The Royal Society of Ulster Architects (RSUA) organised a study trip to Madrid from 17 – 20 June 2022. The destination was chosen by serving RSUA President Donal MacRandal with the intention of exploring what Belfast could learn from Spain’s capital in relation to attracting people to live, study and work in the city and how tourism and investment can be boosted through outstanding architecture.
The study trip was kindly curated by Ciaran Brown (Si-tu Architects) with support from RSUA staff. Ciaran lived and worked in Madrid before moving back to London and then eventually to Belfast. The RSUA is extremely grateful for the time and effort taken to organise the itinerary which took a detailed look at the issues facing most major cities: building re-use and conservation, offering accessible municipal facilities, improving the public realm and housing design and supply.
The trip started with a visit to the Colegio Oficial de Arquitectos de Madrid (COAM), a building which includes Madrid’s registration board and membership body for architects as well as School of Architecture and a range of other facilities for the community such as a gym and swimming pool and library.
The group heard from award-winning architect Ignacio Borrego on his design philosophy and a breakdown of some of his projects before enjoying a talk and tour from the architect of the COAM building, Gonzalo Moure.
On Saturday the group was joined by Ana Tovar from Burgos Garrido for a walking tour of Madrid Rio. The practice was part of a group of architects commissioned by the City Council to design a project which moved the M30 bypass by the banks of the river Manzanares underground and establish a new recreational and cultural parkland in its place.
The group then visited El Matadero. A former slaughterhouse which has been transformed into a cultural centre, housing theatre spaces, cafes, a design centre and music and film venues. Saturday’s activities were wrapped up with a visit to the José Hierro Public Library designed by estudio Herrero.
On Sunday guests were encouraged to make their own way around the city and design their own itinerary. Many chose to visit Madrid’s largest flea market El Rastro, and took the opportunity to experience the famous Retiro Park, another remarkable green space in the heart of the city. Other popular destinations were Atocha Train Station and the 11M memorial, the Museo Nacional del Prado and Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía and, of course, Herzog & De Meuron’s Caixa Forum which appears to levitate above the ground and features the famous ‘vertical garden’.
Finally, Monday morning included a trip to the south of the city to the Carabanchel area. This district has been a particular area of focus in relation to social housing and there are some truly unique projects to see. The RSUA is grateful to local architect Daniel Siminovich for his guidance and perspective on what the city has done well and not so well in relation to the design of public housing.
Starting back on the return trip, the group had more of an opportunity to appreciate the new terminal four at Madrid’s Barajas airport, designed by Richard Rogers, before boarding the flight home.
Madrid Bajaras Terminal Four by Estudio Lamela & Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners
Lessons learned from the Madrid Study Trip
The RSUA will be organising a de-briefing event with all attendees of the trip invited to share their experiences and learnings from the visit. This will be collated and published as the ‘Madrid Manifesto’ later in 2022.