Environmental conservation

Madrid-Río: a new lung for the capital of Spain (I)

On the canvas, a group of young people having a picnic on the bank of the Manzanares River. It is not a current image, but one of the most famous traditional paintings of Goya. Two centuries later, the gardens of Madrid-Río have updated this picture, recovering a public space that had been left forgotten in the 70s, with the construction of the M-30 highway.

In Madrid’s Heart, Park Blooms Where a Freeway Once Blighted”. This New York Times headline is perhaps the most remarkable of the several international media stories that have praised this project because of it’s value for the city and its inhabitants.

Ferrovial Agroman has exceeded all expectations and challenges facing the development of the park thanks to the adoption and application of an ecological landscape restoration model.

After successfully undertaking the M-30 bypass project, the company was put in charge of the Madrid-Río initiative by the City Council. The main task included in the contract was the adaptation of the Manzanares river banks, a necessary step to subsequently develop the new garden areas.

The company took charge of three sections of the “Pine Halls” area, as well as the San Ambrose Park and Arganzuela Grand Park: overall, the landscaping tasks resulted in more than 250.000 m2 of new natural spaces, including 9.000 large trees and over half a million shrubs.

Both in terms of design and architecture, the company tried to recreate different natural environments. This is why Madrid-Río incorporates areas that resemble the Mediterranean Forest as well as the Atlantic Forest. Maple, ash and walnut trees are also part of the picture. This approach increased the complexity and diversity of the project, since all these different species have to meet strong environmental requirements.

The Arganzuela Grand Park is split in two different ways so that visitors can circulate around two different landscapes. The faster circuit is lineal and wide, while the slow way is much more sinous and has higher slopes.

Another relevant feature of the Arganzuela Grand Park is the constant presence of water. Thirteen fountains were built in total, with three suitable for swimming. Besides these “urban beaches”, the other ten fountains incorporate different ornamental designs. This completes a landscape that lies above a complex system of tunnels where thousands of vehicles circulate daily.

International Projects and Common Features

The Madrid-Río project shares several features with other international efforts. In the U.S., for example, the 1989 San Francisco earthquake led to a redevelopment of the city which took the Embarcadero freeway underground and created larger natural spaces in order to connect the city with it’s port. Other similar projects have also changed the face of Seoul, where the Gaecheon river is now accompanied by the Cheonggyecheon park.

The second half of this post will be published soon.

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