Turning Disaster Into Opportunity

Brian Phelps reports on the power of urban landscaping to revitalize a flood-devastated city - Valencia, Spain.

An exquisite example of transforming a disaster into an opportunity, Valencia's lush landscaped sanctuary known as Jardín del Turia, or Green River, took the place of what once was the Turia River after a devastating flood rocked the city in 1957. Citing Rahm Emanuel, "You never want a serious crisis to go to waste."

The idea for the Green River was born after the city re-routed the river to the west, leaving traces of old riverbeds and open space behind. When the city proposed to develop highways there, locals demanded that they build a park instead, and Plan Sur was created. The parks were completed in 1969 and include over 450 acres of land spanning through the lengths of the old riverbed. Each section of green space is a brilliant testament to the city's culture, with distinct designs "ranging from Ricardo Bofill's formal gardens with modern touches, built in 1986; and Calatrava's biomorphic City of Arts and Sciences, completed in 1998; to the sinuous landforms of Header Park by Eduardo de Miguel Rabones, Blake Muñoz Criado, and Vicente Corell Farinós, completed in 2004."

This type of environmental intervention seems to have worked for Valencia in the past, but, Phelps wonders, is this manner of flood control workable today? "Despite the apparent success of Plan Sur in preventing flooding, the long-term impact of diverting the Turia River is unknown," he writes. However, giving credit where it is due, Phelps adds that "Born out of a crisis, Valencia has managed to integrate a recreational and transportation infrastructure network with its historic heart and surrounding neighborhoods."

Full Story: Valencia's Green River

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