Madrid Diversa: Five Perspectives on the City Through Maps, Photographs, and Sounds

September 14, 2022

Text on the exhibition Madrid Diversa on view at Centro Centro in Madrid between September 29, 2022 and February 26, 2023.


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Madrid Diversa.

This exhibition analyzes diversity as a distinctive feature of the city of Madrid in the contemporary context. In the current situation, in which cities tend to become standardized, to replicate commercial models and cultural structures, complexity transcends as a value in itself, as an identifying trait of urban life.

Madrid Diversa explores this quality using three tools to describe the city: an atlas of large-scale maps, a photographic journey, and a soundscape that overlap one another as fragments of the same reality. The exhibition invites us to immerse ourselves in the Madrid of today, organized into five sections: The Inhabited City, The Built City, The Shared City, The City of Uses, and The City in Transformation.

The maps construct an algorithmic storytelling based on massive data with a common thread of the city as a diverse environment. These are metrics that do not focus on what the city contains, but rather on how diverse everything we find in it actually is. A city seen through data tends to focus on averages, the frequent and the similar. The perspective taken here aims to look at the strange, the improbable, the casual, and the different.

Two of the sections analyze the physical and inhabited environment while the other three propose an approach to urban behavior through uses, public space, and the transformation of the city itself. The maps, created by the think tank 300.000 Km/s, are drawn from publicly available data from various sources: The National Institute of Statistics, the Land Registry, Madrid City Council, topographic base, satellite images, and others.

The photographs are a personal approach by five artists who record the landscape, the people and the territory: Eva G. Herrero, Ángela Suárez, Ernesto Peña Sanz, Rainer Torrado, and Ana Belén Mejía. A fragmented vision of neighborhoods, streets and their inhabitants, which forms an unexpected documentary based on photographs and videos in vertical format, reels that respond to the areas of the exhibition.

The sounds approach the city by giving new meaning to the buildings, the uses, the everyday stories of the people who live there, the public spaces, and the transformations.

Lucas Bolaño’s soundscapes are the result of field recordings that he has then mixed with synthesizers, processed electric guitars and audio editing. He seeks similarities in sound between the music and the recordings through timbre, rhythm, harmony, and other aspects related to acoustics and space, or simply by using music as a base and common thread that helps to connect the field recordings and, at the same time, bring unity to the project.

The Built City

1. Cartographic research 300.000 Km/s
Madrid is a dense city with a complex urban fabric from the center to the periphery with varying intensities. The map describes the different granularities of the urban fabric based on the variability of the size of the plots, the combination of small and large dwellings and the combination of different building qualities resulting from the coexistence of historic buildings and new construction in one and the same neighborhood.

2. Photographs Eva G. Herrero
Aluche is one of the neighborhoods that make up the “Latina” district. The landscape that can be seen on the horizon is that of a suburban neighborhood, with the identifying signs of any self-respecting Spanish neighborhood: exposed brick and green awnings. These signs of uniformity disappear when we venture into the neighborhood to walk through its internal spaces, many of which reveal distinctive traces of days gone by that differentiate them and tell us about how those who live here now inhabit and transform the space.

The plots of land in the blocks, the care taken over the landscaped spaces, the layout and the way the buildings are arranged, the contrasts between new and old buildings, the bars and establishments at street level, the survival of the neighborhood’s shopping arcades, etc. are inevitable focal points of the everyday life of the area. Architecture shapes the space we walk through and in return we adapt it to our needs and social consensus. There are at the same time improvised urban vegetable gardens in uninhabited plots, or clothes hanging on the façades that tell us details about the lives of the neighbors—what they do for a living, how many people make up the family unit—curtains, parrots perched on air conditioning machines...

3. Sound Lucas Bolaño
Large, open spaces such as the Atocha Station Tropical Garden, palaces, museums or markets have a common characteristic—long reverberation times that make the sounds reverberate in the space in such a way that several layers of the same sound source are obtained.

Different sound samples recorded in architectural spaces are mixed with random chords sustained over a processed electric guitar improvisation. The improvisation adds layers over an initial loop, generating a progressive composition.

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The Built City, Madrid Diversa. © 300.000 Km/s.

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The Built City, Madrid Diversa. © Eva G. Herrero.

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The Built City, Madrid Diversa. © Eva G. Herrero.

“The Built City” soundscape Lucas Bolaño.

The Inhabited City

1. Cartographic research 300.000 Km/s
The city is inhabited by diverse people: Madrid is a multicultural pole and that is what makes it so different than other Spanish cities. This demographic diversity also translates into a heterogeneous distribution of income: from vulnerable to very well-to-do neighborhoods, and of types of income: people on salaries, entrepreneurs, people of independent means, or unemployed.

2. Photographs Ángela Suárez
Given that it is impossible to represent the entire population and its diversity, the project is conceived as a stroll. A tour in which it is left to chance what and who you will meet, subtracting fragments of probability and playing with the idea that randomness can be a determining factor in our experience.

3. Sound Lucas Bolaño
El Rastro (flea market) is a meeting point: vendors, residents and visitors jostle together in a stream of humanity that generates a rich soundscape, representing the sounds of tradition and the present day.

Sounds of buying and selling, different accents and languages, fragments of conversations that come and go... Together they create something akin to a sound swarm. This piece places more importance on the field recordings, leaving the instrumental base in the background. An uncut recording is presented, made during a walk of approximately nine minutes in the form of a sound sequence shot.

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The Inhabited City, Madrid Diversa. © 300.000 Km/s.

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The Inhabited City, Madrid Diversa. © Ángela Suárez.

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The Inhabited City, Madrid Diversa. © Ángela Suárez.

“The Inhabited City” soundscape Lucas Bolaño.

The Shared City

1. Cartographic research 300.000 Km/s
Streets, squares, and parks are meeting places and the setting for the construction of social relations. The diversity of the public space is determined by the quality and the heterogeneous nature of the green infrastructures, obtained from satellite images and by the different number of plant species, but also by the analysis of the urban landscape created by the buildings: of different heights and sections with respect to the streets.

In Madrid, public space is extremely busy, something that can be measured by the intensity of the movements generated by its shopping areas, quantified by the capacities measured by a number of internet services and the movements of citizens coming from different origins.

2. Photographs Ana Belén Mejías
Diversity, as well as being evident in the people who live in the city, can be seen in the inhabited spaces and the elements that make up the public space. In particular, we find it in the urban furniture that gives rise to formal contrasts that reflect the continuous change of the city and form part of the identity of the different districts.

The static nature of these elements is complemented by the footprint left by every person who uses these public spaces, making others participate in their progress and altering the environment.

3. Sound Lucas Bolaño
Madrid Río is one of the city’s signature public spaces, not so much a meeting place for tourists but rather a meeting place and a space for leisure for the inhabitants of Madrid. Being located in the south of the city, the diversity of the population is much greater than in other places.

Entire families can be found around the park’s fountains and in its green spaces, a younger population with a greater presence of short-stay residents, such as students, can be found in skate parks or in the picnic areas. Street musicians and family parties provide a soundtrack to the public space.

Such is the richness of the sound that, in this case, the music functions as a base or common thread that joins together all the scenes that take place as we walk along.

The field recordings are made in motion, so you can appreciate the coming and going of the sounds and how the volumes and frequencies fade.

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The Shared City, Madrid Diversa. © 300.000 Km/s.

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The Shared City, Madrid Diversa. © Ana Belén Mejías.

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The Shared City, Madrid Diversa. © Ana Belén Mejías.

“The Shared City” soundscape Lucas Bolaño.

The City of Uses

1. Cartographic research 300.000 Km/s
The city is articulated on how the land is used, uses that are organized and mixed during the urban planning stage to give rise to diverse environments such as residential neighborhoods, office districts, cultural and administrative uses, and mixed-use zones. Above and beyond these cadastral uses, and generally as a complement to housing, a multiplicity of economic activities are defined that can come and go or remain in place over time. Uses and activities define the urban landscape and create a city of proximity, whenever the population is adequately supplied in the vicinity of their place of residence.

2. Photographs Rainer Torrado
The narrative starts from the observation of the use that individuals make of public spaces in the hope of inferring common ways of existing in society.

It is an investigation of the pavements and their occupants carried out in Vallecas. Ten photographs that reveal a scenographic vision that magnifies the presence of the other, of someone like you or me, through snapshots that fluctuate between tenderness and drama. Can an individual understand him or herself intimately through the study of someone who seems different? With what degree of harmony can the plurality of cacophonous othernesses that seems to share the stage in the urban space be manifested? Or is the perception of the different nothing more than a bias that can be deconstructed?

3. Sound Lucas Bolaño
Bars in Spain are a meeting place where multiple aspects of the city’s identity are made manifest. People talk about gastronomy, work, politics... The same thing happens in supermarkets, shopping centers or libraries.

A selection of field recordings are interwoven with the music: beeps from supermarket tills combine with notes played on a synthesizer, piped shopping centre music with ambient synthesizer chords, sounds of chairs and other languages make up this track which introduces us to the atmosphere of a supermarket.

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The City of Uses, Madrid Diversa. © 300.000 Km/s.

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The City of Uses, Madrid Diversa. © Rainer Torrado.

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The City of Uses, Madrid Diversa. © Rainer Torrado.

“The City of Uses” soundscape Lucas Bolaño.


1. Cartographic research 300.000 Km/s
The city is a changing organism. Its inhabitants are transformed either throughout life cycles—new inhabitants—or as a consequence of economic circumstances—changes in income. Buildings are renovated and new ones created over the decades, shaping new urban landscapes. But the city also changes in very short periods of time, such as in the course of a day. Citizens commuting home from work shape daily movements between different neighborhoods and the dynamics of activities change, also at night.

2. Photographs Ernesto Peña Sanz
Based on the capacity that photography has to reflect what is in front of the camera and to marginalize anything and everything outside the four boundaries that frame it, this perspective places the emphasis on the characteristics that it shares with painting, such as composition, color, and light. The photographs represent spaces that are particularly noteworthy for their urban furniture and architecture.

3. Sound Lucas Bolaño
A few cicadas, the sound of bells ringing while a child talks to his father in La Latina, several layers of birds chirping or a street musician’s violin in the Retiro Park; this is all put into a melting pot with synthesizers and other field recordings related to leisure activities and the everyday, generating a freer composition that abandons this descriptive line and explores the musicality there is in the everyday, giving rise to a work that is more ambient, dreamlike and transformative.

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The City in Transformation, Madrid Diversa. © 300.000 Km/s.

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The City in Transformation, Madrid Diversa. © Ernesto Peña Sanz.

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The City in Transformation, Madrid Diversa. © Ernesto Peña Sanz.

“The City in Transformation” soundscape Lucas Bolaño.


Production and coordination: Centro Centro
Curators: Ariadna Cantis and Javier Peña
Cartographic research: 300.000 Km/s
Photography: Eva G. Herrero, Ernesto Peña Sanz, Rainer Torrado, Ángela Suárez, and Ana Belén Mejía
Soundscapes: Lucas Bolaño
Exhibition design: Pablo Ferreira Navone
Graphic design: Otro Bureau