Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Kimmelman on Madrid Rio

New brief
The New York Times' new architecture critic Michael Kimmelman came to Madrid last month to review the Madrid Rio Park along the Manzanares River.

Up to now he's been covering social issues more than formal ones, and with a strong local focus. This article is no exception: he sets up the example of Madrid against the difficulties of doing large-scale urban work in New York. 

"The park ... has largely been finished. More than six miles long, it transforms a formerly neglected area in the middle of Spain’s capital. Its creation, in four years, atop a complex network of tunnels dug to bury an intrusive highway, also rejuvenates a long-lost stretch of the Manzanares River, and in so doing knits together neighborhoods that the highway had cut off from the city center."
I agree with his view that the park is notable chiefly for its social success but has, "in barren weather, anyway ... a slightly rough-and-ready air, which is what you would expect, considering that [Mayor] Alberto Ruíz-Gallardón ... ordered the burying of the M-30 [highway] before there was any plan for a park."  

Precisely: the six miles of three-lane tunnels under the river are aesthetically much more rewarding.  In the park, wide continuous promenades on both sides of the river, connected by pedestrian bridges, are handsome thoroughfares for walkers, cyclists and skaters, and serve a series of recreational areas. They roll up and around fake hillocks following a picturesque formula, cleverly diminishing where possible the presence of stone-clad ventilation shafts for the tunnels. But the Manzanares is a modest river, and its banks are reinforced with a lot of rough concrete. In my experience so far you never get the kind of view that tempts you to linger, except in the environs of the Royal Palace, which scores on its own merits and not those of the park.

The project was designed by a consortium of Madrid architects led by the firm Burgos and Garrido and with the participation of West 8.

Michael Kimmelman
In Madrid’s Heart, Park Blooms Where a Freeway Once Blighted
The New York Times, December 26, 2011

Photos by DC 
First two pictures, front and back views of a pedestrian bridge that cuts diagonally across the river, spring 2011. 
 Below, view of Cathedral (right) and Royal Palace (left( with the 16th century Segovia Bridge in the foreground, designed for Felipe II by the architect of El Escorial, Juan de Herrera. Spring 2011. 
Remaining photos from December 2011.

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