Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Hasta Luego

I've written a few times, perhaps lovingly, about a place called Valencia, Spain. I grew fascinated and then fond of it via numerous (too many) hours spent on google earth. Via GE, I've been able to travel to countless cities around the world without ever having to leave Dallas. But I haven't spent more time (virtually) anywhere else than Valencia. And while the internet allows me to visit any city in the world on a daily basis to satisfy a curiosity or study various forms and places, there really is no substitution for the real thing.

Well, this week I'm headed there. First, there will be a brief stop in Barcelona for a few days (where I've never been) and then we'll be AVEing (cuz Spain has some new fangled thing called hi-speed rail) down to Valencia for the next five to six days. Then it is back to Madrid for a day and half before returning to Dallas. I've been to Spain before, but only the Costa del Sol and Madrid for spring break whilst a student living in Rome.

Thanks to the good people representing the government of Valencia here in Dallas who have set me up with plenty of information and some contact info for local architecture and design firms to meet with. I'll be looking to pick their brain about the evolution of the city, particularly with regard the finance/real estate driven growth and subsequent crash. What effect has it had on the overall economy (aside from the 22% unemployment), urban form, and overall resilience of the place.

I'm fascinated particularly by the suburbs of Valencia, which I've written extensively about. I'm also intrigued by the aforementioned new development in and around these suburban areas, which by many American metrics appears to be of a high quality of development, but without any demand to support it. It was strictly supply-side and the resultant images appear similarly generic and soulless, as opposed to the rest of the cities (or suburban cores for that matter).

It's possible I could post from over there, but I can think of anywhere between 400 and ten million things I'd rather be doing than on a computer. Somewhere in the top 10 is sipping Sangria on the Mediterranean (OK gargling).

I made this post about three years ago now, and it turns out that I'll actually be staying in the hotel on the sleepy side street plaza where this picture was taken:

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The following is a truly massive development at the northernmost bleeding edge of Madrid. To give you some sense of the scope and scale of this development, all of which is newly completed, under construction, or mothballed (cuz like, yeah duh), imagine if everything between 30 on the south and Turtle Creek to the north, Trinity River on the west to Greenville Avenue to the east was completely redeveloped.

Yeah. That is how big this construction site is. I'm not saying that's a good thing, in fact just the opposite, because it was completely fueled by financial shenanigans creating value where there was none and delivering far too much product for the market to absorb. It may turn out to be a great neighborhood some day, but its generic, often arbitrary 2-dimensional shapes from the air often translate to rather soulless experience on the ground:


Blah. But who knows. All it takes is the 30,000 more people to fill up all the residential development then maybe a soul will emerge. It remains to be seen.


On the other hand, is the Valencian suburb of Torrent, which I profiled in this post. For being barely more than 1 mile square, Torrent manages to fit 70,000 people into the small satellite city, all within walking distance of a train station bringing you into Valencia. The most important part however (as detailed in the above link) is that there is a full range of housing types, transitioning in density from the core (around the train stops) out to the agricultural fringe. You can live in a dense apartment dwelling or a single family home. As I often state, choice in housing and transportation is a critical component to a healthy city.

What I hadn't realized when writing about Torrent in the past was the "Victory" scaled/style development that has sprung up in the past three years.



You'll be happy to know that I just bought a brand new camera for this trip (and all others), so when I return I'll have full reports of the places I visit with hundreds and hundreds of photos, so no more cloudy, pixellated iphone camera pics.