Guallart Architects: Vinaròs is the most northerly town of the Valencia region. During the 20th century, urban growth made it necessary to delimit the town’s relation with the sea by means of a seafront promenade that subsequently became a pole of attraction for the tourist boom that Spain began to experience in the 1960s. In fact Vinaròs did not undergo the processes of peripheral growth or the programmatic consequences of delocalization of its commercial activities typical of the 1980s, nor the massive influx of tourist hotels and franchises that occurred in neighboring towns. As such it presents a very interesting urban type, in many respects having jumped directly from the 1970s to the 21st century.
Reform of the seafront promenade, as the interface between the centre of the town and the sea, offered a great opportunity for a public initiative to define the desired standards of urban quality for future growth. In fact the promenade is today a place of great urban vitality, occupied mainly by cars, which coexist with seafood restaurants, an open-air auditorium for orchestral and choral concerts and open-air film screenings, and the regular street markets and events throughout the year, frequented by people on their way to and from the beach. Social interaction in its pure state.
The main decision here was to transform the entire promenade into an area for pedestrian use, in order to take full advantage of the place’s latent tourist and civic potential, restricting vehicle access for loading and unloading to certain times of the day, and allowing freer access out of season, when this is compatible with the reduced level of pedestrian activity. The structure of the town’s road system is such that traffic in the part closest to the port could be routed behind the buildings on the streets parallel to the promenade. However, the absence of any such parallel streets in the central and northern sectors prompted the decision to construct a tunnel between the end of the promenade and the 250-place car park to be laid out beneath the central plaza. This car park will be connected with others in or under adjacent squares to create a real underground mobility network that allows cars to drive in from the outskirts to the centre of the town and park close to the beach and the seafront promenade. It was also decided to eliminate the concrete wall separating the beach from the promenade to enable the whole area to be perceived as a continuous space composed of a variety of materials, from the sand of the artificial beach to the cenia stone from a local quarry. Another significant decision was that the promenade, which at present has an irregular topography, should have a constant level that would set off its eight-hundred meter horizontal line against the natural line of the sea’s horizon. This serves to resolve the difference in level between the beach and the promenade by means of a system of tiers that can be occupied in a variety of ways.
Landscape Architecture: Guallart Architects
Competition Date: 2004
Beginning of construction: 2007
Client: Vinaros City Council, Generalitat Valenciana and Tourism Ministry
Location: Paseo marítimo, Vinaròs, Castellón
Main architects: Vicente Guallart, Maria Diaz
Text and photos: Guallart