Urban Alternatives is launched by a collaboration of different actors which are united in their efforts to create a more democratic, just and sustainable world. This map seeks to highlight initiatives that work towards this goal. Proposal for initiatives not listed yet can be made directly on the website. This process is open to new collaborations.


Campo de Cebada

Inclusive Housing & Public Space

What challenges did this initiative look to address?

In 2005, the then-mayor Alberto Ruiz Gallardón (PP) promised the renovation of the public swimming pool and the neighbouring La Cebada market in the quarter of La Latina. The plans just went as far as the demolition of the former pool – leaving behind an empty unused lot in the very city centre of Madrid. In the middle of the so-called financial crisis, the initial pledge to rebuild the swimming pool was soon replaced by plans such as for a commercial centre with a rooftop garden. In times of neoliberal politics in which commercialisation leads to a lack of usable public space for the common good, the neighbourhood association El Campo de Cebada (ECDC) formed and temporarily took over the management of the disused lot with self-organisation. With the support of local collectives such as the architects of Zuloark, they created a public infrastructure and a public program to actually serve the public good.

What has changed?

From 2009 to 2017, ECDC transformed the formerly empty lot into a vibrant community space. The many activities for users of all ages on the ground included sports, urban gardening, concerts and artistic performances. The occupation and development of the space in the spirit of self-empowerment strengthened the social bonds in the neighbourhood. ECDC became an internationally acclaimed showcase for active citizenship. In early 2017, the mayor Manuela Carmena (Ahora Madrid) announced plans to build a multi-use sports hall - including a public pool - on the empty lot, that would be inaugurated in 2019. To that purpose the keys to the Campo were handed over to the administration in December 2017. Excavators appeared on the ground but disappeared in summer 2018. In December 2018, the construction work had still not started. An inauguration of the sports hall in 2019 is very unlikely. In the meantime, ECDC is closed, no activities are taking place and the beginning of the construction work is not yet announced.

How did it happen?

Instead of being the object of urban planning, the ECDC neighbourhood association made themselves the subject of it. They actively claimed a dialogue and exchange between local neighbours and local politics and the administration in order to find new participatory modes of city making that result in community-driven, user-friendly and socially and economically sustainable projects. Decisions were taken in an open assembly, implementation of activities as well as maintenance of the space were organised collectively. All processes were driven by the concepts of collective decision-making, transparency and open data. In addition to the onsite activities, a digital platform offered open-source information on the different fields of action – cultural, architectural, social, artistic, and athletic.

The government’s will to engage in the construction of the multi-use sports hall and in a co-management together with the neighbours can be seen as part of the participatory government approaches implemented by Ahora Madrid, one of the municipalist platforms that entered the local Spanish governments in the 2015 elections. According to current estimates, however, the planned multi-use sports hall will not open before 2021.