RENAZCA is a private company set up by the corporate owners of the buildings in Madrid’s AZCA financial district to revitalize and improve the public spaces in this sprawling area.
AZCA is the acronym used to describe this city superblock of around 47 acres (19 ha) in the financial heart of Madrid. The original plan for the area dates from a 1950s competition, with the project drawing its inspiration from the modernist ideas of New York’s Rockefeller Center. Although the area is home to some of Madrid’s most impressive skyscrapers, over the years, its public spaces have paid the price of neglect and urban decay. It’s therefore become vital for the area to be transformed and modernized.
RENAZCA’s objective with the tender was to find a project that went beyond simply reinventing these areas to transforming them into a truly immersive experience within the city – a place that could inspire people and fuel creativity. The promoters envisaged it not just as a place to be, but as an environment in which to live. It was therefore necessary to put in place a selection process to identify multidisciplinary teams able to take a holistic approach to encompass all the critical aspects of the district. The revitalizing of AZCA was also seen as a unique opportunity to likewise revitalize the entire city of Madrid through new approaches to urban planning, design, and sustainability.
Martha Thorne, dean of the IE School of Architecture and Design, and Edgar Gonzalez were brought in to assist with the selection process. Their job wasn’t to influence the final decision, but to provide the right tools to assess the technical and urban planning qualities of the various projects submitted in the competition.
“The process followed by RENAZCA,” explains Martha Thorne, “clearly demonstrated what’s possible when the private sector, municipal administrations, and the academic world all come together. With each contributing its own particular expertise to creating new places and transforming this urban environment, the result was a huge win for everyone concerned, including the city of Madrid.”
The competition winner was a team headed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro, Gustafson Porter + Bowman, and b720 Fermín Vázquez Arquitectos. The team’s design vision took in the complexities of the site to produce a strategic, inclusive, and modern proposal capable of revitalizing the entire district while complying with local laws. The elements of the project that drew the greatest enthusiasm included replacing roads with pedestrian zones, replacing artificial surfaces with gardens, converting private spaces into public ones, and creating open, well-lit places to replace old, abandoned infrastructure. The goal of the winning team was to connect the district to the rest of the city, while also creating highly connected public spaces within it.
The focal point of the project is the Central Green, a large, sustainable park within the city and, literally, the new green center of the district. The Central Green will feature slightly hilly terrain, bridges, paths through nature, a central water feature, and an important selection of native plants that will be able to thrive in Madrid’s climate and create a mini habitat rich in biodiversity.
The project will set a new benchmark for the city of the future, while underscoring the vital roles of accessibility, open spaces, and sustainability. Pedestrians will have right of way in all the new public spaces. A promenade will circle the entire park, connecting the urban space with the natural one and fostering an easy coexistence between the two. An area of the park will be set aside for grabbing a coffee or lunch, or just relaxing in nature. This space will also be the scene of a busy program of live events, concerts, films, and theatrical performances, able to accommodate audiences of up to ten thousand.
Permanent Sun is a planned art installation that will permanently reflect a spotlight of sunshine into the park, lighting up places that otherwise would be under the shadow of the surrounding buildings.
Permanent Shadow, on the other hand, will be a disk over seventy feet (22 m) above the ground that will provide permanent shade in the center of the park. So that the position of the shadow it casts remains fixed, the disk will move in synchrony with the sun throughout the day and in all four seasons.
Finally, the project includes fifteen Urban Rooms, each one customized to its site. These will be used to accommodate a range of functions, including a fresh produce market, a children’s playground, an outdoor library, a sculpture garden, cafes and bars, a vegetable garden, an outdoor co-working space, and, perhaps, a digital fabrication lab.
Architect: Diller Scofidio + Renfro, Gustafson Bowman + Porter and B720 Fermín Vázquez Arquitectos
Location: Madrid, Spain
courtesy of DESIGN TEAM
Diller Scofidio + Renfro, Gustafson Bowman + Porter and B720 Fermín Vázquez Arquitectos
Local Landscape Architect: Citerea S.L.
Structural Engineer: Valladares
Sustainability: Societat Organica
Quantity Surveyor: Dinmas
MEP: Hoare LEA, FSL
Space Modeling: Space Syntax