, or the neighbor is torn down and replaced by a taller building, what is done in the meantime? And what is done when a party wall, for various reasons, is permanently exposed? 

A brick wall might be a canvas for an artist, as in Richard Haas's trompe l'oeil facade recently restored in Soho's cast iron district, or, if space permits, a solid wall can be an armature for some urban greenery, like with Patrick Blanc's contribution to Herzog & de Meuron's Caixa Forum. The possibilities may not be literally endless, but the unique circumstances of a particularly party wall and the ingenuity of an artist or designer can result in some unexpected surface treatments.

Barcelona has an established tradition of considering the treatment of exposed party walls that have become permanent due to urban planning changes. Twenty-five years ago, the city launched the Program for the Remodeling of Blind Walls, “with the aim of eliminating these urban discontinuities and creating new facades that are integrated into the urban landscape.” Since then the city has seen numerous artworks, plantings, and other interventions cover some of its otherwise empty blind walls.

Barcelona is continuing that tradition with the launch of an international ideas competition inviting architects under 35 years old to submit ideas for interventions at ten sites in its ten city districts. Winners will receive monetary prizes and their designs “will be implemented whenever possible” for the programs in 2026. Details and registration information are on the Ajuntament de Barcelona website. The submission deadline is August 5, 2024.

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