Equity, Access, and Resilience in Puente de Vallecas

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Collective mapping in Puente de Vallecas (Source: Paisaje Transversal)

Puente de Vallecas, located to the southeast of the city center, is one of Madrid’s most populated districts. It is also one of the most vulnerable in terms of its economics, rate of inequality, and internal social dynamics. In 2016, we conducted diagnostics of the district to determine which neighborhoods and communities are most vulnerable, what needs are not being met, and what steps can be taken to improve quality of life. We begin diagnostics with a demographic study of each neighborhood, factoring in population density, education levels, age distribution, immigrant population, and income. This information gives us a better sense of wealth disparities and incidence of economic need.

Puente de Vallecas has the second lowest GDP in Madrid, and its unemployment rate is double the city-wide average. We then take inventory of the urban landscape, identifying public space and green areas. Local economic activity, transportation, access to social services, and quality of housing are also taken into account.  

In Puente de Vallecas, statistical analysis revealed that the neighborhoods San Diego and Numancia are especially vulnerable due to their density and inadequate resources. In San Diego, immigrants make up a quarter of the population, which grew exponentially right before Spain’s economic crisis. Numancia´s demographics tell a similar story. For immigrant communities, the challenges of place-making in Madrid have been intensified by the lack of educational and employment opportunities post-crisis.

Participatory event – Citizen workshop (Source: Paisaje Transversal)

In Puente de Vallecas, we facilitated multiple participatory initiatives including collective mapping events and both in-person and digital surveys. Residents contributed narrative insight into local geography and everyday issues that could not  be understood from quantitative data alone. Some recurring concerns across the district are  the deteriorated housing, social dynamics between neighbors, and lacking indoor and outdoor public spaces.

In recent years, several historical buildings and cultural spaces have been left vacant. With proper resources, these sites could be recuperated and reclaimed for public use. Improving the urban environments we inhabit can have profound impact on everyday well being and relationships.

Participatory events can allow stakeholders to find common ground. Throughout our process, we emphasize collectivity instead of competition, with the belief that urban life is inherently communal. In a city, our experiences, challenges, and resources  are interconnected—the way we approach urban problem solving must reflect this idea.

Participatory activities – collective mapping in Puente de Vallecas (source: Paisaje Transversal)

Our diagnostics of Puente de Vallecas identify the district’s social, environmental, and economic vulnerabilities, and allow us to forge a plan of action. Similar strategies as the ones implemented in Virgen de Begoña could be applied in San Diego and Numancia:

Reduce Social Inequalities

  • Housing
  • Public space
  • Economic opportunity
  • Social cohesion and services

Support Cultural Identity and Innovation

  • Dynamize economic opportunities
  • Heritage as a civic resource
  • Unify historical narratives

Improve Environmental Conditions

  • Create green infrastructure
  • Energy efficiency
  • Mobility and connectivity

With these objectives in mind, Paisaje Transversal focused in on a main boulevard Bulevar de Peña Gorbea and adjacent Plaza Vieja as the site for a pedestrian-centric walkway. Making this central public space accessible and community-oriented would address many of the local needs. It would generate economic activity, encourage greater social cohesion between residents, and minimize car traffic and pollution in the area.

Active public spaces are vital to the overall well-being of residents as they foster strong community ties and long-term resiliency. In Puente de Vallecas, we see the potential of energized public spaces to transform the quality of everyday life.

Results cartography – Reducing urban inequality (Source: Paisaje Transversal)

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