Why MADRID

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THE FORUM ON MADRID


Why MADRID Eugenio Pandolfini | ARCHITECT AND MADRID FORUM CURATOR

Madrid is a perfect case study to reflect upon the rapid transformations of the contemporary metropolis and the crisis of traditional urban planning. We will see how the municipality is turning its instruments into more efficient and flexible tools, which are open to innovation and participation, and able to react immediately to the rapid political, economic and social changes. The first section of the book, GRAND MADRID, is thus dedicated to the deep urban transformations of Madrid during the last three decades, and it constitutes an important framework to better appreciate the other contributions: Juan Manuel Fernรกndez Alonso, the Deputy Director General of the General Planning Office of Madrid, shows us how the Municipality, in different phases of its recent growth, has translated a wide range

(...) a perfect case study to reflect upon (...) the crisis of traditional urban planning. 16


of visions about politics, economy and society into objectives, instruments and new urban transformation strategies, trying to adapt its general planning instruments to the contemporary scenarios, switching to more advanced tools in order to develop new and collective visions of the city. The TRANSFORMING MADRID section, dedicated to those plans and projects that are trying to transform large portions of the city, begins by introducing the Central Madrid Project, a new strategic plan for the city center, developed by a multidisciplinary team of consultants under the direction of José María Ezquiaga Domínguez, Juan Herreros Guerra and Salvador Pérez Arroyo. As they stress in their essay, the ambitious objective of this plan is to address the spatial and social complexity of the Madrid center area starting “from an understanding of the city via the real processes that define it rather than from regulations”: the idea is to work on the city in real time, defining a framework of strategies and then adopting flexible tools in order to manage events and changes that are not easy to anticipate and control with traditional urban planning instruments. On the other hand the Madrid Río Project, recently completed by the joint venture of Madrid-based firms Burgos & Garrido, Porras - La Casta and Rubio - A. Sala with the Dutch firm West 8, and the Castellana Prolongation Project, developed by the firm Ezquiaga Arquitectura, Sociedad y Territorio, are good examples of urban projects that are transforming large portions of the city, completely reconfiguring extensive areas of the center with great energy and – in the case of the Madrid Río Project – in a very short time. The articles by Burgos & Garrido, Porras - La Casta, Rubio - A. Sala and West 8 [1] and by Gemma Peribáñez Ayala further explore two of the largest interventions of urban restoration in Europe and the relations between these ambitious projects and the city at the different scales. Besides being an ideal training ground for architectural, planning and design practices, another reason why Madrid was chosen 17


Madrid (...) is a paradigm, (...) a model of urban development. is because it is a paradigm: like many cities that have gone through different seasons, alternating times of success and times of crisis, it is easy to recognize Madrid as a model of urban development that presents issues and problems commonly found in other major metropolitan areas of Europe. Similarly to other countries, the rapid urban development of the Spanish capital during the 80s was structured according to dispersed and extensive patterns of growth and, therefore, in a poorly sustainable manner, resulting in excessive urban sprawl and land consumption, dispersion of the residential fabric, and excessive infrastructuralization of the territory. In addition to the above, these new instances have further complicated other problems that are typical of the periphery districts, such as the urban fragmentation, the degradation of the urban environment, the lack of public meeting spaces for local community interaction, with the consequent social issues. The disparity between center and periphery, the quality of the public space in the Madrilenian perifery, and the relation between housing projects and public space are the main issues of the URBAN ACUPUNCTURES section, where AndrĂŠs CĂĄnovas Alcaraz, Davide Tommaso Ferrando and JosĂŠ Luis Vallejo Mateo explore localized interventions that are planting the seeds of change both in the city center and in some compromised fabrics of the peripheral areas of Madrid, trying 18


to revitalize them through establishing weak relationships with the context and developing sustainable strategies of urban transformation. In a period of economic contingency, the activities and observations of these architects provide interesting reflections upon citizen participation in projects, the relationship between technology and architecture, the role of the architect in urban transformation processes, as well as urban restoration as a sustainable design practice. It is important to stress that the Spanish capital is not the only city to address such challenges created by globalization, rapid urban development and social transformation: Madrid’s model of growth is similar to one of many other cities. For that reason, an analysis of the transformation processes that remain at the basis of the current situation can provide interesting suggestions for general considerations about contemporary metropolises. Furthermore, the harsh reality of this global recession and the consequent deceleration that European architecture – and Spanish in particular – is experiencing, offers architects and administrators the opportunity to address reality with a more ethical and aware attitude, abandoning the excesses and the icon-projects that have characterised the European architectural panorama and redefining urban tools from a much more solid base. Throughout the years of economic boom, Madrid developed its cultural distinctiveness, improved the level of its institutions and evolved its technical and administrative management. Internationally renowned schools of architecture, Madrilenian architects with their outstanding achievements in the field of architectural design, institutions, foundations and cultural societies that explore architectural and urban themes, all constitute a cultural milieu that is a breeding ground from which new and sustainable mechanisms of transformation will arise. In this direction, the EDUCATION, RESEARCH AND COMMUNICATION section attempts to analyze how Madrid 19


is developing and testing concepts and proposals for new urban solutions in order to manage the emerging issues of twenty-first century cities. In the opinion of María Belén Hermida Rodríguez, the appointed Director of the international area of MADRID THINK TANK, the challenges of a contemporary metropolis require innovative thinking and the fluid interaction of different areas of knowledge: in order to achieve this, the Official Architects’ Association of Madrid (COAM) decided to promote the creation of MADRID THINK TANK, a new platform for participative innovation in which the participation of companies, governments, institutions and individuals can contribute to construct a collective urban project for Madrid. On the other hand, the reflection on the importance of remapping the city provided by Federico Soriano Peláez, the director of the Architectural Design Department of the Superior Technical School of Architecture of Madrid (ETSAM), provides a good example of the stimulating design research carried out by the schools of Architecture and by some of the most advanced practices of Madrid. Thanks to its lively cultural environment and to the highly diversified and innovative researches developed by the schools, the Spanish capital has emerged as an important center of cultural production and debate on the city and – due to its complex and dynamic nature – it can be regarded as a realtime laboratory for experiments and research in the field of architecture and urban planning. Some interesting solutions have already been born, and the way Madrid is defining new catalysts willing to better plan its future, managing its main transformation projects and researching new instruments for change can be regarded as an important lesson for every city that is facing the global challenges of the near future. As a consequence of the unprecedented economic crisis of recent years, Madrid is also experiencing new emerging processes, social 20


tensions and the beginning of a complex cultural change which – among others consequences – led to the rise of the “indignados” (the outraged) movement, and other social organizations. The PARTICIPATORY MOOD section, with the article by Domenico di Siena and the interview project by Gianpiero Venturini, completes this overview further investigating the consequences of this new scenario on the Madrid design culture, respectively focusing on the collective organizations and on the younger generation of architects. In conclusion, the city of Madrid, despite all the obstacles, has expressed efficiency, pragmatism and excellence. In the recent past Madrid has undergone an unprecedented transformation that has changed its structure in a very short period of time, becoming one of the poles of European development. Now it is preparing to change its model of growth and its structure once again, according to the new political, social and economic situation. The “Madrid Lab”, through the study of best practices and the processes that made them possible, offers remarkable themes for reflection, as well as the starting point for the definition of new ways of urban management for twenty-first century cities.

[1] Javier Malo de Molina, coordinator of the Madrid Río Project design team, introduced the project during the Forum in Florence.

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