Gran Madrid – A Brief Chronicle of Recent Urban Planning in Madrid

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A brief chronicle of recent urban planning in Madrid Juan Manuel Fernรกndez Alonso | DEPUTY DIRECTOR GENERAL, GENERAL PLANNING OFFICE, Municipality of Madrid

The city of Madrid has undergone a deep urban transformation over the last decades. A comprehensive understanding of this process in a city of over 3.2 million inhabitants and 60,000 hectares of land requires an evaluation of the last 30 years to appreciate the context, aims, achievements and new challenges. The urban policies implemented have shaped three characteristic phases from different dominant visions on politics, the economy and society, and a contrasting balance between local and global aspects. These predominantly focused on three main topics: urban growth, heritage protection and mobility, which were translated into strategies, objectives and instruments through the

The urban policies (...) focused on three main topics: urban growth, heritage protection and mobility. 26

last two Master Plans (1985 and 1997) and nowadays work is underway on the next one. 1. Recovering the city (1982-1994) Having recovered municipal democracy, Madrid focuses its strategy, by means of the 1985 Master Plan, on recovering the existing city, protecting its heritage, completing its urban structure and providing facilities to rebalance the north and south areas, the center and the periphery. It was not a plan for growth but rather to transform the city through acupuncture techniques, using interstitial voids as new centrality areas of a polycentric model. Heritage protection was managed through the extensive listing of buildings to prevent their demolition. However, the deterioration of the historic center continued because the plan failed to promote the widespread recycling of buildings or to improve the attractiveness of the area in order to keep the resident population. Regarding the supply of land for new homes and activities, the 1985 Master Plan focused on small and medium developments

Peripheral characteristic area at the beginning of the 80s (source: Madrid City Council).

Public facilities at Puerta de Toledo (source: Madrid City Council).

that occupied the existing interstices in the city. This strategy allowed the street network to be completed and provided new facilities for a wider area, helping to rectify the shortcomings and weaknesses of the surrounding zones. Moreover, in many cases the development itself involved the relocation of slums, avoiding the expulsion of the informally settled population and thus promoting integration with the new population. In parallel, there was intense public activity throughout the city to obtain single plots of land that raised the standard of facilities, parks and urban services for the existing suburbs. 2. Developments for growth (1995-2003) At the beginning of the long period of economic expansion, the 1997 Master Plan developed a growth strategy for vast areas surrounding the city. It planned for the maximum capacity of the municipal territory and entrusted the development of 8,000 hectares of non-scheduled areas to private initiative criteria. New neighborhoods would be supported by a substantial highway system previously constructed by a public authority, which would simultaneously connect them with metropolitan areas and isolate them from their surroundings. These new urban areas were to host a major building program with over 170,000 housing units and promote the decentralization of economic activities in the periphery, aiming


Opportunity areas in 1997 City Master Plan (source: Madrid City Council).

New development “Sanchinarro� (source: Madrid City Council).

to balance the spatial distribution of employment within the city. The availability of credit facilitated the simultaneous launch of all sectors. Improved mobility was conceived of as a key aspect for economic competitiveness and it was developed through the intense construction of a transport infrastructure. Heavy public investment in the metropolitan road network was accompanied by an impressive expansion of metro and bus networks and the reinforcement of their interchange nodes. In addition to this, the renewal and expansion of Madrid-Barajas airport and the construction of high speed railway lines to major cities throughout the country intensified the advantages in large scale 30

connectivity. With regard to historic areas, the plan proposed to overcome the generalist cataloguing of buildings, developing the tight protection of existing values that favoured their rehabilitation and renovation. The integral qualification of the urban space was a means to make living in these areas attractive, through the pedestrianisation of streets, the renovation of facilities and the improvement of public transport. 3. Sustainable revitalization (2004-2012) At the same time the peak of the financial and real estate bubble occurred, new urban strategies to face sustainability challenges started to be implemented. Nowadays urban planners are focusing on revitalizing the existing city in terms of environmental behavior, social cohesion and soft mobility, specifically in neighborhoods built between the 1950s and 1970s where most of the population resides, to avoid the process of vulnerability. Plans and programs lead to the reinforcement of diversity, promote new economic activities and facilities, and improve the quality of the urban landscape and local accessibility. The purpose is to enhance the attractiveness of these neighborhoods and to reinforce their identity, also extending these goals to new developments. Moreover, new trends in heritage conservation emphasize integration between protection, livability and vitality. Heritage as cultural identity is recognized as an economic boost for turism and is being reinforced with greater flexibility in allowed uses. During this period only a few big private developments managed to complete urbanization and started to be build before the financial collapse occurred. The vast majority have suffered from its standstill and are now seeking feasibility by developing in several stages over a much longer period of time. Finally, infrastructural investment has been reoriented towards soft mobility and the integration of different public transport modes. Big transport works are now dedicated to the environmental improvement of the city such as burying the M-30 highway underground as well as railway lines that divided some districts of Madrid. 31

Herzog & de Meuron, “CaixaForum� Cultural Center (source: Madrid City Council).

This is a brief description of recent urban processes in Madrid that shows the complexity of the urban policies and the evolution throughout this period. Nowadays we are at work revising our Master Plan to implement new aims for the years ahead. We hope that our experience will enlighten other cities involved in planning their future, looking for new goals and aspirations.