Rec Comtal master plan

Winning Proposal of the Rec Comtal Master Plan Competition

The Rec Comtal Master Plan is an urban instrument with the objective of emphasizing the tangible and intangible heritage of water for one of the most important hydraulic infrastructures in the history of Barcelona. The irrigation canal, Rec Comtal, was commissioned by the Count of Barcelona in the 10th century and supplied water until the mid-20th century. During its active period, the fresh air canal was a catalyst of public space and of citizen’s social lives and was also a vital infrastructure in the agricultural and industrial development. As time passed and urban life flourished, the Rec Comtal slowly became forgotten and not only has it deteriorated, losing its functionality in the majority of its course, but it also has lost much of its unique characteristics, both physically and in its documentation. Hence, the Rec Comtal Master Plan offers a compilation of existing research and literature regarding the history of the canal to its current state in the form of bibliographic sources, technical studies, planimetry, and other existing documentation regarding the current state of the canal. The documentation provided is analyzed in the context of the current planning, properties regime, and use of assignments. Finally, the study incorporates a new metabolic comprehension of the water management heritage conditions suggested at a multi-scale and functional level.

The Master Plan is a proposal at the supra-municipal scale, including the municipals of Barcelona and of Montcada and Reixac, offering a global comprehension framework of infrastructure to outline its preservation and comprehension as part of the city. However, more than overcoming administrative limitations, the proposal seeks to understand the infrastructure in relation to the entire water catchment system, the Besós basinand to further expand the territorial scale and to establish elements of metabolic reconnection between the big city and its internal activities which influence the quality and quantity of the canal’s water supply.

By examining the canal’s historical uses and the pre-industrial era’s use and management of water, it is possible to restore the infrastructure’s value from a sustainable comprehension of productive resource managementand to think of it as an element that enabled a local supply of water from the same basin to be an element which manages, with great complexity, the complementary uses: river, grain mill, sinks, bathrooms, recreation, proto industry supply, etc. The plan differentiates the two main sections of the irrigation route in relation to water: the initial section that transports water (in open or closed canal) while maintaining functional use mainly in the irrigation of the Ponderosa Gardens and the main urban section that no longer allows the continuous transport of water. A main objective of the Master Plan is to recover the functional heritage of Rec Comtal, making it possible to re-introduce water in the city of Barcelona.
Entenent que aquest objectiu és més assumible en els trams que actualment es mantenen descoberts i amb aigua, si més no a curt termini.
Però no per això renunciant-hi en la resta del recorregut en la mesura del possible i com a estratègia de llarg termini, entenent que la ciutat del futur post-industrial haurà d’assumir el repte de gestionar els recursos necessaris per la vida sense l’actual consum energètic no renovable i sense l’actual nivell d’emissivitat.

Following the layout of the Rec Comtal, the project proposes some criteria and protocol to follow in all of the interventions about it, such that it is from the perspective of recovery, preservation, and restoration of the historical and archeological heritage value, as the urban management and public space. The Master Plan specifically proposes to reevaluate the traces of Rec Comtal from its territorial character as a Green Infrastructure of reconnection between the city and the territory. Therefore, recovering and encouraging the ecosystemic services that it can offer to provide the city with a higher environmental quality and resilience to climate change


Carles Enrich Studio


Marta Fàbregas i Espadaler (ATICS), Santi Riera Mora, Alex Ivancic (Aiguasòl), Almudena García Cebrián (LegalBARCELONA)


Ministeri de Foment del Govern de Espanya

Project year



18 de February de 2020


Territory and landscape