Sunday, January 19, 2014
A Stroll in the City of Poets
Another island of quiet enchantment amid the inhospitable suburbs of Madrid, a development called the City of Poets, but originally known as the Dehesa de la Villa, for a nearby natural reserve whose hills and pines still survive, in bits and pieces, amid the complex (Metro: Antonio Machado). I wonder if any poets live there.
Like Almendrales (see post of December 29th), the key here again is a rupture with conventional city blocks in favor of an urban layout that adapts to the hilly terrain. The blocks and towers form the background to the terraced landscaping, with its retaining walls, courts, full trees and other cared-for vegetation, creating an environment of surprising peace and beauty.
It was designed by the architects Antonio Perpiñá, Luis Iglesias and Carlos de Miguel, with the engineers Ignacio Briones and Ignacio Marzal, and built in phases from 1964 to 1985. Its first phase was published in the magazine Arquitectura in 1969.
I still don't see why this kind of garden layout shouldn't be used more -- with ramps perhaps instead of stairs, as beautiful as they are. The concept is essentially Organicist, the Spanish variation on Brutalism, a style which I think was developed largely to create living environments well-adapted to the Mediterranean climate, open to nature while protected from the harsh summer sun.
Too bad so much grub accumulates on buildings in Spain, all the exterior cables and gas lines, the enclosed balconies, air conditioners, and cheap aluminum windows, the lame globe lighting fixtures, and yes, the graffiti. And yes, the idle cars stuffed everywhere.
I took the pictures mainly to capture the ambiance. It's what really counts, I think. The apartment layouts are well-handled, according to the Madrid College of Architect's Guide to the Architecture of Madrid, although I haven't seen them. (The site plan is from the Guide).
There are a number of higher towers amid the lower blocks.
The towers camouflage the complex from the outside, creating a good defensive barrier.
You really feel, as you enter the curving streets, or move down a shallow flight of stairs and under an open portico to the inner gardens, that you have discovered a special place.
Blocks built later hold their own, too.