Polytechnic University of Valencia Congress, 24th ISUF 2017 - City and Territory in the Globalization Age

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Mass housing estates legacy: urban design perspectives
Javier Monclús, Carmen Díez Medina

Last modified: 11-05-2018


In the recent international debate about mass housing estates built during the decades of rapid urban growth after the World War II different approaches coexist. Many studies, including diagnosis about their current state, have been carried out, some of them from a social and economic standpoint; other offer architectural and historical approaches. It has only been in the last years, that urban planning and urban design perspectives have been considered in depth. In the case of Spain, some global visions complement more specific approaches, such as the ones focused on the obsolescence of dwelling typologies and urban forms. In addition to this, there are consolidated teams working on some cities, especially Madrid and Barcelona, which continue developing previous studies started some decades ago.

Our starting point is that Spanish collective housing (polígonos) constitutes a huge legacy which needs accurate diagnosis. Our research has been developed from an urban design perspective, focusing on urban forms and free open spaces. The goal is to add some nuances to some excessively generic interpretations, trying to find ‘indicators’ (such as density, urban integration, diversity…) that allow a suitable evaluation of ‘each’ case, besides a qualitative approach. Although there are common factors that have led to a general loss of urban quality, it is necessary to take into account the specificities of each city, context, transformation processes, etc. In this way, future necessary interventions could provide more appropriate knowledge for the regeneration, recovery or reactivation of these estates. This paper addresses with a comparative perspective some case studies of Spanish polígonos built in Madrid, Barcelona and Zaragoza between 1950 and 1975. Contrasting the original situation at the time of their construction with their current state, the quality of the urban projects (classified in ‘Best’, ‘Good’, ‘Standard’, ‘Poor’) and the resilience or the obsolescence processes has been tested.

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