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Valencia

España

It is hard to imagine Valencia today without its iconic river park, El Turia. Stretching 5 miles from the center of the city to the sea, the park comprises over 450 acres and is characterized by bike paths, event spaces, active recreation fields, fountains, and many notable structures such as the City of Arts and Sciences by Santiago Calatrava. But the history of how this unique green space came to be is rooted in crisis and tragedy.

On October 14, 1957 El Turia flooded Valencia with about 300,000,000 cubic meters of water, levels reaching as high as 16 feet on some streets. Around 5,800 homes were destroyed, leaving approximately 3,500 families homeless. 81 lives were lost.

The river had been notorious for flooding but the events of 1957 motivated the government to finally divert the river South of the city. The original plan was to utilize the existing riverbed for vehicular traffic but the citizens demanded green space. In 1982 a masterplan was created by Ricard Bofill, dividing the river into 18 zones and setting the groundwork for what is enjoyed today by millions of residents and visitors.

El Turia serves as a prototype of how communities can turn disaster mitigation into beautiful solutions that both elevate the quality of life for its citizens and breath fresh air into ageing urban landscapes.