Burgos&Garrido_The Manzanares River, Madrid

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The Manzanares River is set on a 69km long basin, that starts at 2,258 m high, in the Guadarrama mountains, and ends in the Jarama river at 527m above sea level. On its way it receives water from 30 different streams and coexists with different types of infrastructure. Some are natural to the river, like bridges, dams and lakes, while others limit and constrain it artificially, like roads, railway tracks and pipelines.

The diversity of landscapes that the river crosses and the multiple biotopes that it runs along make the Manzanares river a singular element with situations of great contrast; from the snows in the mountain tops to the almost desertic plateau at the south point of the river basin. The river is almost inaccessible in its trajectory and sometimes it evens turns into an uncomfortable element and almost always unknown. When globally analyzing the river basin we understand that the river is not an event of the city, but on the contrary, the city is an event of the river. The interaction between both has changed through history, but until now the Manzanares has not characterised itself as a attraction point in the city but as a place that the city has ignored.

From the beginning of the 20th century the urban fabric that runs along the river, has undergone a constant evolution that has relied heavily on the operations carried out in the river. In the first half of the century, the river was channeled, when the banks were still free of buildings. The control of floods was done, after the civil war, by a concrete and granite teller and seven dams. This led to the rapid development of new neighborhoods, resulting in a high-density urban continuum that gradually welded the peripheral villages southwest of the city.

Madrid’s growth never dealt with the river banks as a friendly place; on the contrary, it ignored and defended itself from them. The variety of social and topographic conditions on the banks made the urban approach to the river diverse and chaotic. On the right margin, from the 50’s onwards, the buildings clustered closed to the river, leaving a long, narrow and rigid strip of land next to the river that extended from north to south. On the left bank, the historic city kept away from the river, establishing a concatenation of green spaces on a moderate slope that reached the base of the built city. The period from 1970-1979 marked a historic milestone in the river, due to the fact that from the Puente del Rey to the south, on the two margins, the west arch of the M-30 ring was built. This infrastructure created a traffic distribution ring that avoided the urban centre and changed the mobility and relation between the neighbourhoods, especially between the centre and the suburbs.

With the building of the highway the river got constrained on both sides by road lanes. This avoided any contact of the citizenships with the river and the river bed became completely isolated, inaccessible and invisible. The highway constituted an impenetrable aggressive barrier, generating high levels of pollution. It also destructed the footbridges that were built in the time of the embankment of the river, and broke the historic connexion between the Campo del Moro and the Casa de Campo.

Between 2003 and 2007 the arch of the M-30 next to the river was buried. This allowed the elimination of traffic in the surface and, furthermore, the liberation of 50 hectares of ground. As well, one hundred hectares of unused land were added to the surface.

After the building of the tunnels a wound surfaced; a chain of unoccupied spaces that cherished the latent power to become the nexus of an environmental corridor of nearly three thousand acres within the city; which stretches from El Pardo to Getafe and links important green areas such as the Casa de Campo, the Arganzuela Park and the South Manzanares Park.

Therefore the benefits of burring the old highway are obviously not only the improvement of urban traffic or the renovation of the adjacent neighbourhoods; but also the benefits on a bigger scale affecting the relation between the city and the territory. The enormous effect of the liberated land on the city (as a result of the burial of the highway) made the city hall organize an International Competition to search for ideas for these new freed spaces around the river. The competition was won by a group of madrilean architecture offices (Burgos & Garrido, Porras & La Casta y Rubio & Álvarez-Sala). This group, called mrío arquitectos asociados, proposed in collaboration with a Dutch landscape office, West 8, the solution to create an urban park of over 120 hectares that occupied the whole surface of the liberated ground.
The project began with the intent to understand all the geographical qualities of the river basin. The characteristics of the territory and the diversity of natural elements that compose the surrounding landscape, create a group of key issues that sustain most of the ideas of the project.

Summarizing, the strategy is based on the conviction that the river can connect the city, the sublime expression of an artificial action, with the territories north and south of the city, where the natural elements of the river basin still exist. The river becomes the door or connexion between the urban interior and the territorial exterior. Through its banks a continuity and permeability is established, until now broken by the succession of highway rings M-30, M-40, M-45, M-50…, that were the result of applying the traffic models of mobility of the mid XX century.

The project has been conceived in a consecutive approximation or scales; in these different scales a reflection has been carried out in the field, obtaining diverse results, from the territorial scale or strategic point of view, to the local scale or specific result.

In the territorial scale parameters have been set out so, in a short term time span, it will be possible to regenerate all the river margins as real areas of integration of nature and human activity; but under the contemporary understanding of attempting to overcome the implicit antagonism in urban and rural.

On the metropolitan scale, thanks to the project and its conception as a huge infrastructure, the park along the river is incorporated to the GR 124 (Great Route of the European Network Paths) and in can be walked in all its length, from the Manzanares el Real to Aranjuez.

On the urban scale, the project integrates the river as an unknown double facade and configures a chain of green spaces that filtrate to the city. It establishes on the surface new mobility and accessibility systems. It also increases the integration and the urban quality of the adjacent neighbourhoods. It protects and revaluates the historic heritage. And detects opportunity areas, in this new central point in the city, that will be able to generate a potential change in the city in the long run.

On the local scale, the proposal is a completely artificial operation, but on the contrary its materialization is done with natural elements. We can not forget that we act upon a sunken infrastructure. The project is implemented on top of a tunnel, more specifically on the roof of a very complex set of facilities that serve the sunken road. A buried concrete building of over 6 kilometres long, with a topography whose logic is based strictly on the construction of the infrastructure and pops up inappropriately on the surface. Over this underground construction, the chosen solution has been based on the use of vegetation as main building material. The concept of the project is to install a dense green layer, almost like a forest, whenever possible. To produce a landscape with living material over an inanimate layer, over a constriction that expresses the artificial at its peak.

The families, forms and association of the selected species come from the study of the river basin and its adaptation to the urban landscape. The organisation of the different environment and its characterisation as pubic spaces has been carried out taking into account different needs. On one hand, the required functions and the necessities of each district, and on the other hand the need to form liveable spaces, inherent to the different groups of vegetation (of different sizes.).

The project is divided into three different landscape units. The first one, el salón de pinos, or green corridor, that runs along the right river bank. It is the structure that allows the continuity of the paths and it reacts to the different bridges it crosses in different ways; giving birth to the Lower Gardens of the Puente de Segovia, the Gardens of the Puente de San Isidro, The Gardens of the Puente de Toledo and the gardens of the Puente de Praga. The second unit is the definitive connexion between the historic centre (represented by the imposing view of the Royal Palace and the elevated city cornice) with the Casa de Campo, a park of over one thousand seven hundred hectares. In this environment the Avenida de Portugal, the Huerta de la Partida, the Explanada del Rey and the Gardens of the Virgen del Puerto are included. The third unit is the wide strip on the left river margin where the Parque de la Arganzuela is located. The park includes the Matadero Contemporary Art Centre. It represents the biggest green space in the proposal.

On top of the three coherent landscape interventions, the project proposes one hundred and fifty other interventions of different nature, in which the bridges stand out. Twenty solutions have been proposed on the bridges, seven dams have been renovated, some bridges have been recycled and new paths have been created, sometimes in a quite manner others in a more expressive way. As in microsurgery, the project incorporates a chain of formulas to integrate the river in the city and the city in the river. They are elements that guarantee the influence of the new values of the river margins on the surrounding neighbourhoods. From now on and in an irreversibly manner, a radical metamorphosis is being forged, unprecedented for the city of Madrid.

[Burgos & Garrido arquitectos asociados]

Francisco Burgos

Escuela de Arquitectura de Madrid [ETSAM]. Universidad Politécnica de Madrid. 1985
Doctor con sobresaliente cum laude.
Escuela de Arquitectura de Madrid, ETSAM, UPM. 2001
Profesor Asociado.
Departamento de Proyectos Arquitectónicos, ETSAM, UPM. 1992-2001
Profesor Titular.
Departamento de Proyectos Arquitectónicos, ETSAM, UPM. 2001-
Profesor Invitado.
Capla University of Arizona, College of Architecture and Landscape Architecture
Graduate School of Architecture, Harvard University
Facultad de Arquitectura. Universidad central Santiago de Chile.

Ginés Garrido
Escuela de Arquitectura de Madrid [ETSAM]. Universidad Politécnica de Madrid. 1989
Doctor con sobresaliente cum laude.
Escuela de Arquitectura de Madrid, ETSAM, UPM. 2004
Profesor Asociado.
Departamento de Proyectos Arquitectónicos, ETSAM, UPM. 1991-2007
Profesor Titular.
Departamento de Proyectos Arquitectónicos, ETSAM, UPM. 2007-
Profesor invitado.
Escola Técnica Superior d’Arquitectura. UPC. Barcelona
Akademie der Bildenden Küste. Wien
Ecole d’Architecture Athenaeum, EAAL Lausanne
Capla University of Arizona, College of Architecture and Landscape Architecture
Graduate School of Architecture, Harvard University
Facultad de Arquitectura. Universidad Central Santiago de Chile

Francisco Burgos y Ginés Garrido fundaron el estudio Burgos & Garrido arquitectos asociados en 2002 en Madrid.
La oficina tiene una estructura abierta, que se manifiesta en la colaboración frecuente con otros arquitectos. Ésta actitud más propia de los ingenieros, nos permite enfrentarnos a los proyectos con pragmatismo y una distancia que nos parece, en general, saludable.
Actualmente construyen el Parque Lineal del Manzanares, 150Ha de parques en el centro de Madrid sobre los túneles del primer anillo de circunvalación viaria de la ciudad, un edificio de viviendas en Eindhoven entre otras obras.