Reurbanization of the docks| Urban Design Workshop in A Coruña, Spain (2018)

Urban Design students of Saxion University of Applied Sciences performed a design research to compose an urban design strategy for the docks in A Coruña, Spain. Solutions are based on the results on a study of harbour regeneration projects in the Netherlands. From 8-13 April ’18 the Dutch students participated in a workshop on site in collaboration with Universidade Da Coruña/Escola Técnica Superior de Arquitecture, organized by URBEN and Saxion.

Project aim: Reurbanization of the docks

The aim is to create a vibrant area with new housing with high density in balance with public functions and green zones, using the existing docks and waterfront.


A Coruña, on the north-west of the Iberian peninsula, is a city in the region of Galicia with around 245.000 inhabitants. It is a cosmopolitan city because of the strong textile industry (INTEX, known from Zara) but also because of the fishing industry. The Tower of Hercules, an ancient Roman lighthouse, is a reminder of the roman history of the city when it was called ‘Brigantium’. Since then it was an important harbor for Europe. Influenced by later occupations and periods in – conflicting – Galician and Spanish domination the ammount of inhabitants and the importance of the city fluctuated.

Currently the city centre is losing population and a lot of houses are empty because they are to expensive for local inhabitants. 


Since the designation of a new port on the south-west seaside of A Coruña the old port is awaiting transformation. In 2020 all the current industrial activities will have to be moved to the new port. 

The fishing activities however, will party remain in the old port because of the current fish market (La Lonja). This market is currently not accessible for the public and fenced of. On the southern boundary of the old harbor you can find the fisherman’s wharf.

The cruiseship terminal and marina will also remain. A Coruña functions as an important stop for transatlantic cruises and together with the marina and redesigned landscape of the norhtern promenade on the water it creates an attractive place for tourism and strolling.


The completely fenced port area is currently owned by the port authorities itself that like to sell the property to developers. The local government strongly believes that the land should be opened for the inhabitants, creating a balance between the windy sea shore and beach on the west side and new sheltered eastern waterfront. The government sees big opportunities for encouraging interellation between city, port and sea and designating spaces for civic use, promoting citizen access to quality and affordable (social) dwellings.

Joan Busquets was asked to make a master plan for this development which he finished in 2006:  ‘A Coruna; a maritime city in the port’. This masterplan will act as your guideline for further interpretations in urban designs on lower scale levels.

The transfer of port activities sees the disappearance of enclosed precincts and the recovery of the city’s original space, the bay of A Coruna, for urban use. The possibility of occupying the wharf platforms and recovering contact with the water is a great historic opportunity that involves the redefinition of the system of relations between the city and the stretch of water, and the renovation of the image of the port facade. The principal aim is to judiciously formalize the coastal front section by selecting appropriate elements of urban design and creating new uses for the water, but also those near the water, replacing industry and offering attractive activities for residents.P


The costs of the transformation of the port have to be earned in someway. Making profit on new housing by developers is neccessary but not all the available land must be turned into housing. This is why the students need to design with a high density of housing and designate places where this is possible in order to free space for the public. They have to think of a strategy for a balance between expenses on public space and earnings on housing.


In order to find out how you could design such a program of dense housing and public space in former harbors the students analyse and research an existing Dutch harbor 

In this casestudy you focus on:

  • transitions between private, semi-public/semi-private, collective and public space
  • relation to the water
  • public space design 
  • building/housing typologies


During the visit to A Coruña students see and experience the city and project area. They speak to experts and professors of the local university and present the outcomes of the casestudy. 

Parallel to the visit there is a symposium (FETSAC) that will help the students to understand nowadays practice in architecture and task for urban design.


Task for the students:

  • Your urban design proposal is designed on multiple scale levels, with a level of detail belonging to the scale.
  • The plan is communicated with the use of ground floor plans, sections, impressions and a model of the design.
  • In your design you take the following assumptions into consideration:

Elements of urbanization: access to the water, street furniture, sun protection, water, vegetation, modify/adapting the outline of the wharves/docks, light, sequences of spaces, improvement of pedestrian connections

Convervation of industrial elements: rehabilitation of existing port structures, recovery of port elements

Uses of the water: transport, leisure, sports


  • 3.1 Tue 13/2 Start of S2 – personal dev. plan
  • 3.2 Mon 19/2 Start of project S2
  • 3.3 Mon 5/3 FEEDBACK- chosen case study area
  • 3.4 Mon 12/3 FEEDBACK – case study
  • 3.5 Mon 19/3 FEEDBACK – case study
  • 3.6 Tue 27/3 FEEDBACK – case study
  • 3.7 Tue 3/4 PRESENTATION: case study
  • 3.8 8-13th April DESIGNWEEK A Coruña
  • 3.9 –
  • 3.10 Mon 23/4 PRESENTATION: analysis
  • 4.1 Mon 7/5 FEEDBACK – design
  • 4.2 Mon 14/5 FEEDBACK – design
  • 4.3 Tue 22/5 FEEDBACK – design
  • 4.4 Mon 28/5 PRESENTATION #1: project
  • 4.5 Mon 4/6 FEEBACK – design
  • 4.6 Mon 11/6 PRESENTATION #2: project
  • 4.7 Portfolio hand-in/assessment