WORLD DESIGN SPOTLIGHT: Valencia’s pedestrian squares
01 Dec 2022 /

WORLD DESIGN SPOTLIGHT: Valencia’s pedestrian squares

Valencia rolled out the “City of Squares” project in 2015, with the aim of transforming urban public space to gain and recover places for residents.

This strategy of the City Council includes actions to create new meeting places in the neighbourhoods and enhance the cityscape, improving community life, environmental quality and the inhabitability of public space.

The aim is to ensure that all the neighbourhoods in the city have these representative public spaces, either through the creation of new squares in unused empty spaces, or via the renovation and improvement of those that already exist.

The new projects are implemented according to design criteria that give priority to universal accessibility, the gender perspective, diversity of uses, the re-naturalization of public space, the impulse of active mobility and the use of sustainability-based solutions.

With all of this, the city has recovered more than 53,000 square metres of public space via the renovation of a total of eighteen squares and their conversion to pedestrian zones.

The three main squares in the historic centre of Valencia, which connect the axis running from the Estación del Norte to the Torres de Serrano, have been converted into a giant space for use by residents and visitors, where passers-by can enjoy the wealth of architectural heritage.

The triangle formed by the building of La Lonja (Silk Exchange), the Central Market and the church of the Saint Johns is of fundamental value in the historic and architectural heritage of the city, as well as possessing great beauty. The intervention in this area is the work of the architects Blanca Peñín and Elisabet Quintana, together with the studio Espinàs i Tarrassó Associats.

The intervention of Quintana and Peñín treats the Plaza del Mercado and that of Ciudad de Brujas as a unitary whole, providing it with activity, character and urban quality, integrating the gender perspective and respect for cultural diversity.

The City Council has invested almost twenty million euros in pedestrianizing these main squares of the city: Brujas, Reina, Lonja and Ayuntamiento. The latter is currently the subject of formalities for its definitive pedestrianization, which is due to begin in 2023.

The other important square that has recently been pedestrianized is that of la Reina, located beside the Cathedral. Work of the architectural studio of José María Tomás, the square is paved with the same limestone as that used for the surrounding monuments. The condition of maintaining the old underground carpark of this square has conditioned its exterior structure with regard to the planting of large trees. The remodelling has resulted in a total of 12,000 square metres of pedestrian space, with the incorporation of a children’s play area, public toilets, 115 trees and 1,378 shrubs. The make-over has been completed with the addition of two fountains, 900 seats and 30 parking spaces for bicycles.

The final large square of this urban conversion project is the Plaza del Ayuntamiento, provisionally pedestrianized since 2020. The definitive project has recently been awarded to the studio of architect Miguel del Rey. The architect has explained that, to prepare the initiative chosen to reform the square, his team considered all the public consultations carried out during the award process. The team is completed by the architects Juan Ignacio Fuster and Antonio Gallud. The project, named Re-natura, contemplates a large tree-lined corridor that will run through the square.

As Deyan Sudjic says in “The language of cities”, “A successful city is an entity that is continually reconfiguring itself, changing its social structure and meaning, even if its contours don’t look very different.” The project to pedestrianize the city’s squares evokes this idea of Sudjic with its firm commitment to creating a space for communal life based on a place “for everyone” with the main aim of “making the city”.

Photos: Visit Valencia.