Under The Volcano Cuenca, Cuenca

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  • City of Cuenca (Spain)


  • Gijs Wolfs
  • Martin Fürstenberg
  • Alex MacGregor (Team Leader)
  • Donovan Rypkema
  • Brigitte Schmelzer
  • Hein Struben
  • Óscar Serrano Gil
  • Lawrence Fabian
  • Cinthya Uribe Sandoval (UPAT programme manager)
  • Pablo Vaggione (Secretary General)
  • Ismael Fernández Mejía (Vice President)



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At the invitation of ISOCARP (the International Society of City and Regional Planners), Gijs Wolfs took part in an Urban Planning Advisory Team for the Spanish city of Cuenca. An intriguing phenomenon is about to take place there. This small city of 50,000 inhabitants, with a historic centre that was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1996, will soon be thrust into the fast lane by the construction of a station on the high speed rail link between Madrid and Valencia. The city’s population is expected to double within 20 years…

An international multidisciplinary team (see credits) spent a week working on the following questions:

– How do you conserve the city’s cultural heritage in a time of dynamic and vibrant economic growth?

– Which public transport systems can be used to link the new railway station with the Casco Antiguo?

– Can the expansion of the city be shaped in a sustainable pattern of urban development?

– Which strategy should be adopted for developing the existing railway zone?

Over the years, the city has expanded southwards from its original base, the old fortified city high on a rocky plateau, in a seemingly natural process of incremental growth. The modern city flows like urban lava down from these rocky heights and over the gently rolling landscape in the valley below. Inspired by the existing topography and landscape structure, the railway zone in the former station area at the foot of the ‘city rock’ will be extended along an ‘urban canyon’ to the new high speed railway station. This hybrid urban/landscape space draws on the impressive Spanish tradition of design and use of public spaces. Its scale, continuity and structuring power reflect the shift in scale and modernity of a new Cuenca.