6.2.2 Lessons learned

Course subject(s) Module 6. Upscaling and wrapping up

Madrid Rio – Madrid, Spain

written by Isabel Recubenis 

The partial reconversion of the Manzanares River into a concrete channel in 1943 entailed the end of a history of flood danger in the city of Madrid, but also the beginning of grey infrastructure conquering the environmental and cultural value of the riverbank.

In 1970 the western branch of the M-30 highway is built, closing a major ring road that outlines an inner and outer character of Madrid.

Built between buildings and the canalised Manzanares River, now hidden and concealed, the river bank became an area exclusive for heavy road traffic, a segregating element between central and southwest neighbourhoods of the city. Over time, this residual corridor across the city with lack of accessibility and visibility results into a derelict fringe for vandalism and crime, away from the everyday use of residents.

This is the reason why in 2003 the municipality decides to remodel the M-30 highway by building an underground infrastructural tunnel for mobility, where not only the highway is located, but also, the subway and sewage system.

In 2005, Madrid City Council opens an international tender to bring ideas for the new free space consisting of 120 hectares along the river. The tender is won by a proposal led by three architecture studios: Burgos & Garrido, Porras & La Casta and Rubio & Álvarez-Salaand and the Dutch landscape studio West 8. Although opened in 2011 for the vast majority of its extension, the proposal is developed over 15 years (2003-2018).

The operation, today known as Madrid Rio, consists of a green and blue corridor across 8 kilometer, and 1.200.000 m2. It has a clear urban character – opening up the city towards south and west and integrating the river into the urban scenery – as well as an ecological character – restoring the environmental corridor of the Manzanares River across the city of Madrid.

This duality can be appreciated through 3 scales: territorial, urban and neighbourhood.

Ecological corridor – Ecology / Territorial

As a former ecological corridor interrupted and devalued by the city of Madrid, the project aims at restoring upstream and downstream ecology of Manzanares River. In its design, the project recognises and incorporates all natural elements of the river basin, delivering a living corridor for migratory wildlife, acting as an open and peaceful axis of communication for birds and night animals. It becomes an ecological link of nearly 3,000 hectares from El Pardo to Getafe, connecting important green areas such as Casa de Campo, Arganzuela Park, and South Manzanares Park.

Urban/cultural corridor – Citizens / Urban

The project also performs a major urban/cultural corridor role, turning the Manzanares River into a great axis of the city, structuring areas of great environmental value, urban parks, heritage gardens and major cultural nodes of the city of Madrid such as the Royal Palace of Madrid, Vicente Calderón Stadium or the arts center Matadero. As a continuous path for runners, bikes, and walkers, Madrid Rio establishes new relations among the six districts and urban parks, posing a new perspective over the city already depicted in 1562 by Anton Van der Wyngaerde (see figure).

Urban salon – Neighbours / Neighbourhood

The third scale of this project belongs to its neighbours and every day residents (as I was once not long ago). It is the scale in which one can assure the success of the proposal, in which one can perceive the large scale vision as well as the local belonging and appropriation phenomena that characterises the project. It improves the quality of life of all the districts and neighbourhoods along the River (former highway) once degraded and neglected, acting as a living room and playground for everyone with dancing pine trees, swings hanging over bridges, net of slides, urban beach, hidden corners, etc.

Madrid Río Project is the result of the relocation of a 6‐kilometre highway along the Manzanares River and a reference example of green infrastructure restoration that re-connects culture and ecology.

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Nature Based Metropolitan Solutions by TU Delft OpenCourseWare is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at https://online-learning.tudelft.nl/courses/nature-based-metropolitan-solutions/.
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