With the sad news this month of the passing of David McKay, co-founder of MBM architects and master-mind of the 1992 Olympic Village. It seems an appropriate time to look back on the influence of his work and MBM’s imprint on the city of Barcelona.
Next time you wander down Las Ramblas, passing the entrance to the La Boqueria, glance to your left. You’ll see El Palau Nou de la Rambla, an MBM architectural project completed in 1993. But more importantly you’ll also see the 14th century gothic tower of La Basílica del Pi.
Where most of the edifices on Las Ramblas are solid, the clients of El Palau Nou were persuaded by David MacKay to purposely design their project with a large section extracted. Sacrificing valuable floor space and square meterage, the city and more importantly the citizens benefitted from a direct visual connection, an artery running from Las Ramblas directly back into the Gothic centre.
It’s little details such as this, sometimes noticed but generally taken for granted, which embodies the great urban planning and architectural thinking of MacKay and MBM.
The Barcelona Blueprint
In a time before the ‘Starchitect’, where architecture and urban design was based on the needs and requirements of the citizens and not radical visual concepts designed to draw crowds of spectators. MBM set about re-designing the blueprint of Barcelona, creating a new blank canvas.
Lacking vanity and egotism, MBM had the foresight to integrate the past to the future. Extending Cerdà’s long Diagonal, which dissects the Eixample, down to the sea. Paving the way for architects of the future to create the third strategic post-olympic plan, turning the industrial Poble Nou into the creative hub of television, art, design and publications houses.
Where Gaudí was Barcelona’s artistic, eccentric black sheep, MBM was the serious studious cousin. Connecting the chaotic dots and crossing the dis-jointed t’s.
The Olympic Village
Where so many Olympic villages and urban developments have fallen into disarray. The future proofing of Barcelona’s planning needs to be admired.
In his characteristic humble way, MacKay credits the Olympic Mayor, Pasqual Maragall, as the true architect of the city.
It was considered, the people of Barcelona had their backs to the sea for too many generations. The idea was to open up the city to the sea, and re-direct the flow and dynamic of the city.
‘Think about the legacy’ was the cry shouted by the Mayor and with this challenge ringing in their ears the chosen architects set about the urban regeneration of Barcelona.
David MacKay came from a period of time where urban objectives differed from the current trend of the spectacle.
Respecting the past, present and future of the city. His values lay with integration. An architecture of synthesis between the streets and the city. But most importantly a union with society and those citizens who interact with his buildings. An architect of the people. For the people of his adopted city – Barcelona.“So when anybody asks me about the future of Barcelona, my adopted city that adopted me, I simply reply that it lies in the opportunities of casual encounters. Encounters with people, encounters with different ideas, encounters with the unexpected, encounters with memories, encounters with people you love, unknown, but there, in the metro, in the bus, in the street, in short, humanity itself: a city full of opportunities, ideas, and memories.”
David MacKay (MBM Architects) – Died 11th November 2014
What are your thoughts on the work of David MacKay and MBM Architects? Have your say by leaving a comment.