Sunday, 8 August 2010

Down To The River

Unlike all other European capitals, Madrid does not sit astride a big river. It does, however, sit beside a little one, the much ignored Río Manzanares. The lack of flowing water was always a downside to Madrid for us, so I was interested to hear the plan by Alberto Ruíz Gallardón, Mayor of Madrid, to bury about 6 kilometres of the M-30 motorway, which had previously formed a fairly impenetrable barrier between the city and the river (you've got to admire 70s and 80s Town Planning, for its sheer stupidity, if nothing else). With the motorway out of the picture, the plan then was to create a linear park along both banks, a beach, a rowing area and some cafés. Existing bridges would be refurbished, one or two of them closed to traffic, and about nine new footbridges would be built.

Recently we heard that much of the park is now open, so we went to have a peep. I have to say the bit we saw (between Principe Pio and Estadio Vicente Calderón) is very impressive. The hard landscaping uses rough-hewn slabs of granite for walls, smooth granite for footpath edges, and something like rough slate setts for the paths themselves. Metal details like fences and lighting are done in stainless steel. These materials will look good for a very long time, and the stone will actually improve with age, unlike the rain-stained concrete that would have inevitably have been used if this project were done in, say, Sheffield. Plants and trees, obviously, need a couple of years to mature, but I'm looking forward to seeing how it develops.

I'm wondering what they can do get more water into the river - it only seems to be about a foot deep at the moment, although staining on the old embankment walls show it can be a couple of metres deep. We saw two pairs of sluice gates - I guess they could use these to trap more water in the central section.

Anyway, a marvellous project, and I'm sure the EU thinks it was money well spent!


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MadridMan said...

Wrote about this very topic only today - when the news came out about all the trees, both new and very very old, had been destroyed (or dying) due to the 6+ years of construction, earth moving, and general yuckiness of the entire river area.

Still, all the dust, destruction, and arbol-euthanasia aside, it's turning out quite nice for the pedestrian. Besides we citizens/residents don't mind paying for the replacement of newly-planted dead trees every 6 months. Do we?

Saludos, MadridMan