Burgos is a midsized Spanish city in the northern region of Castile y León, historically known as the ‘land of castles.’ Still today the region has many historical buildings lending to its character and making it an attractive place to live and visit. Relative to the rest of Spain, Burgos experiences cooler temperatures both in the summer and winter due to its distance from the coast and its elevation of 850m.
Historically Burgos was located on a major trade route, which later became part of the pilgrimage route ‘El Camino de Santiago de Compostela’. Today tens of thousands set out along this walk every year. The legacy continues as Spain is investing in a new high-speed train network connecting northern and central Spain. Burgos is expecting to benefit from its location as a major stop between Bilbao and Madrid. Once in operation, Burgos will be 90 minutes from Madrid and one hour from Bilbao, which is comparable to the average commuting times in many major cities.
Master Plan and Boulevard
The design for a new Boulevard in Burgos is integral to the Master Plan by Herzog & de Meuron designed in 2004-2006 which was implemented into the Urban Development Plan for Burgos in 2007. The commission to develop the city’s Master Plan was a consequence of the arrival of the AVE high-speed train in Burgos. Because the new tracks are located along the periphery of the current urbanized area, the land of the former rail tracks became available for a new Boulevard and associated development.
A New Public Artery, a New Landscape
What had previously been an unbridgeable wound in the body of the city — the tracks — will become a new central spine. The Boulevard, approximately 11km long, crosses the entire city as a public axis running from east-to-west. The new street adapts to the topography and other specific local conditions of the existing city fabric by changing in width and speed. It will restore adjacent neighbourhoods along the way and connect them from north-to-south. The Boulevard will be the third key linear element of the city, together with the Arlanzón River and the Camino de Santiago.
Beyond offering vital new transport connections, the Boulevard is a continuous new landscape through the city. The proposal by landscape architect Michel Desvigne was extended beyond the immediate area of the old railway tracks in order to encompass a broader area and tie into the surroundings. The design operates on two levels: the classical urban scale of the public space such as paths, sidewalks, squares and gardens; as well as the larger territorial scale of meadows and woodlands where large numbers of trees are planted to create parks.
The species of trees are selected to give consistency to the dense woodlands planted throughout the Boulevard. They are species native to Burgos such as pine, oak, ash, beech, sessile Oak, willow and juniper. The trees are planted following three different sized grids: the largest is a regular 5.0 m grid, the medium is a 2.5 m grid and the smallest is an irregular 0.5 m distribution.
The Boulevard incorporates low-speed traffic (cyclists and pedestrians), private vehicular traffic as well as new public transportation services. It is designed to accommodate a low-emission, energy-efficient tram system — potentially powered by renewable energy sources. Before the tram will hopefully be implemented, a bus uses the lane reserved for public transportation.
Materials and Urban furniture
Instead of inventing a fashionable architectural language for the Boulevard’s materials and furnishings, we chose to engage with the city’s historical character. Applying more or less known materials in an unusual and generous way we developed a new language out of an existing palette. The sidewalks are wide wherever space allows for it and are enveloped in substantial landscaping, both in ground cover and large clusters of trees. The sidewalks are made of basic poured asphalt with exposed local limestone aggregate to tie in with the surrounding landscape. The wooden benches have a traditional form but surprise by being either very long or circular, or both, in order to promote social encounters. Reminiscent of older times, the lighting is a network of lamps designed by Herzog & de Meuron that are suspended from wires, adding a festive quality throughout the length of the Boulevard. The same wires will be used to eventually deliver power to the future tram.
Instead of designing a completely new bus shelter ourselves, we were inspired by the work of Ursula Schulz-Dornburg called “The Architectures of Waiting”. It is a series of photographs that the artist took in 1997 of bus-stops in Armenia and Saudi Arabia. We have appropriated some of these bus-stops in polished concrete and galvanized steel. Instead of being simply functional shelters, the beauty of these small structures is how they relate to the human body, and that they are sculptural and somewhat poetic social gathering places.
The first phase of the Boulevard around the Estación del AVE (0.6 km) was opened in 2008 and the following phases have been completed in 2011 and 2012. With six kilometres of the Bulevar completed, it now connects the area of the Antigua Estación across the old town and the river Arlanzón to the very populated recent parts of town (Gamonal), and can fulfil the principal role of a new east-west artery in town.
Herzog & de Meuron, 2012