The Barcelona practice of Varis Arquitectes has been responsible for a number of schemes, like the strongly graphic Bar Seltz (AR March 1994), that have contributed to the vigorous life of the city. Characteristically, each scheme contains a narrative woven round a central theme, and invested with filmic imagination, possesses a cinematic quality. But because of this, the works form a very diverse body and sometimes it is hard to see they are by the same hand. What they have in common is abstract: a certain elan, a certain quirky elegance in execution.
The design of Magic Barca takes elan to extremes, embroiders it and invests it with the strange distortions and deceptions of a funfair's hall of mirrors. The restaurant is dedicated to Barcelona's football club, Barca (Futbol Club Barcelona), and must be seen in the context of the city's fanatical support of its players. This is more than simply being keen on the game. Under Franco, football provided the only means of expressing Catalan pride; and today, with millions of fans, this club is said to be the richest in the world.
Magic Barca is an addition to the popular attractions of Marina Village, the new commercial centre of Barcelona that contains Frank Gehry's Fish. Inserted into an existing building beside the beach on Paseo Maritimo, it is distinguished externally by club emblems and illuminated signs and has two souvenir shops, a bar, a huge restaurant seating 266 people, and a terrace for another 148 outside overlooking the beach.
From the street, you enter a reception area where the smaller of the souvenir shops is, before descending into the riotous guts of the building which in spilling outside contributes to beach life.
Varis' interior is as clamorous as are Barca's supporters. Here is the distillation of a sports arena, festooned, painted and lit with club colours, blue and red, with underfoot more red and blue, the green of playing fields and colours of the Catalan flag; bristling with TV screens, shields, trophies, with images of players, collaged, fragmented, reflected and repeated to infinity by mirrored walls. By technological effect and gadgetry, the mirrors can become transparent, images appear, are superimposed, then disappear, and your sense of reality is continually disturbed.
The scheme's architectural bones are hard to discern but are there. Given the size of the restaurant, the ancillary space for kitchens, storerooms and so on is correspondingly large and organised so staff can work efficiently. It is divided off by a curving mirrored wall that describing parts of a circle is an extension of the long mirrored wall of the restaurant which screens technical equipment and services.
The vast expanse of floor has been ordered into zones each given its own lurid character. From the horseshoe-shaped bar you enter between two raised dais, with wooden floors and balustrading. On the far side, another dais is floored, like Seltz, with graphically illuminated and toughened glass. Similarly, an expanse of ceiling has been animated by graphic symbols etched in light and by the coloured canopy.
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|Title Annotation:||architectural design for a restaurant|
|Publication:||The Architectural Review|
|Date:||Jan 1, 1997|
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