An unknown half-protected industrial treasure faces the voracity of speculation

In July 1944, the first 70 keys to more than 1,100 homes were handed over to more than 5,000 people who formed a village in the middle of the Chamberí neighborhood in Madrid: the Mobile Park and the San Cristóbal neighborhood. The first tenants, who had to pay monthly rents of between 65 and 122 pesetas, paraded that day with their arms raised before the authorities. Those attending the event sang the Face to the sun, giving enthusiastic shouts of "Franco, Franco, Franco!". There was the Minister of the Interior, Blas Pérez González, and the General Director of Architecture, Pedro Muguruza.

Five years after that act, a group of workers photographed themselves the day they placed "the last tile" of the State Mobile Park, on Cea Bermúdez street. It was December 30, 1949. In addition to the houses in the San Cristóbal neighborhood, they built the huge garage that would give work to the neighbors. Nearly 600 workers built that village in the midst of the post-war famine.

Nearly 50,000 cubic meters of earth were moved, initially at pickaxe point with soldiers from a battalion of workers. They used 1,500 tons of iron, 20,000 cubic meters of reinforced concrete and another 10,000 of mass concrete. "It was equivalent to a convoy of 1,000 cement wagons," says José Sierra, professor of Geography at the University of Cantabria and member of the State Mobile Park Defense Association. Sierra is building the documentary and oral account of the memory of this unique building, together with Pablo López, Professor of Sociology at the Complutense University of Madrid. This narration is the support of the long-awaited patrimonial protection of a unique industrial complex in the Spanish State.

"It is important to preserve the Mobile Park because it is the heritage of the workers and the trades. It was a paternalistic operation of the Franco regime, in which they combined work space and reproduction space. A complex of coexistence and unique control," says the specialist . The set preserves intact the greatest example of the rapid spread of vertical management of the first generation of urban garages. Ambrosio Arroyo was the architect chosen for the commission: "A garage with an approximate capacity for a thousand cars and those that eventually [estén de paso] can be found in this capital".

The Mobile Park garage is a large orthogonal box with four levels above ground. And a rectangular floor plan of 193 meters by 53. The most representative element of this building is the famous "double ankle ramp", through which cars go up and down without crossing. There is only one like it in the world and it is in Italy, in Lingorotto (Turin), in the old Fiat factory, which closed more than 30 years ago and became a cultural and commercial center.

The realization of this access —with a slope that does not exceed 10%— is a display of precision and qualified work, in charge of 110 workers organized in five teams (reinforcement, carpenters, masons, concrete fabricators and flying equipment), with plenty of machinery. The splendid ramp ended in a dome, now lost, with a light metallic glass structure that allowed the center to be illuminated.

Arroyo designed the complex with two missions: fluidity and surveillance, which made possible the incessant circulation and the control of access and exit of vehicles with only two points (controlled by the guard corps). What is striking about this garage is its transparency towards the inside, completely opaque towards the outside.

Currently the Mobile Park is closed to the passage of any person outside the center. It cannot be visited without prior notice. Fewer than 20 permanent drivers work. In its golden age there were about 1,000 drivers, in addition to workshop workers. In 1986, 1,500 official vehicles were parked in the garage built on a huge plot of land where the old Patriarchal Cemetery was located. A few years ago the neighbors got together to stop the destruction of this architectural and social jewel, as has happened with the facilities of the Artillery Precision Workshop (TPA) and the Metro depots in Cuatro Caminos.

The Mobile Park is a body attached to the Ministry of Finance. Almost a decade ago, former minister Cristóbal Montoro intended to sell the succulent plot of almost 25,000 square meters for 300 million euros. The threat has not disappeared and Hispania Nostra has included it in its red list both for its architectural and construction values ​​and for its historical and social relevance, being the only industrial-residential complex currently in existence in the city of Madrid.

The General Directorate of Planning of the Madrid City Council has just responded to Madrid, Citizenship and Heritage about the request made by the association to extend the protection of the Mobile Park. They demanded that it be included in the catalog of buildings protected by the General Plan for Urban Planning of Madrid (PGOUM). But the consistory has rejected the request alleging that it was already partially protected in the 1997 Plan and that at that time it was valued.

At this time, the protection that the Mobile Park has requires the complete preservation of the main body, not just the ramp. But it allows to demolish the body of parking and the workshops. The City Council acknowledges that for 25 years the demolition of the workshop and car park adjoining the main body has been planned, "in order to free up a large area that would allow for public green areas and basic facilities, preferably cultural ones, incorporating in its perimeter 27,300 square meters of residential buildability". Only the processing as an Asset of Cultural Interest (BIC) could save the integrity of the complex and its memory.

The site that is hidden behind the façade of the building next to the Teatros del Canal is in danger of disappearing. The biggest threat is the repair shops, an extraordinary diaphanous chain almost 190 meters long and 46 meters wide, topped by a roof of 19 iron "combs" facing north, which allow light and ventilation to enter.

This permission to destroy a part of the Mobile Park would also take away the 26-meter-long mural on the trades painted by the Palencia artist Germán Calvo. It is a tribute to the industrial and social memory in the center of the city. The design is reminiscent of the industrial murals that his teacher Diego Rivera did in the 1930s. at Ford and General Motors factories. But what precisely does this visual narration paint there?

Calvo's eleven panels narrate the construction process of the Mobile Park and the trades, and it is a creation without precedent in Spanish labor history. Never before, in the workspaces themselves, has an iconographic program been carried out. Rivera's disciple evolved towards much more archaic forms and with these Renaissance formulas he painted the artisan workers who practiced their trade there. "There are the materials and the tools, there are the strength, the skill and the knowledge, there are the big hands capable of a job that is often delicate," say José Sierra and Pablo López.

Calvo was a close friend of the architect Ambrosio Arroyo and he must have commissioned the mural, painted between 1950 and 1952. In other words, the workshops worked for seven years without that 1.60-meter-high decoration. In the central scene appears a miguelangelesque figure, in whose hands he supports a car. It could be Saint Christopher, patron saint of drivers. For the researchers of the memory of this complex, the portrayed in the flesh of a saint is Jesús Prieto Rincón, the true patron of the Mobile Park, its director and founder.

That village built around the Mobile Park today is a commonwealth of 44 stairs. Professors Sierra and López have interviewed the former inhabitants of this complex of San Cristóbal and Parque Móvil and among their childhood memories the twisted paternoster always emerges "with fascination", which took them to the theater-cinema. It was a rarity in the country, knowing another in the building created to house the Diario Pueblo, also in Madrid. It was a type of elevator without doors that never stops, invented in the 19th century by Peter Ellis for a building in Liverpool. It was a system with very low maintenance and operating costs that the Mobile Park workers nicknamed "the Ferris wheel" and "the confessional".

Pre-war technical treatises recommended it for large commercial or financial real estate with continuous demand for travel. The authors point out that this "Central European rarity" that is not operational, is not accessible to sight and they do not know if it has been disassembled. Under the complex they built an anti-nuclear shelter, about 190 meters long by eight wide and just over two meters high, with exits to both the workshops, the houses and the outside. It is also not accessible today.

"It was a closed community," explains Sierra about the closed nature of the San Cristóbal neighborhood. Once inside, segregation was exercised based on the number of family members: with a third child they moved on to larger houses. The path of home improvement began with marriage, although there was a residence for single workers.

Data from 1950 reveals that of the 224 occupied dwellings, 2,014 were occupied by families with a husband, wife and one or two children. Most of the families had a declared income of more than 12,000 pesetas per year. The most privileged families earned about 25,000 pesetas. These lived in the best apartments. Segregation was also done by trade: drivers were grouped together and did not mix with clerks or accountants or with workshop workers.

At the end of the seventies, the Mobile Park loses its meaning due to the new automobile industrialization of the country and the end of that claustrophobic utopia begins. “It was an effective paternalistic program that kept thousands of people under control until the 1980s and drugs arrived. these communities were a total demolition", indicates Sierra to point out that the heroine ended that island without freedom.

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