The culmination of Passeig del Mare Nostrum reconfigures the city's relationship with the sea

External Reference presents a new architecture and urban planning project on the Barceloneta seafront, creating a new balcony overlooking the Mediterranean as a unique viewing platform over the city, and connecting the Passeig del Mare Nostrum with Plaça de la Rosa dels Vents in Barceloneta.


Escaleras y Mirador Vela 10
Photo credit: Adrià Goula

Recently opened to the public "Escaleras y Mirador Vela" is a new project of the architecture firm External Reference, led by architect Carmelo Zappulla, which for the first time generates a connection between the Passeig del Mare Nostrum and the Plaça de la Rosa dels Vents, on the beachfront of La Barceloneta. The project includes a walkable architectural façade consisting of a staircase and an elevated walkway rising +9.30 meters. The project interprets a special port context: the connection develops a new relationship with the W Hotel, where the strong tides of the sea coexist with a unique concentration of people and users who carry out a variety of outdoor and leisure activities on a daily basis.


Escaleras y Mirador Vela 07
Photo credit: Adrià Goula


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Photo credit: Adrià Goula

According to the requirements of Nova Bocana, it was necessary to design a solution that eliminates the existing cul de sac and connects the two different levels using the existing seawall as support. This provided an opportunity to generate a new façade for the Passeig del Mare Nostrum. The design was conceived as a tectonic element that derives its morphology from the formations of salt crystals that grow in the small Mediterranean water reservoirs, captured by the irregularities and accidents of the marine rocks. Based on this phenomenon, the staircase "crystallizes" in the existing nook at the intersection of the promenade of the Barcelona coastline and the monumental seawall that protects it from the rush of the Mediterranean tides.


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Photo credit: Adrià Goula


Escaleras y Mirador Vela 23
Photo credit: Adrià Goula


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Photo credit: Adrià Goula

From a compositional point of view, "Escaleras y Mirador Vela" is developed as a sculpture between the existing seawall and the new façade that opens up to the promenade, inviting the public to experience a new urban space that projects towards the sea and generates a balcony overlooking the Mediterranean and the city. The new promenade is a prefabricated concrete structure. The new façade it creates toward the seafront promenade is clad with triangular concrete bio-receptive panels that incorporate the use of low-maintenance vegetation and a lighting system. The panels were optimized utilizing parametric strategies, and were designed in a way that encourages the surface growth of native plants (Lobularia Maritima, Lampranthus Spectabilis, and Drosanthemum Floribundum). In addition, it integrates a fiber optic lighting system that makes its surface vibrate at sunset.


Escaleras y Mirador Vela 01
Photo credit: Adrià Goula


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Photo credit: Adrià Goula


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Photo credit: Adrià Goula

We have designed a unique place for the city, and a space where you can not only appreciate looking towards the horizon of the sea, but where you can also discover new viewpoints of Barcelona, the great protagonist of the project. We believe that the path will act as a catalyst that transforms the dynamics between the square and the promenade which, although adjacent spaces, until now had separate activities. They are now dialogic parts of a chain of discoveries and experiences that pass through Escaleras y Mirador Vela

Founder of External Reference, architect Carmelo Zapulla

About External Reference

External Reference is an award-winning Barcelona-based architecture firm founded in 2007 and led by Carmelo Zappulla. With extensive experience in commercial, interior, and exhibition design, the firm creates experimental spaces that break the boundaries between architecture, art, and digital tools. Over the years, the studio has built a wide collaborative network with international professionals, enabling it to promote the integration of craftsmanship and advanced digital technologies, introducing engagement, interaction, and emotions through innovative works built all over the world. Among the numerous projects carried out by External Reference, the firm develops projects in retail, interior design, exhibition, architecture, and hospitality in Dubai, the UK, South Korea, Thailand, Spain, Qatar, Riyadh, and Italy, with upcoming projects in Paris, and Las Vegas, among others. External Reference offers one-of-a-kind spacial design concepts through immersive digital and physical media, which are able to highlight brand values and create lasting memories and emotional bonds.