The City That Never Was

In the twenty years after its accession to the European Union in 1986, Spain underwent unprecedented physical development that radically reshaped its major cities and metropolitan areas. From new housing to commercial and cultural facilities to infrastructure, Spain experienced a building boom of such remarkable proportions that by 2005 20% of the country’s GDP was attributable to construction-related activities. A year later, The New York Times celebrated Spain as “one of the great architectural success stories in modern history” in reviewing the Museum of Modern Art’s exhibition On Site: New Architecture in Spain.

Today, as Spain teeters on the brink of bankruptcy with rising deficits and unemployment, the country is littered with unfinished, partially completed, or abandoned developments. In Madrid, where the situation is at its most severe, over 25% of the urbanized land in and around the city is comprised of these partly vacant or incomplete developments. The City That Never Was, a symposium organized by Christopher Marcinkoski and Javier Arpa, in cooperation with the Architectural League of New York, was held on February 22, 2013, to reflect on Spain’s situation and to share possibilities for how future patterns of urbanization might be conceived, financed, planned, and inhabited.

Videos from that symposium are organized here along the same thematic lines used to organize the event: Utility, Fertility, Entropy, and Agility. These videos offer perspectives on Spain’s situation from a diverse set of architects, designers, planners, and other professionals who contribute to the development of the urban realm.

Also presented below are a series of posts published in the weeks leading up to the symposium: two photo essays offering visual evidence of the devastation left in Spain in the aftermath of the 2008 economic collapse, and an essay by and conversation with Marcinkoski and Arpa.


Originally published: October 29, 2012; updated May 20, 2013