The removal or burial of expressways is an international phenomenon, and one of the most impressive recent examples is a project along the Manzanares River in Madrid.
"During the 1970s, the M-30, a ring road constructed along both sides of the river, ripped a crippling gash through the city," Michael Kimmelman writes in The New York Times. "Neighborhoods on both sides of it declined."
But a few years ago, Alberto Ruíz-Gallardón, the city’s populist mayor, "ordered the burying of the M-30," Kimmelman says. And after the decision was made to put the road in tunnels, plans were drawn up for the Madrid Río park, designed by a group of local architects led by Ginés Garrido, in partnership with Adriaan Geuze and his Dutch urban design and landscape firm, West 8.
Kimmelman points out:
They proposed no grand new time-consuming, budget-breaking monuments, but a suite of modest new bridges, along with the renovation of some great historic ones, amid a variety of green spaces. The park was to be generally informal, low-key and practical, in certain respects more American than European, full of playgrounds and ball fields and bike paths.
The Times architecture critic expresses displeasure with an oversize footbridge designed by architect Dominique Perrault. It's "wrapped in an immense, incongruous spiral" of stainless-steel mesh, and it blocks views. But on the whole, the road-tunneling and the park, more than six miles long, are tremendous advances that knit together neighborhoods previously cut off from the city center, Kimmelman says.
What's also inspiring, he says, is that the project is part of "a larger transformation that includes the construction of dozens of new metro and light-rail stations that link far-flung, disconnected and often poor districts on Madrid’s outskirts to downtown."