Madrid, Future Imperfect

Luis Fernández-Galiano 

The future of Madrid is the future of Spain. More a capital than a city, this hub of encounters and exchanges shares the future of the entire territory. If centrifugal force prevails, Madrid will unknot and unweave, for this forum and bazaar only exists as the hollow heart of a closely-woven fabric of links and bonds. Centralism desired to see Madrid keeping the periphery on a tight rein, while the coast longed to watch the culprit torn apart by the fleeing gallop of separate identities. Madrid, however, is neither a charioteer nor a convict, but the physical space of a collective pact, a political marketplace and an equidistant bed for virtual appetites.

As a melting pot of Spanish provinces and a land of opportunities, this loose hamlet attracts disperse talent, and offers relief to ambitions frustrated by more compact and close-knit cities. Its slack skein, which expresses well both mobility and chaos, gives it no other future than the neurotic persistence of a state of flux, tangling and untangling every so often. Being more American than European in temper, Madrid mistreats its fertile past, renounces what the future may offer as a shared dream, and lives compulsively in the present.

Lacking leadership and purpose, Madrid just barely survives the lurches of a pragmatic, aimless course that only aspires to avoid an improbable shipwreck. Unloved by and resigned to the rapacious usury of its transitory occupants, here is a city that is also maltreated by its rulers, who lacerate its docile skin with more indifference than sadism. Subjected to the placid violence of a slow explosion that has scattered the region with fragments, the cordial almond heart of the metropolis is carved out with ditches and stuffed with facsimiles, surrounded by highways that spill traffic onto its open veins.

If Madrid has a future, it lies in the lumps of circulation and in the attentive pauses that make the city at once a crossroads and a chamber: an accidental venue for collision or encounter, and a hollow recess for public resonance. The uncertain future of this exchange of material and symbolic values rests in the runways of Barajas Airport and the halls of Parliament on the Carrera de San Jerónimo, in the hermetic towers of the Paseo de la Castellana and the slow museums of the Paseo del Prado; wherever the flow stops, or wherever a swarm of citizens crystallizes its shared condition: that consensus or habit we call Spain.[+]

Included Tags: