La Cornisa de San Francisco El Grande

Madrid, SPAIN


“San Francisco el Grande” as a part of the “Cornisa” of Madrid is a segment of the connecting/breaking line between the historical centre placed above and it’s following expansion along the river Manzanares. It’s the place where two urban systems are connected as well as two different eras of the city history. Resuming its features in one word, we could tell that the “Cornisa” is a border, at the same time physical and symbolical.
Using the concept of the border as the key for reading the site, we noticed in area two overlapping layers in which this border is operating, that became guide concepts for the project: the historical and topographic border.
The “Cornisa” is made of hi-value buildings, both in the architectural and symbolical field, and represent a clear image of the western frontage of the city. For this reason, the project has to enhance this historical value.
At the same time, the “Cornisa” is a topographic frontage, defined by a steep change of level, coinciding inside the site with the boundary of the “Arzobispado” ownership. This frontage is the edge of a tectonic plate over that is standing the historical center of Madrid, and if it represents a physical barrier to cross the site, it also has the great potential of creating a resting space between the monumental frontage and the front of building placed below, that allows understanding the “Cornisa” as a whole.
Following this analysis we can say that plan proposed by the Madrid council, if in some way intent to fill the lack of public services in the center, at the same time, proposing itself as a urban plan made of a traditional “zoning”, inevitably forgets the complexity of the site, treating it as a ordinary area of the city. In our way of seeing developing a project for the “Cornisa” require a more complex lecture, where the urban and architectural project is intersecting, being able to considerate the features that an urban plan would forget.
We considered the area as an indivisible unity, and we imagined a unique solution that will be able to fit the area complexity and solve the functional program as well as the green open space function.

The project suggestions came directly from this kind of analysis and realize in a simple operation that can be read both in a historical and topographic key.
We have imagined a fracture in the topographic front following the direction of the actual retaining wall, a real fissure between the two plates, as the facade of a quarry that shows the naked stone and the skeleton of the hill. Inside of this fissure, we have collocated most of the functional program making a bent front articulated in different levels along the topographic front.
As well as the closer Palacio Real is connected to the Catedral with an important base, this massive front works as a union element creating a platform in which the complex of the Seminario and the “Basílica de San Francisco en Grande have emerged. Above this space are some different patios with different sizes that come with the rock face making it easier to walk, which also allows us to have entrance and breathing spaces and to provide transversal ventilation to the interior of the buildings.
Another lower face, with different modulation, contains the sports complex, collocated in the ground floor of the Arzobispado making a new base at a higher level and a new urban plaza that replaces the existent. A series of patios, that follows the design of the empty spaces of the surrounding buildings, provide direct light to the interior and to create a visual connection between the square and the building below.
As well as the quarry loses its function and the nature over the years surrounds it again, the green, public or private, covers all the new buildings, so the only visible sign of the intervention would be the bent line in the new front.
A public walking, the connecting element of the whole site, follows the new front, crossing and joining with the existent access routes, making smother the slope and providing the connection between the lower level of the new front and the one of the historic downtown. The vehicular entrances of each building have been situated along the existent streets, without new lanes that could distort and interrupt the green.

Location: Madrid
Date: 2009
Team: with L. Baialardo, N. Lombardi, P. Maselli