Spain's Six-Mile Madrid Rio Park Replaces Freeway

The NYT chief art critic, Michael Kimmelman, reviews Madrid's almost complete six-mile long park, Madrid Rio, that is having a transformative effect on the city. The park was made possible by the under-grounding of the M-30 ring road.

Kimmelman adds Madrid Rio to the growing list of new urban spaces around the world made possible by taking down freeways, beginning with San Francisco's elevated Embarcadero Freeway in 1989. Unlike the San Francisco boulevard replacement, Madrid Mayor Alberto Ruíz-Gallardón chose a much more expensive alternative, costing $4.5 billion to tunnel the freeway. Madrid Rio also reclaims the Manzanares River-front.

"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.

All around the world, highways are being torn down and waterfronts reclaimed; decades of thinking about cars and cities reversed; new public spaces created."

Madrid Rio includes more than just green space.

"(T)he park belongs to a larger transformation that includes the construction of dozens of new metro and light-rail stations that link far-flung, disconnected and often poor districts on Madrid's outskirts to downtown."

Full Story: In Madrid's Heart, Park Blooms Where a Freeway Once Blighted



Kimmelman vs. Ouroussoff

The most refreshing statement in Kimmelman's article is:

""It’s only a pity that the city also awarded Dominique Perrault, one of the celebrity architects who lost the competition, a late commission. Evidently nervous about leaving the project without a new architectural landmark, the government approved his costly design for an oversize footbridge. Wrapped in an immense, incongruous spiral of Mr. Perrault’s signature stainless-steel mesh, the striking bridge blocks views and conjures up some giant antenna that has crashed in the park."

We all know that, if Ouroussoff were still NY Times architecture critic, he would call that flashy bit of starchitecture the best part of the park.

Charles Siegel

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