Balancing Growth and Sustainability in Arganzuela

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Arganzuela is a district located just a few metro stops south from the city center. It is composed of seven neighborhoods, each with distinct characteristics and demographics. Since its origin, Arganzuela has been home to immigrant communities, and traditional middle class families. A quick commute, expansive park spaces near Atocha and along the Madrid river, and diverse commercial offerings make it a desirable district to live in — and rent prices have started to reflect this.

Today, it is one of Madrid’s wealthier districts yet its population exhibits varying degrees of social and economic vulnerability. There is an apparent discontinuity between older and newer neighborhoods in terms of architecture, walkability, and public space.

Newer does not necessarily mean better. We have found that recent construction in Arganzuela lacks the charm, personality, and community of adjacent, more traditional neighborhoods. However, aging apartment buildings are a concern. The district’s overarching vulnerability is its incohesion. In Arganzuela, there is a need for more connected design and restoration strategies. Additionally, its proximity to Centro, poses an opportunity to integrate the district into the larger fabric of the city in a way that is sustainable and economically supportive of its residents. 

To get a better sense of local demands in Arganzuela, we partnered with the district council to organize three walks though the district along distinct routes. We published information on each tour and offered several meeting points in public spaces, where neighbors could join us to discuss their concerns. These walks were efforts to engage with each neighborhood and its residents at street-level. To reach a larger portion of the population, we also disseminated a digital survey.

As a pedagogical tool, we have created a map-guide that locates and lists all facilities and services across Arganzuela. The map-guide reveals a strong network of local resources, and where local need could be better met. From our diagnostics coupled with public perceptions, we have produced a set of goals to orient Arganzuela towards a more sustainable future:

1. Integrate Arganzuela into Larger Urban Fabric

  • connect district to the city-center
  • creative sector, economic innovation
  • develop tourism potential
  • cohesion between city and neighborhood infrastructure

2. Strengthen Connectivity Between Neighborhoods

  • improve social cohesion in public space
  • strengthen district’s communal identity
  • increase network and reach of public services
  • bike and pedestrian friendly routes
  • support for cultural activities and local businesses

Diagnostics of Arganzuela suggest that the district has opportunities for economic growth, in tourism and the creative sector. However, influx of these industries typically goes hand in hand with neighborhood gentrification. Paisaje Transversal is committed to bottom-up regeneration which supports place-making, not displacement.

While tourism and a booming creative class may be part of Arganzuela’s future, it will be essential to enhance the district’s economy in a way that meets the needs of all citizens. As the goals listed above are put into action, I am curious to see how a participatory approach to urban development can preserve local culture amidst a changing economic landscape.

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