In 2003 Madrid City Council decided to bury the 10 km western stretch of the city’s first Ring Road, known as the M30. This West section travels along both banks of the Manzanares River. The original construction of the M30 was not the result of a single design, it had taken place carelessly during the last 40 years and its development had always been dependent on traffic demands. Amongst the consequences and side effects, it erased the city’s connection to its river, rendering it inaccessible and invisible. Once the motorway was buried, an enormous public open space appeared vacant at the heart of the city of Madrid, at a very central location, less than half-a-mile away from the Royal Palace and its gardens.
The construction of the tunnels, with a total length of over 40 km, and through which more than 200,000 vehicles pass by every day, involved burying the electrical power lines that transport 40% of the city’s energy; renovating the rainwater collection and filtering system and the main sewage system; restoring the flood protection scheme; the drinking water pipe-lines, gas, data and telephone lines. Additionally, it was also carried-out in the same place occupied by the motorway, and thus traffic could not be cut off. It was an extremely complex construction work that modified all the infrastructural layers of the city, found in a very dense location where everything was compressed together. The completion of the works, over the short period of 3 years, was a great relief for the city, especially for those neighbours who lived closer to the M30.
In 2005, half way through the construction process, the City Council held an open international competition to solve the enormous public open space that the tunneling of the motorway and its nodes had left vacant. Our team regarded the project as a great geographical intervention, much bigger in scale than just the area left vacant by the burying of the motorway. It was essential to envision, understand, draw, and walk the river as a whole, from its source at the Sierras in the North of Madrid, to the plateaus and meadows in the South and somehow incorporate this experience and geographical reality into the project. The design of this big park with a surface of over 150 ha consists of the reorganization and the urban design of the public space left available after the burial of the motorway and it includes: – 12 new pedestrian-bridges – 6 hectares of public and sports facilities, social, communal and artistic amenities – An urban beach – Children’s areas – The restoration of the river’s hydraulic architectural heritage.
Mainly, the Madrid Río project deals altogether with two urban targets that can be easily identified:
1. The project heals the wounds caused over 40 years by the motorway situated within the urban and social fabric. It also heals the wounds produced by the tunneling works themselves, as they were also quite significant and aggressive. This was achieved with the design and construction over 48 km of sidewalks; the reorganization of the traffic and the public transport lines and system; the construction of 12 new footbridges over the river and the redesign of 6 existing ones, making them more pedestrian friendly.
2. The design and construction of a completely open public space essentially covered with trees that can be used by all, skaters, cyclists, strollers, climbers, runners, locals and city visitors. Longitudinally, it links the amazing exterior landscapes of the city of Madrid, mostly wild still, with its strongly urban and extreme dense interior. Something difficult to achieve in compact and old cities like Madrid. Transversally, it connects the historical city center with the modern periphery. Thus, the project establishes a physical and conceptual continuity, which did not previously exist, between the city center and the valuable countryside that surrounds it. And as a result, the river Manzanares has become the node that connects the city with its geography.
Madrid Rio as a whole is one of the biggest “urban mat-building” in the world. Vegetation was the main material used on top of it to create a dense and ecological environment, a living landscape on an inert underground substrate. It is perhaps one of the projects that best integrates large infrastructures and the built urban fabric with the natural environment that surround them. The aim of the project was to make place where the landscape, the city, the architecture and the urban infrastructures combine to create a more diverse environment and a greener and more inhabitable city.
Entrant office name: Burgos & Garrido Arquitectos
Role of the entrant in the project: Ginés Garrido – Project Director
Other designers involved in the design of landscape:
co-authors of the project:
Burgos & Garrido
Porras La Casta
Rubio & A-Sala
Project location (Street, City, Country): Madrid, Spain
Design year: 2005
Year Built: 2015