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
Engaging the possibilities of waste and disorder as potential points of departure for conceptualizing new urban formats.
Considering a more agile urbanism that anticipates the multiplicity of potential outcomes ⎯ including failure ⎯ in conceiving new urban form.
Landscape-driven principles offer opportunities for rethinking and reorganizing how we occupy and create settlements.
How notions of flexibility and synthesis might produce more nimble and resilient settlements capable of negotiating the instability of 21st-century urbanization.
Christopher Marcinkoski and Javier Arpa on why we need to rethink models of urbanization.
A conversation wtih Christopher Marcinkoski, Javier Arpa, and Gregory Wessner about irrational investment and the future of urbanization.
A slideshow of images illustrating the abandoned and incomplete developments of Spain following the 2008 economic collapse.
Announcing the winners of the Architectural League Prize 2017: Support
View lecture videos, read roundtable conversations, and see profiles on each of the eight 2016 Emerging Voices.
Sticks by Hou de Sousa was the winner of Folly 2016. Read an essay on this functional structure by Pasqualina Azzarello, Socrates Director of Public Programs; a roundtable discussion featuring the designers among other participants; and a look at this year’s other notable competition entries.
Announcing the winners of the Architectural League Prize 2016: (im)permanence