Superficial Chaos and Subterranean Transparency: An Olympic Commuter in LA Castellana

Among cities, the scale of Madrid traffic problems is suffocating. In the opinion of experts, in order to confront, or at least to ameliorate them, either severe restrictions must be imposed or else some basic parameters ought to be changed. But in a time of liberal policies like today, no administration will impose visible restriction upon productivity. In consequence, they are forced to imagine alternatives modifying some of the basic hypotheses that characterize the problem.Particularly in Madrid the issue of congestion has been debated not by reflecting upon alternative balances between public means of transportation versus private ones (subway+buses+commuter trains versus private cars). Alternatively, traffic on surface versus subterranean were the categories considered. In conclusion, the state government tackled urban congestion by proposing the construction of an underground infrastructure network for public transportation means, intensifying the subterranean density of the city and infilling its ground.If the capacity of a given surface to shelter program or movement has been exhausted, let\’s build a new one and resort to its artificial duplication. Technology and engineering are at our disposal to undertake the task, devoted to the fabrication of subterranean spaces. Now that the private car has invaded the surface of the city, public transportation will occupy the subsoil, extending in a web of tunnels, stations and commuter stations. Those seem to be the basic arguments of their concealed strategy. Abandoning the battle on the surface of the city against the chaotic traffic, the public realm is now conceived as a subterranean and efficient infrastructure. Thus, work for the extension of Madrid\’s public transportation network started in 1995, when the state government decided to undertake the construction of 30 miles of new tunnels, 38 new subway stations and 5 commuter stations – the highest single investment made in the history of Madrid. Chosen for its political advantages (nobody will claim rights or property over the subsoil, thus free of potential conflicts), its effectiveness is measured for its density of flows, number of travelers, speed and punctuality. The volume of the investment demonstrates its importance; and its strategic value is proved by the technological display. Yet, the public work of the utmost importance does not manifest itself as body or space on the surface of the city, remaining both underground and invisible.Our interest resides particularly on the consequential paradigm – for what at first was envisioned as salomonic pragmatism finally derives in a paradoxical duality. Due to the artificial displacement of the public realm from the surface of the city into an underground web of public transportation and gathering spaces, the architectural complexity of the built structure increases rapidly. The simplification implicit on the initial cause-effect analysis is systematically undermined by a more complex reality, for which many of the conventional architectural categories normally relied on have to be revised.Underground commuter stations, connecting commuter railroad, subway, metropolitan buses, taxis and parking for private vehicles, are key elements within the new infrastructure network. In the eyes of engineers, commuter stations are efficient instruments in the connection of several means of transportation, along with associated spaces for leisure, consumption and waiting. For the state government of Madrid, commuter stations are a visible proof for the taxpayers of the investments made with public funds. From our point of view, however, their potential has been left unexplored and unexploited.Commuter stations are the tip of the iceberg, the bodily manifestation of a subterranean web that surfaces above ground just occasionally. They constitute, in consequence, the representation of a larger a