Tranquilo might as well be the motto of Madrid. It’s commonly used to tell someone to “take it easy” or “relax," perfect for these trying economic times. For those Madrileños who might find themselves a little stressed (and overheated) these days, the Madrid Rio project by West 8 Urban Design & Landscape Architecture has created a recreational zone along the Manzanares River that will allow people to enjoy an area previously referred to by many as “what river?”
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.
Oddity can be found lurking among the old buildings, narrow streets, and seemingly endless construction of Madrid. Whether you're walking through the busy plazas or just strolling along quiet sidewalks, you’ll most likely find the unexpected. That’s exactly the case with the Museo ABC, which is located in the heart of Madrid but which is hardly part of the tourist traps.
The word "harmony" may be immensely overused in the architecture world, but it’s difficult to avoid when describing Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava’s creations. While many bask in the glow of his paradoxical designs, some see his projects as nothing short of an architectural attack against harmonic city planning. Regardless, Calatrava’s reputation for structural risk-taking has made him one of the most recognized architects in the world. With a background in architecture and civil engineering, Calatrava is also a sculptor and painter. This artistic combination is evident not just in Ysios Bodegas but in the majority of his projects, which often blend (or clash) the worlds of intricate design with practicability.
Much to the chagrin of many Spanish bar owners and restaurateurs, 2011 rang in the New Year with strict (and controversial) anti-smoking laws on January 2. For Spain and its “live and let live” attitude, these new regulations mark the end of an era for the country and its strong café culture of tapas, beer, and smoke. While the country is dedicated to eliminating smoke-filled spaces, Madrid is taking it one step further by actually creating healthy air one neighborhood at a time – starting with the Vallecas neighborhood south of the city. After years of ongoing development and poor city planning, the city council of Vallecas realized that the area was severely lacking in green areas. The city of Madrid (along with the European Union) launched a competition looking for architects that could create a viable social design that reflected the community’s environment-friendly goals.
2010 was a rollercoaster year for Spain. Hit hard by the economic crisis, a real estate implosion, and a surging unemployment rate, the country just couldn’t seem to catch a break. However, in this bleak economic landscape, one sign of promising growth stands out. The Torre Sacyr Vallehermoso building has reached 100% capacity for the first time since its completion in 2007. The Torre Sacyr Vallehermoso is one of the so-called “Four Towers” belonging to Madrid’s new Cuatro Torres Business Area, the brainchild of Mayor Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón.
It’s official: architects are in love with bamboo. A tree-hugging designer’s dream, bamboo is an eco-friendly, versatile, and durable material. More importantly, bamboo is the fastest growing perennial on the planet, making it symbolically a perfect choice for a city like Madrid, with its ever growing population and, subsequently, its enormous need for public housing. Located in the Carabanchel district, a “regeneration area” on the outskirts of Madrid, Carabanchel Social Housing is a state-subsidized, five-story residential project with 100 units, covered with bamboo louvres. (The structure itself is not made of bamboo, but bamboo is very prominent in the primary architectural statement it makes, due to the louvers.) Foreign Office Architects (FOA) credit Farshid Moussavi, Alejandro Zaera Polo, and others at FOA for Carabanchel Social Housing’s innovative design, which merges an environmentally conscious model with the social urbanization needs of the 21st century. One of the largest social housing projects in Europe, it was completed in late 2007.
This year, the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid, Spain celebrates its 20th anniversary. Well, sort of. While the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia officially opened its doors in 1990, the building has been transformed by so many architects over the years that it’s difficult to date.
It’s easy to get Spanish blood boiling here in Madrid. Just mention the M-30 to a local, especially one living by the Manzanares River in the Arganzuela district south of the city. Their hostile reaction would be due to the fact that this part of town has been under major construction for what seems like an eternity. Once complete, Madrid’s M-30 urban renewal project will include improved roadways, pedestrian pathways, and West 8's Puentes Cascaras, which were inaugurated in September 2010.
There are two common sayings about Madrid -- “Madrid me mata” ("Madrid kills me") and “De Madrid al cielo” ("From Madrid to Heaven"). Both adages are appropriate ways to describe Madrid’s polarization between the calm and the chaotic. From the city’s breakneck traffic to its streets filled with animated Madrileños, rosemary-laden gypsies, and gawking tourists, the city of Madrid moves at a nauseating rhythm. Somewhere, deep within this traditional chaos, it’s possible to find hidden corners of both modernization and tranquility. Strolling along the Paseo de Prado’s tree-lined avenue, you will come across Patrick Blanc’s vertical garden lurking in one of these corners.