Friday, August 05, 2011

La Plaza Privatizada

The exaggerated and senseless government campaign to keep the 15-M movement out of the Puerta del Sol reached new heights last night, with riot police baton charging protesters outside the interior ministry in Madrid. Meanwhile the massive police presence, ever present helicopters and frequent closures of the Puerta del Sol to anyone are just causing constant disruption in the centre of Madrid.

Leaving Sol aside for the moment, let's take a look at the new model use of public space which a cash strapped city administration is promoting. The Plaza de Soledad Torres Acosta was subjected a few years ago to one of the least lovely remakes that Gallardón's administration has inflicted during his "hard rock" period. A sea of granite, with deliberately uncomfortable benches. It was done in a huge hurry after a murder in the square highlighted the degradation of the area.

At least the new square provided a play area for kids, and the slightly silly fountain with jets of water shooting out of the stone paving became hugely popular in summer with children and dogs. Not any more. The fountain doesn't seem to have worked at all this summer, and the whole of the centre of the square has been taken over by a privately run terraza. The newly installed police station uses the square as parking for police cars, even though there is a spacious underground car park. They even shifted some of the benches so that more cars could be parked there. As we can see, there is no problem at all as long as Madrid squares are not taken over by people who want to protest.
Anyway, enough about the squares. Let's take a walk around the wider, historic, barrio of Malasaña. Several buildings in the barrio display plaques commemorating famous people who have lived there. Including heroines of the 2 de Mayo uprising against Napoleon's troops, or feminist pioneers like Clara Campoamor.
More recently, there have been some new additions on different buildings around Malasaña - celebrating a different kind of uprising. My favourite combines the stencilled face of Aznar on the lamp post with the message on the wall.

No comments: