It would be necessary to change sites of
ministries, clear out spaces to commemorate historic events, - Plaza del
Dos de Mayo - in order to push Madrid into the future, - Plaza of
Europa - to transfer the remains of illustrious Spaniards to the
National Pantheon, to change names of streets - Numancia, Sagunto,
Covadonga, Padilla, Bravo, Maldonado - to evoke persons and pages in the
history of the nation.
None of this had been done by the
Austrian-Hapsburgs in the 16th and 17th centuries nor by the Bourbons later on,
- those two, what dynasties we have had! - for,
given their special character, they took no thought at all of conveniences nor
the ornament of the city. It is not understood that their neglect should blind
them to what they saw daily before their eyes. It was all left to be done by the
To the grandeur of transformation of the
interior of the city corresponds the faultless critique for expanding the outer
areas. Fernández de los Ríos approves in no way of Castro's plan,
an arbitrary checkerboard that would put a corset around the growth of the city.
The outer limits, with small modifications,
would be all that would remain, except that they would transform the fosse into
an avenue that would ensure rapid circular communication.
Having discarded the checkerboarding plan,
and Castro's proposals abandoned as costly and unworkable, the only thing left
for City Hall and government to do is "to give human
life to the expanded zones, bringing important offices to the extreme ends of
Which would require them to proceed with all
urgency to the razing of clay-walls that isolated the old inner part of the city
from the neighborhoods grown-up outside the walls, and to open great routes of
communications to connect the inner areas with the outer by means of rail,
omnibus and low-cost carriage.
Thus, the private construction will be
promoted and the private interests will bring merchants and industrialists to
establish their warehouses and factories there.
Like the good progressive that he was, Fernández
de los Ríos had no doubt that there would be an abundance of buyers, once
City Hall and the government would set up communications, and revitalize and
make that zone suitably decent.
The revolution had not been based on
projects for great, straight-lined streets, nor for the opening up of great
rectangular or circular squares, such as that proposed of Plaza de la
Independencia, patterned on a lesser scale after the l'Etoile de Paris; the new
order of the revolution would not be limited to building on the old lines of the
city or extending over the new lines of the expanded areas the rationality of
right-angles or circles.
It would be necessary to endow the city with
all that would contribute to progress, welfare and harmony among its
To those well-ordered streets and plazas
belonged a society that would provide day-nurseries for children of mothers
obliged to work.
But also to provide shelters for the poor,
orphanages, establishments to benefit the halt, the blind and the mentally
deranged, hospitals for the diseased, prisons that might be transformed into
agricultural colonies where prisoners would work in the open air, schools for
children, centers for adult learning, inexpensive bath-houses for public
hygiene, and cemeteries to receive the dead.
And logically, those institutions which
constitute the pride of all modern capitals. A Stock Exchange, a National
Library, a central Market-place,...
Sum and substance of this vision of the new
structuring and new social order of the city is the proposal to create cheap
housing for decent working people.
Nothing judgmental in this, but rather a
very coherent expression of revolutionary thought, in proposing the segmentation
of spaces in the city by social classes, the dream of all progressive urbanism,
from now and into the '30's decade of the 20th century.
Useless is it to seek improvement of the
worker's dwelling if all that is offered is to exchange his garret in the old
quarters of the city for a garret in the expanded areas, as they were doing in
order to use even the least habitable spaces. For every
worker's family a home and a garden!
This thinking, a precursor to that of Arturo
Soria, would be the basis of the creation of cooperative and savings societies
with the aim that worthy workmen could dispose of sufficient money to pay for a
house in one of the scheduled colonies.
And not by chance, these will be constructed
outside and far from the old city, on the edges of great routes of
communication, and situated radially from the center of the city.
Four labor neighborhoods, of more than a
hundred houses each one, should grow, - if the revolution reached its
objectives - behind the San Bernardino's convent, Puerta de Toledo, Paseo
de las Delicias and in Las Ventas.
And surrounding it all, at least ten million
trees would give the areas adjacent to Madrid an appearance, again, similar to
those around Paris.
Madrid, well-ordered and dynamic in its
interior, prosperous and spacious in its expanded areas, socially segmented,
surrounded by verdure at its circumference and with good communications in outer
areas. Such was the urban utopia of the revolutionaries
Not many years after Fernández de los
Ríos was shaping his plans, visitors who arrived from abroad, found on
approaching Madrid, - as Lucas Mallada writes in l890 - neither
great shops nor great factories.
Nor did they find neatly laid-out villages,
nor lovely country houses laden with flowers, nor groves of trees, steams,
islands and waterfalls, nor parks, pools and woods like those that embellished
outskirts of many foreign cities. And once they had entered the city, the
panorama was no more exciting.
Madrid kept, in the 1880's and 1890's, that
air of being a town, a city enclosed within itself, the countryside penetrating
to its viscera by streets where milking she-donkeys and goats pastured in little
plazas, such places symbolic in rustic meadows of the Nation itself.
Water-carriers still climbed to high floors
of houses and in the Puerta del Sol a motley crew of people kept up a permanent
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