October 11, 2013

Madrid Rio – 5

Images from Madrid Rio, with quotes from a Dec 2011 New York Times description:

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

Most famously, in beauty-mad San Francisco, the 1989 earthquake overcame years of entrenched thinking: the Embarcadero Freeway was taken down, which reconnected the city with its now glorious waterfront. In Seoul, the removal of a stretch of highway along the now-revived Gaecheon stream has made room for a five-mile-long recreation area called Cheonggyecheon. In Milwaukee, the destruction of the Park East freeway spur has liberated acres of downtown for parks and neighborhood development. Even the nearly-30-year, bank-busting Big Dig fiasco made Boston a better place by tunneling a downtown highway, though it was obviously nobody’s idea of a stellar urban redevelopment project.

In many ways (sheer length, for one), and with the exception of Seoul’s Cheonggyecheon, Madrid Rio is a greater achievement than the examples listed above, even including New York’s High Line.  And yet it is hardly known – perhaps because it is so new, or was eclipsed by the financial meltdown, or doesn’t quite integrate with the city as do others more centrally located and not in a river valley.  Or maybe because it’s in a poorer part of the city.

Nonetheless, Madrid Rio proves again how vision, leadership, good design (and money) can transform a highway corridor into a great public space.

Some final images:

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UPDATE: CNN Travel features Madrid Rio in the story on revitalized riverfronts in Europe.

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