Reign in Spain: ‘New’ Zaragoza

By Andie Day, Andie Day, Principal, Andie Day, LLC

Over the past few days I have had the pleasure to explore Zaragoza with the Reign in Spain group. Experiencing Zaragoza with Tile of Spain has been both a learning and a bonding experience, rooted in passion for our work and their passion for the region. Together we have explored the history and future of Zaragoza, as well as having learned more about its infrastructure, culture, traditions, and of course food.

Recently, Zaragoza has been transformed from a place best known for its ancient culture and landmarks to a modern city full of innovation and futuristic, sustainable infrastructure. This transformation was unveiled during the 2008 Water Expo, an event which brought more than a million people together from all over the world during the course of three months to learn about water and sustainable development.

The most interesting architectural additions to the city from the 2008 Water Expo are the Water Tower and the Bridge Pavilion. The Water Tower, an impressive 250-foot building emulating a drop of water, offers a beautiful view of the city and a 75-foot art exhibit, “Splash” depicting a splash of water. The Bridge Pavilion, emulating a gladiolus flower, is also a major modern landmark. It serves as both a pedestrian bridge across the Ebro River and a site for expositions. The mix of modern and ancient structures provides an invigorating backdrop for the playgrounds and public spaces nearby where families spend time together. The contrast of old and new is fascinating, with the Water Tower and Bridge Pavilion in the foreground while the cathedrals and other cultural landmarks loom in the background.

In addition to these innovative buildings, upgrades in transportation have helped bring Zaragoza into the 21st Century. The international airport has been renovated in the past few years to include a new terminal and modern features. An AVE (high speed train) has made Zaragoza accessible in less than 90 minutes from Madrid and less than 2 hours from Barcelona. Most transportation to and within the city has been updated, helping Zaragoza’s transition to modernization.

Sustainability has remained a key factor throughout Zaragoza’s transportation upgrades. The city has invested in public bicycle stations to provide clean, consumption reducing means of transportation. The project began with 30 stations and 300 bicycles but has blossomed into 100 stations with 1000 bicycles, with plans for 100 more stations throughout the city. The public bicycle program along with the creation of parks and bicycle lanes along the Ebro River, has made the bicycle a viable method of transportation in Zaragoza (bicycles now account for almost 5 percent of transportation throughout the city).

The bicycle program is only a small part of the sustainable urban planning in new Zaragoza. The new infrastructure in Zaragoza has been created with the future in mind. The structures built for the 2008 Water Expo were designed to house offices and retail space after the conclusion of the exposition. Though the structures currently remain unused due to high unemployment and poor economic conditions, the city plans for this 1,700,000-sq.-ft. site to one day become the largest office park in Europe.

So far what has impressed me most about the Reign in Spain tour is the passion that Tile of Spain has for this region and its expertise of the area’s greatest natural resource – tile. Our guides in the Reign in Spain tour have quickly become friends and their passion for the region, its people, and its resources, is contagious. We will be learning more about ceramic tile as we progress through the tour, especially during our visits to the tile factories, but for now we're being reintroduced to important facts, history, and beauty of this important finish. As designers, being able to connect to the stories behind products and materials enables us to enhance the experience we bring to our clients. Our clients often address product selection with us because they want to feel confident that what they bring into their home contributes to a healthy and safe environment, while also being easy to maintain. Often they want to know how a particular product purchase can give back to the community, as well as looking for a historical connection to the product. The Reign in Spain tour works toward addressing these topics, and understanding the correlation between the success of this industry and the success of this region is a great gift to be able to share with our clients.

Andie Day, an Boston-based interior designer, was selected by Tile of Spain in December 2010 as a Reign in Spain finalist. From Feb. 4-12, 2011, she will join a group of journalists and other members of the A&D community in a junket that will travel to the cities of Zaragoza, Teruel, and Valencia, taking in Spanish architecture, culture, culinary temptations, and Cevisama, the International Ceramic Tile and Bath Furnishings Show.


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