In the two decades following its accession to the European Union in 1986, Spain underwent an unprecedented transformation. This growth was largely driven by construction-related activities, which in 2005 represented 20% of Spain’s GDP. Between 1995 and 2007 alone about 6 million dwellings were built, housing prices tripled, and mortgage lending multiplied eleven-fold.
Today, the Madrid region is littered by a multitude of urban fragments at different stages of completion, including housing areas still under construction, unfinished or abandoned residential developments; incomplete cultural facilities; and underused infrastructures. This constellation of urbanized pieces is conveniently connected by an over-scaled network of freeways and toll highways whose own construction required significant public sector involvement.
But this crisis is neither the first nor the last speculative bubble to burst in history. Yet contemporary urban design rarely takes this instability into account. As a consequence, we have recently witnessed the proliferation of incomplete settlements in the Sunbelt region of the United States, Ireland, Iceland, Angola, the Middle East and China. This phenomenon should be regarded as a fundamental disciplinary challenge facing 21st century urban design.
Javier Arpa Research - Education Coordinator at The Why Factory, TU Delft, and Adjunct Assistant Professor at Columbia University GSAPP
Javier Arpa is an architecture and design author, curator, researcher and lecturer. Having completed a Master of Science in Architecture at the Delft University of Technology, Javier specializes in the dissemination of architectural and urbanism practice. Javier is the Research and Education Coordinator of The Why Factory, a global think-tank and research institute, run by MVRDV and Delft University of Technology, and led by professor Winy Maas. He is the curator of the exhibitions Paris Habitat and Paysages Habités, held in 2015 at the Pavillon de l’Arsenal in Paris, and the author of the monograph Paris Habitat: One Hundred Years of City, One Hundred Years of Life. Javier was Senior Editor for a+t research group, one of Europe’s leading publishers in architecture and urbanism. Javier has taught at Harvard University, University of Pennsylvania, Columbia University, ENSA Versailles and ENSA Belleville. In 2013, he co-organized the conference The City That Never Was in cooperation with the Architectural League of New York. This event used the current economic and urban crisis in Spain as a lens through which to consider future global patterns of urbanization and settlement. He worked for a number of architecture firms in Argentina, The Netherlands, Spain and France, and led several urban planning projects in China. As a consultant, he currently provides independent advice to the different stakeholders involved in the development of a variety of urban design projects in France.