"Celebration of Cities" Urban Proposal

International competition | Second prize

Salamanca. Spain | 2004

UIA. International Union of Architects

Height above sea level of the Tormes River + 722.0: height of the river when it goes through Salamanca or starting point for the urban proposal for the planning of the river banks. The Salamanca skyline reflecting on the Tormes River is almost as recognizable as its majestic cathedral. History has allowed city and river to live necessarily united in such a way that preserving the natural beauty of its bank is as important as protecting and preserving its monuments without hindering their growth: the city and its geographical setting are an inseparable whole. 

Starting from this positive protection assumption, the project is based on an analysis of the existing urban fabric and on identifying its most significant elements. It is organized in four strips that run parallel to the river: the fluvial park, which follows the banks up to the Roman Bridge; the cultural-non-residential section, where the largest buildings and public services are located; the park and the residential area. As one moves away from the river toward the consolidated city, density increases progressively. The arrangement of the four strips that run parallel to the riverbed provides a layering which generates an organic frieze of architectonic detail, treated as base for dialogue with the image of the old city.  

The project explores the notion of urban form as an open structure, variable and adaptable to the changing needs of the generic city, but at the same time precise in its lay-out and spatial arrangement. To do so it avoids certain approaches of static and perceptive concepts of urban planning, which produce common venues of straight streets, impersonal blocks and public spaces, hard roadways and uncomfortable traffic circles. 

The decision to use a structure on which certain basic elements are handled makes for a strategy of a variable and sufficiently flexible project that can adapt to the idiosyncrasies of the city. The most repeated element of the structure is the cloister. Multiple repetitive empty spaces perfectly defined by organic or architectural material: openings in the city that accommodate various uses, offering an up-to-date reinterpretation of the most unique places in historic Salamanca.

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