By SIR CHARLES BRESSEY
WHEN revisiting Madrid recently to deliver lectures on plan- ning at the invitation of the Spanish Government, I was given valuable opportunities to inspect public works within a forty-mile radius, and to study projects of national reconstruction, which have
reached an advanced stage of preparation.
Inner Madrid is practically undamaged, and wears a dapper, well- groomed aspect. Vast new Ministries are being built. The most urgent reconstruction problems are concerned with the damaged industrial and working-class quarters on the fringe of the capital, the elimination of slums, and the restoration of the devastated University City, which formod part of the " front line " during the Civil War. The drawings and models prepared for the projected works by the Director of Architecture and his colleagues _display great artistic ability and a real• gift for effective showmanship. Interest is added to the town-planning of Madrid by the pic- turesquely undulating ground. As in other cities, the destruction of obsolete industrial buildings and artisans' quarters gives- rise to hope rather than regret. The worst and most distinctive of the slums form a belt, just beyond the municipal boundary, where formerly no obstacle appears to have been placed in the way of the haphazard building of innumerable hovels and shacks, devoid of any street plan or systematic sanitation—a fester of squatterdom.
And yet, oddly enough, as I rambled through this tangle of ram- shackle huts in the blazing sunshine and smokeless atmosphere of Madrid, I wondered whether we could claim any great superiority for some of our lofty and ill-lighted tenements (though conforming to by- laws) under the grey pall of smoke in certain industrial cities of ours. How sunshine mitigates poverty! Never have I seen more cheerful faces than among the barefooted women balancing baskets of fruit and fish on their heads, as they cry their wares through the Spanish streets. And what a joy to gaze on bountiful piles of southern fruits!
Madrid's peripheral fringe of slums is to make place for a circular parkway, so designed that the radial roads leading out of town will pass above or below it. In other districts where the existing dwellings are not incapable of improvement and repair I saw numerous courageous attempt; to raise the standards of housing, and I passed along streets lined with single-floor new houses of traditionally simple construction, with whitewashed walls and red-. tiled roofs. Blocks of artisans' dwellings are also under construc- tion with commendably spacious inner courtyards and fair-sized rooms.
The magnitude of the University City is most impressive, and the task of restoration and completion correspondingly onerous. The site covers about a square mile of undulating ground sloping down to the Manzanares River, which was one of the notable military obstacles of the Civil War. Thanks to the extent of ground (a hundred times liner than the site of Univtrsityy College, London) the detached buildings of the several Faculties can be widely spaced and generously designed. The general scheme is remarkably com- prehensive, including a large hostel for students now approaching completion, residences for professors, a fine sports stadium, and a hospital. Two of the Faculties are already in occupation of their buildings. I inspected the School of Architecture, where senior students were working, each in his own little studio. It seems possible that, the spacious lecture-rooms, conference-halls, &c., in the numerous colleges Scattered over this great site may eventually lead to the choice of Madrid as a convenient meeting-place for international scientific congresses. The planting of shrubberies is well in hand, and the individual buildings w:11 have a pleasant set- ting, but the grounds are so extensive and their configuration sn irregular that the general effect will not, I think, be very imposing.
Some of the buildings are silhouetted rather harshly against the skyline, and the wide variety in the styles of architecture adopted is apt to produce an impression of restlessness. It is noticeable here and elsewhere in the peninsula that a scale is adopted for monu- mental buildings which would be regarded as somewhat grandiose by our countrymen. Some of the ancient universities of Spain may perhaps look askance at the massing of educational resources in Madrid.
An interesting scholastic experiment was shown me a few miles from Madrid, where a small country estate has been adapted as a college for the training of selected girls as party leaders. The ancient mansion, with its attractive grounds and swimming pool, screened by lofty cypresses, formed a delightful picture. The in- ternal equipment of the school was admirable, and the young women, though well .disciplined, did not appear to be unduly oppressed by their political responsibilities. As Mrs. Gamp reminded Mrs. Mould, " There's something besides births and berryins in the newspapers, ain't there? "
Great efforts and much ingenuity are being devoted to the restora- tion of scores of villages like Brunete, hideously devastated during the Civil War. The entire cost will be borne and the supervision undertaken by the Government. Many of these little townships in the direction of the Guadarramas bear some resemblance to Devon- shire villages on the fringe of Dartmoor ; the Spanish hillsides are similarly strewn with enormous boulders, readily available for rough-hewn building operations.- The plan usually adopted pro- vides a compact civic centre, sometimes crescent-shaped, with a little town hall in the middle of the curve, flanked by a few shops with dwellings above. 'Church and school are often asso- ciated in a pleasing group. Rugged local stone forms an appro- priate facing material. Where this is not available, excellent use is made of " adobe," i.e., thick walls of compressed earth with a small admixture of cement and fibre, like Devonshire " cob." In a hot climate there are few better materials, and nothing looks more homely than the whitewashed walls of these cottages.
The rebuilding of gutted churches is proceeding apace—even to the re-erection of elaborate wooden spires, although seasoned timber is almost unobtainable. Civil disturbances have not driven the storks from their nests on church towers—as many as four families being visible on a single tower. In some villages the shortage of timber has led to the application of light vaulting methods (tiles and concrete) for ceilings and staircases in cottages. In Toledo, the ancient capital, a romantic city of mediaeval alleys and mule-tracks, war damage is fortunately limited to the Alcazar quarter, where the havoc is grim. The cathedral has suffered little, except for broken glass. Its artistic treasures, some of which were mislaid during hostilities, are now in safe keeping again. The old town and its walls will be preserved as a priceless historic monument ; should need require, a detached suburb will be formed entirely dear of the ancient fortifications. The sombre Escorial is complete in all its austerity. Its superb collections, after suffering some displacement, are safe home again. On the mountain side, a few miles away, a gigantic national memorial is taking shape. Housing conditions in fishing settlements along the coasts have been the subject of careful study, and the proposals for .improvement have been recorded in two charmingly illustrated volumes.
Few things impressed me more during my travels than the profitable field offered by Spain as a future tourist resort, affording as it does a range of colourful variety difficult to parallel elsewhere. Roads have been greatly improved, and the Government are sett'ng about the establishment of model inns, suited to the Spanish country- side, in the remoter touring-centres. The courteous hospitality I received everywhere is a favourable omen for the success of these efforts.