A New Park for Madrid

Praise of the ‘green’


The cloud of uncertainty that Madrid urbanism has in recent years gotten itself trapped in – with cases like Operation Chamartín, the redevelopment of the area around Vicente Calderón Stadium, the intervention in Canalejas, or the revamping of Edificio España – seems to be starting to dissipate, at long last, with the recent selection of a proposal for the transformation of one of the most emblematic but most maltreated spaces of the Spanish capital, the Plaza de España. The project titled ‘Welcome, Mother Nature’ by Porras La Casta and Estudio Guadiana (Lorenzo Fernández-Ordóñez), endorsed by the citizenry, recommends an extensive overhaul of the Plaza de España and the pedestrianization of its borders to create a green carpet stretching from the Temple of Debod on the one hand and the Plaza de Oriente on the other, converging at the Plaza de España and potentially farther on toward the Gran Vía. The conceptual premise behind the winning design – the idea that parks per se are more sustainable than streets – is indeed dubious, and there is definitely a contradiction in the pedestrianization depending on the costly and counterproductive expansion of the tunnel running under the Plaza de Oriente. But it is also true that the plan is coherent with the program outlined by the team of Mayor Manuela Carmena, which seeks to cede more and more public space to the pedestrian, an objective validated through consultation with the citizenry. This process of eliminating vehicular traffic is at work as well in other European cities, such as Oslo, Copenhagen, Paris, and London. And in this case the city of Madrid has been a pioneer.

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