When Barcelona hosted the Olympic Games in 1992, they needed an area within the city to build an Olympic Village to house the approximately 10,000 athletes who took part in the games.
Barcelona sits between the hills of Collserola on one side and the Mediterranean Sea on the other. The only area with enough space to build an Olympic village was the once industrial Poblenou neighbourhood.
The location chosen for the Olympic Village was an area of rundown factories and workshops next to the beach, between Poblenou Cemetery and Avinguda de la Marina. The factories were torn down and replaced by rows of five-story apartment buildings. After the Olympic Games finished, the apartments were sold, and the once industrial area became a lively new residential neighbourhood called La Vila Olímpica del Poblenou.
Avinguda d’Icària, which runs parallel to the beach, is one of the main arteries of the Vila Olímpica. The avenue comprises four lanes for traffic separated by a wide pedestrianised area in the middle, similar to parts of Avinguda Diagonal, which traverses Barcelona from one side to the other.
You’d typically expect the centre section of an avenue like Av. d’Icària to be lined with London Plane trees, a deciduous tree similar to the Maple which provides plenty of shade from the Mediterranean sunshine.
Poblenou is low lying and marshy, a fact reflected in the name of another of its main thoroughfares, Carrer de la Llacuna (Lagoon Road). When the Olympic Village was built, city planners decided to install a significant storm drain that runs the length of Av. d’Icària. The drain presented them with a problem. It meant that they couldn’t plant trees in the middle of the avenue, so they had to find another means of providing shade.
The problem was solved by architects Enric Miralles and Carme Pinós, who designed a series of large pergolas that run almost the entire length of the avenue. The steel and iron pergolas, which were clearly inspired by the trees they replace, provide shade to the pedestrians, cyclists, joggers and roller-bladers who pass below them.
Avinguda d’Icària runs parallel to the beach from Poblenou Cemetery to Avinguda de la Marina in Barcelona’s La Vila Olímpica del Poblenou neighbourhood.
How to get there
Buses numbers 59, H16 and V27 stop on Avinguda d’Icària. The nearest metro stops are Llacuna, Bogatell and Ciutadella Vila Olímpica on the yellow line (L4).