The commission, the result of the first prize in a public competition partially financed with European funds, consisted of the remodeling of the surroundings of the Alcázar de San Juan Bullring. The area, of some 20,000m2, was in a lamentable state of conservation: halfway between a bullring and an abandoned park, with numerous dead trees and a danger to the public, with raised pavements, poor lighting...
However, it is a place of certain representativeness: in the center of the space stands the Plaza de Toros, without a singular architectural value beyond its shape and the celebra- tions that take place there, but strongly anchored in the memory and culture of the people. It is also one of the entrances to the municipality, through which almost all alca- zareños often pass. It borders the large Alces Park and a large avenue on one side, with an esplanade and a municipal swimming pool on the other, and with both low and block houses on the other two sides: all very different sides.
Among the starting constraints are the need to use a concrete pavement due to the constant traffic of heavy vehicles to the Bullring and a very unstable and floodable terrain, the rearrangement of traffic and parking spaces, the creation of an inclusive environment and to provide space for possible events in the square, such as meetings or flea markets, giving the space a flexibility hitherto non-existent.
The aim of the project, in fact, was the recovery of this space, almost abandoned, for people: both at a functional level and at an evocative or identity level, able to rearrange the environment with few elements given the tight budget available but proposing a space with a strong recognizable character.
Finding the scale, identity and character of this undefined space was one of the main challenges. To do so, a series of low-resource but high-impact strategies were used.
The first of these would be the creation of a single platform capable of supporting any activity and unifying the whole. The concrete pavement, made with local aggregate and white cement, is deactivated to match the color of the local soil and the roughness of the grain. The coexistence and parking lanes and the central ring are made with gray cement and a different degree of deactivation, providing subtle changes in the pavement without losing its uniformity. Steel platens draw concentric circles around the square and the ring of trees, reducing the scale of the urban platform to the human scale.
Around the Plaza de Toros, a ring of poplars encloses an enclosure whose center is the Plaza itself. This ring is reminiscent of the poplar groves that separate the surrounding farmland, and is a promenade and a place to stay. The alameda, with its curved geometry, provides a lattice to the Plaza de Toros from the city, giving it back dignity, giving it a sense of unity. The Plaza is the center and the origin, but the new monumentality is green. The few living trees are transplanted to the adjoining park or preserved in the new project, while the wood of the dead trees is recycled for wood chip flooring or for the creation of some of the benches in the new square. The new vegetal colonnade becomes, in its dialo- gue with the Plaza de Toros, the icon of the place. This alameda offers more than 200 new trees to those that were there in its best times, but ordered, differentiating it from the adjoining park. A plaza is not a park.
The green colonnade unifies the diverse surroundings and scales the square, enclosing and defining urban rooms with a single gesture of powerful geometry. This magic ring contains everything: a gesture resolves the relationship with the surroundings, with the square, with the park. Also with the weather, when in autumn the leaves dye the place yellow, or in winter, when the square is more visible when it is less visible. The round geometry of the ellipse dialogues with the Plaza de Toros but deforms with the tensions of the city. Its curves unify and integrate the different boundary conditions with a single gesture but one that is alive, that grows, changes color and moves with the winds.
The central ring is not only a visual or functional reference, but also the main infrastruc- ture of the urban space, distributing from there all the main facilities such as rainwater collection, electricity or irrigation, taking advantage of the fact that it is where more vegetation is concentrated.
Satellites around this ring contain islands where everyone can fit: children playing, fathers and mothers talking, elderly people doing gymnastics... These satellites are lands- caped and colored in a dominant color in vegetation, furniture, pavement... creating sma- ller universes for close encounters.
The lampposts have been designed specifically for this project. A ring of light surrounds La Plaza de Toros. Lights on two levels that mark its place in the city, in the near and distant scale and that, in addition, are supports of infinite possibilities. The Plaza de Toros is very low in proportion to the empty space. The colonnade of lampposts acts as a con- temporary lattice that dignifies the Plaza de Toros, offering a larger scale. At night, the beacons atop the poles accentuate the vertical axis of the central monument and create an immaterial ring in the air.
The project is ongoing: the architecture never ends. The leaves of the trees have taken on beautiful and surprising shades. The poplars planted in winter, which looked like just thin trunks, are growing fast, but at the same time slower than we would like for the photos: a lesson, for which we are grateful, of nature in the face of the immediacy of today's culture: a reminder of what is important. In a few months there have been some exhibitions and events (better and worse), and even the Three Wise Men's parade has come out of it. Now the project belongs to time and to the people.