The current edition of Architecture Week, organised by the COAM Foundation together with the Madrid City Council, hosted the city Milan as this year’s guest. A discussion panel on Madrid Nuevo Norte and Scali Ferroviari, the large urban regeneration project currently underway in the Lombard capital, took place in the context of the activities organised by this cultural and outreach event. These projects are closely related, in that both intervene in degraded urban areas with railway infrastructures, and apply a sustainable approach in their proposed urban model.
The meeting, held at the head offices of the Official Association of Madrid Architects (COAM, in Spanish), was attended by José Manuel Calvo, the Madrid City Council Delegate for Sustainable Urban Development; José María Ezquiaga, dean of COAM; Pierfrancesco Maran, Urban Planning consultant to the Milan City Council and Paolo Mazzoleni, president of the Association of Milan Architects. The vice-dean of COAM, Carlos Lahoz, moderated the debate with Corinna Morandi, architect and professor at the Polytechnic University at Milan.
During the event, José Manuel Calvo spelt out the keys to the Madrid Nuevo Norte project and detailed some of the key parameters and concepts of this intervention, including its unwavering commitment to public transport and below-market-rate housing. He also highlighted the need to close “the gap void that still exists around Chamartín train station”.
Calvo underscored the broad consensus reached around the project, which he described as “overwhelming”, given that all political parties represented at the City Council, the Regional Government of Madrid, Adif and the Ministry of Public Works of the current government and its predecessor had supported it. He also explained the citizen participation process that took place in Madrid Nuevo Norte, where all interested stakeholders were summoned “either because they live in the area, or because they are interested in this topic, or because they simply wanted to participate”. He mentioned, among others, neighbourhood associations, local groups, professional associations, technical schools and political parties.
The Urban Development delegate stressed that, throughout the public consultation process held on Madrid Nuevo Norte, the City Council “put forward proposals and gathered suggestions, criticisms and modifications that were later integrated into this plan”.
Meanwhile, Milan’s municipal representative expounded on the status of the project that involves seven disused railway lands scattered across the Italian city and stressed the importance of flexibility when designing urban development projects that include an intense citizen participation process. When aggregated, these small- and medium-scale actions generate an ambitious urban regeneration plan at the metropolitan level. Maran stressed that the obsolete railway facilities in this project would be dismantled and any infrastructure useful for the city will continue in operation. He also underlined that green spaces would gain importance in these actions, creating a new park system around Milan. According to the Milanese representative, housing will be complemented with other uses, such as office spaces, logistics and manufacturing centres. Both the recovery of mixed-uses and the prominent role of green spaces areas fall within the latest international urban development trends, also present in the Madrid Nuevo Norte design.
The discussion panel organised by COAM Foundation addressed the similarities and differences between Madrid Nuevo Norte and Scali Railroad, the project that will transform seven obsolete railway infrastructures in Milan.
The dean of COAM compared several regeneration projects being developed internationally in recent years in cities such as Paris, London, Berlin, Frankfurt and New York, which focus on the transformation of transport infrastructures. Ezquiaga said, “large urban operations at a territorial scale, far from being the exception, have become commonplace” at a global scale in developed countries. According to the dean, all the projects selected share a common denominator, the recycled spaces “have the dual condition of being places that need to be transformed and, at the same time, have enormous potential”. In these spaces, “the environmental dimension plays a critical role,” added Ezquiaga, who also stressed that most of these interventions are articulated through public-private partnerships.
Finally, the president of the Association of Milan Architects, Paolo Mazzoleni, acknowledged that there are significant similarities between the Milanese and Madrid projects, which he believes have been tackled with “a large measure of sincerity, passion and public interest,”. He also highlighted the differences between the urban development management models and processes applied by both cities. José Manuel Calvo underlined the commitment to sustainable mobility, citizen participation process and broad consensus achieved in Madrid Nuevo Norte.