There were rumors, but it is already official. The private company Renazca , which leads the rehabilitation of the Madrid financial center Azca, has revealed the winners of the contest called for the design of the project. It is a proposal presented by the architecture studio Diller Scofidio + Renfro, based in New York, together with the British landscape architects Gustafson Porter + Bowman and the Spanish partner b720 Fermín Vázquez Arquitectos.
The communication was made in an event broadcast this afternoon via streaming, in which representatives of the winning team have participated, as well as Miguel Hernández, general director of Renazca, and the coordinators of the contest, Martha Thorne, dean of IE School of Architecture and Design and Edgar González, director of the degree in Design at IE University .
The central idea of the project consists of deploying a landscaped area –defined as a “large green meadow” or an “urban carpet” – in the Azca superblock, thus breaking with the tendency to turn Madrid squares into hard asphalt esplanades . The carpet will consist of a large central garden and fifteen microparks between the buildings.
“This project will turn the Azca area into a more connected, open and accessible space under the umbrella of sustainability, creating an urban ecosystem of great biodiversity”, reads the definition provided by Renazca.
According to reports, the park will include native plant species. At the same time, the staircase system for transit between level changes will be eliminated, with a new route more accessible for all types of pedestrians.
Up to this point, the premises would not differ much from the proposal with which the architect Gonzalo Pardo already obtained in 2006 one of the four second prize in the competition called by the Madrid city council and which was never executed.
Pardo also entered the contest organized by Renazca, although it did not reach the finalists phase, where, in addition to the winning team, the Heatherwick, MVRDV, OMA and West 8 studios were.. However, the proposal chosen by Renazca adds an interesting and novel element to this area of Madrid, and it is the relevance that water acquires.
A rainwater catchment system has been planned for the new Azca to supply both the park’s irrigation system and a system of fountains, some of which may be emptied to expand the space dedicated to events.
The images seen in the presentation presented an environment with aquatic profusion, as well as grass, trees, flowers, pergolas and pavilions for various uses. Another strong point consists of a permanent shade system for the hottest months of the year, which at the same time provides natural light during the coldest months. On road traffic, the architect Elizabeth Diller declared: “We cannot make cars disappear, but we can make their presence more friendly.”
In general, the pedestrian regains a lost role in the Diller + Scofidio project compared to cars, since it is intended that the space for public use is capable of attracting between 200 and 10,000 people in the outdoor activities that are programmed there .
Therefore, it has been sought to provide the space with a content that goes beyond strict urban design: in this sense, we cite “a fresh produce market, a children’s playground, an open-air library, a sculpture garden, cafes and bars, a greenhouse, an open-air co-working area and a Fab lab ”(space for the production of material objects using digitally controlled technology).
The Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS + R) studio was founded in New York 1981, and its main partners are Elizabeth Diller, Ricardo Scofidio, Charles Renfro and Benjamin Gilmartin. His focus on cultural and civic projects and his concern for the future of cities are often highlighted.
But, as a cover letter, it is certainly difficult to beat his intervention on the High Line in Manhattan, which turned disused railways into a park, increasing property prices throughout its length and contributing decisively to the revitalization of the Meatpacking District , which, as expected from Azca, changed the label of an area in decline for that of a fashionable neighborhood in a sudden way.
The case is repeatedly cited as a successful urban intervention, so from the beginning it could be sensed that the New York studio was the favorite in the fray. With some variations, the model has since been replicated in other North American cities, and the same firm moved it to Moscow with the Zaryadye Park, which was reforming a former commercial site.
The multidisciplinary team is completed by the landscape studio Gustafson Porter + Bowman, which is currently developing its ambitious project for the surroundings of the Eiffel Tower in Paris. In addition to undertaking recent large-scale works in Milan or Singapore, in our country the urban park was awarded for the ambitious Valencia Parque Central performance.
The bidding rules for Azca established the need to also incorporate a Spanish “quota”, which in this case is carried out by the b720 Arquitectos studio, founded by the Madrid architect Fermín Vázquez, who among other projects signed the Mercat dels Encants de Barcelona and the VP Plaza de España hotel in Madrid.
This requirement has not prevented criticism in the form of open letters and comments.on social networks from some voices in the architecture sector in our country, given the perception that international flashy names had been prioritized.
Faced with ICON Design’s question in this regard, Martha Thorne has declared: “I must confess my confusion with this, because I have not been able to understand if it was a criticism of the process, or against foreigners, because I am a foreigner and I have been in Spain.
I hope it is re-judged based on facts, not on hearsay. No one has been favored, it has been a transparent, clear and open contest ”. Fermín Vázquez supported this idea: “The important thing is not the architects, but the projects. As far as I’m concerned, it has been one of the best organized competitions I have ever participated in. And, avoiding chauvinistic traits,
Renazca is a private company founded by companies that own some of the buildings located in Azca. Among its partners, the Merlin real estate agency stands out, which also participates in the not too distant –although larger- urban project Distrito Castellana Norte .
Miguel Hernández, director of Renazca, is also Director of Strategy at DCN, which affects the relationship between both projects. Possibly the best news in this whole case will come if economic activity in the capital of our country reaches such a strength that it allows the subsistence of two large business centers. But there is still time for that.