Project Management: Rio Madrid Project

A block away from where I reside here in Madrid lies the Manzanares River, and ever since I moved into my apartment, I have been fascinated with the sights of the parks and facilities available alongside the river. Everyday on my way to EOI, I never fail to see people young and old walking, jogging, cycling, rollerblading, or skateboarding along the cemented “river banks” of the Rio Manzanares.

When I first arrived in this area, I assumed that the structures built along the river had been around for a long time, but I soon came to learn that it is in fact a relatively new project. That would explain its “new” look and feel, which resonates from its clean walls, bridges, and pathways.

Generally referred to as the Rio Madrid project, it is well known for its transformational plan and costly budget. Through landscaping and planning strategies, the City Council aimed to change the social activities in Madrid by improving the urban integration between the centre, south, and east districts of the city.

(Click here to view a pamphlet of “Madrid Rio”)

The idea of the project was to transform one of the most degraded and neglected zones of the city to become one of the most beautiful, cultural areas with “green” qualities. Its completion was also intended to convert the Manzanares River from an urban barrier into a meeting place for citizens and a connection between neighbourhoods and facilities.

Madrid Rio - Before and After (Source: urbanistdispatch.com) Click on image to view larger version! :)

In relation to our course on Project Management, I decided to take a brief look at this huge makeover project to learn more on how it was planned and delivered.

The planning management of the project was first sub-divided into two phases due to its technical complexity and the high amount of investment required to complete the project. The two phases focused on different objectives which were:

1. Madrid Calle 30 (Phase 1) – to bury the M-30 highway, and

2. Madrid Río (Phase 2) – to treat the area surrounding the river by building parks, playgrounds, infrastructure, and other facilities.

The cost of the project was €3.9 billion for the Calle 30 Project and €485 million for the Madrid Rio Project. Access to the park and river was officially opened to the public on 15 April 2011. The park extended to a total area of ​​1,210,881 meters square, where 33,623 new trees of 47 species, 38 species of shrubs 470,844, and 210,898 meters square of prairie have been planted.

Like all projects, it went through a feasibility phase, planning phase, executing and controlling phase, and a closure phase.

In a project as big as this one, the objectives were met step-by-step through smaller projects that were carried out to focus on specific areas that would be affected. For example, one project would deal with the areas of Casa de Campo and Manzanares districts, while another would execute the project in areas of Palacio-Puerta del Angel districts. The planning of many focused projects such as these under one big project, displays the work breakdown structure (WBS) of the whole project as well as the divergence and convergence of the work paths that would occur in the process.

With regard to the duration of the project, the reform and burial of the M-30 along the Manzanares River was conducted in the 2003 to 2007 term.

In 2005 the Madrid City Council convened an international ideas competition to recover the space that was freed from traffic. A draft was submitted by the West 8 urban design and landscape architecture and M-Rio Arquitectos, which was formed by Burgos & Garrido, Porras & La Casta, Rubio & Álvarez-Sala.

Artistic Bridge at Manzanares River - This photo was taken with my iPhone in October 2011.

After undergoing a period of consultation, the project involving the park was scheduled to begin in late 2008. Through this part of the project, the space where the old road used to be was transformed into a large park that joined El Pardo with the municipality of Getafe. It is also supposed to connect green zones and historic gardens, and recover use of the river. Here, it can be noted that the project shows a typical finish to start dependency from one task to another because the project involving the park could only begin once the project of burying the M-30 was completed.

Some parts of the project also ran parallel to one another, hence the timelines of each parts of the project overlapped on specific years. The general timeline of the project at large shows that the special planning for the park was scheduled to take place from 2007 to 2008, while the project execution was to run from 2008 until 2010. Since it was opened to the public in 2011, it is assumed that the project was completed on time.

Indeed, the project reminds me of the Cheonggyecheon river restoration, which I had the opportunity to visit on several occasions during the course of my brief internship at Seoul, South Korea in 2008.

The large scale of the Rio Madrid Project was an impressive attempt by the Madrid City Council to transform the landscape of the area surrounding the Manzanares River. From my own experience of reading, hearing, and observing the outcomes of the project, several pros and cons can be identified. From the project management perspective, the project was completed on time but the budget was not well planned, and although it had achieved some of the outcomes that were desired, parts of the community were not pleased with the design of the walkway that combined pedestrians with cyclists. Environmentalists had also pointed out the adverse effects that the project had on the ecosystem connected to the river, while some argued that the river was only being used aesthetically as it still remained inaccessible. Nevertheless, according to a few residents living nearby the area, the outcome of the project has greatly reduced noise pollution, beautified the area, and it is obvious that the facilities made available are being put to good use by many people (myself included) that currently reside in Madrid.

Click below to view a video on Madrid Río Project.

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