As Madrid’s population continues to expand, its suburban areas are becoming more and more popular with those looking for affordable housing outside the city limits. However, these neighborhoods, while more economically practical, have long been plagued with the cookie cutter design all too often seen these days. Full of generic residential developments and chain restaurants, these areas have very little character and no touristic value; as such, they have been dealt a short hand in the design game.
However, little by little, it seems as if savvy architects are realizing that some of these barrios have major potential to serve as blank canvases for unique design projects.
Take Pozuelo de Alarcón, for example. About 20 kilometers from the center of Madrid, this neighborhood boasts some of the highest average per capita incomes in the community of Madrid, yet the overall appearance of the city center was just as bland as any suburban neighborhood on the outskirts of the city.
Enter FÜNDC architects. In 2011, this Madrid-based architectural and urban planning firm finished work on what is the largest urban project the town has seen in decades. With the New Cultural Centre (NCC), FÜNDC has managed to turn a run-of-the-mill plaza into an extraordinary community landmark that certainly separates this town from its all-too-ordinary neighbors.
“No need for road restrictions when you can reposition them underground. No need for lack of parking places as you can multiply them on levels. No need for flat, hard public squares when you can grow large trees, necessary for urban comfort on this climate.” – César García Guerra, Architect
The NCC project was initially designed to create an uninterrupted pedestrian route linking the most emblematic buildings of Pozuelo’s old town. The project resulted in a massive undertaking in order to reroute traffic underground. The NCC building itself is a massive concrete structure that consists of 10,500 square meters underground and 2, 216 square meters above ground. Surrounded by a “pedestrian carpet” of stone pavement, the building appears to be pulled out of the ground by its jutted cantilever.
The bulky concrete design is certainly a standout, but it’s the unprecedented features, inside and out, where innovative engineering meets modern design. The use of transformable spaces inside the three-story building was the main objective for FÜNDC. In order to utilize as much space as possible, they created movable floor decks that modify the main hall into an exhibition hall or a large auditorium, depending on the event or exhibition taking place.
Because the pedestrian space is the original focus of this project, the area of the Plaza del Padre Vallet incorporates what the architects, César García Guerra and Paz Martín Rodríguez, refer to as “urban furniture,” which provides illumination, resting areas, and a few scattered green areas throughout the plaza. The implementation of “mega-tree-pots” allows specific mid-sized trees to grow above the double-deck parking lot located underneath the plaza. These large structural pots also provide the underground parking with light and ventilation.
As César García explains, “No need for road restrictions when you can reposition them underground. No need for lack of parking places as you can multiply them on levels. No need for flat, hard public squares when you can grow large trees, necessary for urban comfort on this climate.”
The NCC is certainly the feather in Pozuelo’s cap at the moment. The transformed plaza has managed to cultivate a very friendly and tranquil place where families and neighbors can easily stroll from one end of the plaza to the next, and since strolling is considered an art form here in the Spanish capital, the NCC has come to reflect the heart and soul of this suburban community.
Nicole graduated from Georgia State University with a Post Graduate degree in Spanish to English Translation and a B.A. in Spanish and International Business. Presently living in Madrid, Nicole works as a freelance writer and translator and enjoys traveling around the Iberian peninsula taking photos of Spain's rich blend of historic and modern architecture. Her articles and photos have been published in various trade publications and websites.Website: www.passtheham.com/