Wayfinding Symbols in Barcelona Double as Street Art—Literally

The Barcelona flower is not actually a plant. Instead, it’s a symbol of the Spanish city originating as a blossomlike motif on panot, the cement tiles that have paved its streets for over a century, one of five designs that help people navigate pedestrian areas. Dani Rubio Arauna is one such person as well as a graphic designer, whose pure, accessible aesthetic can be found in such local projects as the Sant Joan de Déu Children’s Hospital. When the Ajuntament de Barcelona, or city council, commissioned his Arauna Studio for what it calls “tactical urbanism” to quickly and inexpensively change the function of some roads from vehicular use to walking, cycling, and leisure, Arauna and his team turned to the recognizable panot motifs. But instead of being molded and pressed like the originals, they’re simply stencil-painted onto surfaces.

Through variations in size and color, the shapes can create custom wayfinding typography or be deconstructed and reconfigured to spell out words. “The system humanizes the asphalt,” Arauna says, “bringing warmth to places covered by an intrinsically hostile material.” He sees it as a toolbox for urban planners to return signage to human level, rather than viewed from a moving car. And the world sees Arauna: Tactical Urbanism was shortlisted for a 2023 ADC Annual Award from the Art Directors Club in New York.

Barcelona flowers on cement tiles of pedestrian areas
Barcelona flowers painted on cement tiles of pedestrian areas

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