The commitment to making pedestrians and cyclists a priority may seem like a lost cause in places where cars have become the undisputed star. Motorways and major roads connecting continental and intercontinental through-ways seem, at first sight, to be a totally hostile place for pedestrians. However, the growth of cities forces them to tackle this challenge and allow people to seamlessly cross the artificial boundaries that separate them from their jobs, leisure activities, shopping and loved ones.
This is the case in Barberà del Vallàs, where the AP7 motorway separates the urban centre from the Baricentro commercial centre, one of the oldest in the whole country. On an institutional level, the future enlargement of the centre has led to the signing of an agreement between the town council and shopkeepers to launch a tender in the Barcelona Metropolitan Area to build a footbridge uniting the two ends of the road, making sure pedestrians aren’t left helpless among a sea of cars.
Leve Projects, as the winner of the tender, went one step further and designed not only the footbridge but made it the centre of a wider-reaching project. Having the bridge connect an avenue that runs from Sabadell to Barberà with the street created by the expansion of the shopping centre creates a longer route that, beyond Baricentro, ends up connecting with the Ripoll River as a recreation space.
To ensure safety, the project must have a rigid structure to protect pedestrians from cars and noise. That is why we decided to make a bridge that goes from the end of the Barberà town centre to the roof of the commercial centre, both located at the same height. The railings act as beams and insulation from the noise. From these hands the footbridge, which after crossing the central part of the highway begins to descend with protected lattice sides, until it ends up at the street on the first floor that will separate the old mall from the expansion.
The project takes into account the few points of support that the catwalk can have, taking advantage of the free spaces left by the motorway lanes in either direction and the space between the central lanes and the side road for its footings. Likewise, it includes an adjacent staircase at the end of the shopping centre for access to the car park and a commuter rail station that, although built, is not currently in use.
As a pedestrian, the footbridge makes you feel safe and isolated despite being in the centre of one of the most important road links in Catalonia. The slight slope and zigzag of the route allow you to enjoy the path within a structure that blocks out the violent surroundings of motor vehicles but still lets you see the horizon with the silhouette of the Catalan coastal mountain range between Barcelona, the Maresme and the western Vallès. On the other hand, as a driver –heading towards Tarragona– the rigid structure functions as a simple but consistent monument, a gateway to a plateau that stretches along the western Vallès to Papiol.