Not long ago, Barcelona’s central fruit and vegetable market suffered from chronic overcrowding. An unremitting increase in trade and need for new services meant that market activities had outgrown the warehouse spaces they occupied. Officials realized that if they couldn’t find a solution, their only alternative was to relocate MercaBarna.
A curious example of industrial architecture, the building is an exact copy of the pavilion that the Shah of Iran built for his coronation three decades ago. The roof has an autonomous, projecting structure, with tensile masts that leave the floor below, completely free of columns. Markets officials came up with the ideaof building a suspended footbridge across the central hall – a structure that would present an alternative circulation route and ease congestion. A sufficiently wide bridge could also accommodate a much-needed restaurant, a cafeteria. From the perspective of design, the brief asked for a restaurant with an abundance of light, an interesting view of activities in the hall below and a large enough seating capacity to satisfy the potential growth of the marketplace. The finished product covers aprox. 300 m2 and sits 800 customers.
Aesthetically, the restaurant is a rather simple green glass box, but structurally it is far more complex. The scheme relies heavily on coloured glass and, given the propensity of a bridge to flex slightly, a skeleton of lightweight aluminum. To maintain the equilibrium, we carefully calculated the weight factor of each individual element (the restaurant can survive a minor earthquake undamaged).
The ceiling is an opaque glass membrane and the floor a collage of recycled glass blocks. The rest of the furniture is portable and lightweight. The artificial lighting used is geared to the time of the day. The kitchen, a closed volume of matte glass at the rear of the restaurant, gives the building it’s only opaque façade, a feature that conveniently conceals mechanical systems.