Madrid park awarded prestigious Harvard prize for best urban design

Madrid Río park is the recipient of this year's prestigious Veronica Rudge Green Prize in Urban Design by Harvard University.

Madrid park awarded prestigious Harvard prize for best urban design
Madrid Río park. Photo: La Citta Vita / Wikimedia Commons.

Harvard's Graduate School of Design announced the award on Monday, with members of the prize jury calling it the embodiment of “the optimistic idea that design can be a transformative force”. 

“The decision to award Madrid Río the Green Prize in Urban Design was motivated by the jury’s desire to highlight the potential for thoughtfully planned and carefully executed mobility infrastructures to transform a city and its region,” wrote jury chair Rahul Mehrotra, Professor of Urban Design and Planning at Harvard's Graduate School of Design.

“The extent to which the project harnesses the deployment of new infrastructures as an opportunity to repair and regenerate the city through carefully articulated design interventions is particularly valuable within the context of contemporary urbanization globally.”

The Veronica Rudge award is given out biennially to projects around the world that make a “positive contribution to the public realm of a city” and that improve “the quality of urban life in that context,” according to the award's website.

Madrid's Río park project was first launched in 2005 to revive an area along the Manzanares River that had been largely neglected, formerly made up of tunnels dug to bury an old highway, the M-30.

Now it has been transformed into green space with sports areas, biking paths, gardens and even an “urban beach”.

The project also brought back to life historic dams and bridges.

“With these new river crossings and the incorporation of existing historic features into the new park plan, Madrid Río has strengthened surrounding neighborhoods’ connection to the new amenities and to each other,” the graduate school wrote in its announcement.

The park was opened to the public in 2011 and was fully completed earlier this year.
The $50,000 (€46,500) prize money will be split among the project's four main architect groups in Madrid and Rotterdam. 

Previous winners of the Veronica Rudge award include the Metro do Porto transit project in Portugal and the Northeastern Urban Integration Project in Medellín, Colombia, both in 2013.

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Senator slams circus use of endangered elephants

A Catalan senator has claimed that Spanish circuses are breaking international laws by using endangered Asian elephants that were captured in the wild.

Senator slams circus use of endangered elephants
The commercial use of endangered species is banned under the CITES convention. Photo: Louis Engival/Flickr

Jordi Guillot, a senator for the Catalan Green Socialist party and member of the Parliamentary Association for the Protection of Animals, has slammed Spanish circuses for their use of thirteen endangered Asian elephants.

Europa Press revealed on Friday that the politician had filed an official parliamentary question calling on the government to put an end to the big top employment of the protected pachyderms, listed as a critically-endangered species in Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

According to InfoCircus, a platform created by animal welfare NGOs including the Born Free Foundation, the elephants were born in the wild and as a result are not allowed to be used commercially.

Asian elephants, which can be told from African elephants by their comparatively smaller ears, have declined in number by at least 50% over the last three generations.

Guillot noted that the European Commission had confirmed circuses as a specific example of the type of "commercial use" prohibited under CITES, which is fully ratified in the EU, in response to a written question from an MEP.

In his question to parliament he argued: "If the Commission interprets the Convention in this way, member states should apply it."

He added that the use of Asian elephants should also be prohibited in advertising and requested clarification from the Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness on what they defined as "commercial use".

He also asked why Spain does not forbid the use of Asian elephants in circuses when the European Commission does.