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The Prado Museum is perhaps the most well-known site located on the Paseo del Prado

Madrid quick to capitalize on its new UNESCO status

Madrid quick to capitalize on its new UNESCO status

Its mayor announced a new festival that will highlight the symbols of the city

On Sunday, 25 July, Madrid received the news that UNESCO will award some of its main symbols, such as the Paseo del Prado and the Retiro Park, a World Heritage Site distinction. Only two days later, the mayor of the city, José Luis Martínez-Almeida, announced that the Spanish capital will organize its First International Festival of Light (end of October). The festival will seek to showcase the cultural landscape and, quite literally, put it under the spotlight.

Did you know that Madrid was one of the very few European capitals that lacked World Heritage Sites?

In all fairness, the city authorities have long been campaigning for the inclusion of some of the city’s architectural symbols into the prestigious UNESCO list. For a long time, Madridians had felt slighted that despite living in a country that was the third in the world of having the most World Heritage Sites and a prime global tourist destination, the local heritage went somewhat unappreciated. Meanwhile, the cultural rival Barcelona had boasted properties on that list since 1984.

Clearly, the preparation of the International Festival of Light had already been in the works long before the UNESCO announcement and now it was finally the moment when it could be announced to the public.

As explained by Almeida, the I International Festival of Light, which will be held on 28-31 October, from 9:00 p.m. to 12:00 p.m., is there to bring value to the urban cultural heritage of Madrid. It will feature 24 artistic initiatives and will take place in different circuits of the capital that will show the work of artists and lighting professionals from Spain and the European Union.

In addition, designers, architects and the public will also participate, with projects and interventions with decorative lighting in facades, squares, plant elements and streets, to achieve a total transformation of the environment that will allow a different perception and a new look of the city during those days.

What is the ‘light’ connection?

The inscribed complex of properties officially bears the name ‘The Paseo del Prado and the Buen Retiro. Landscape of Arts and Science’, however, in Spain it is also called ‘El Paisaje de la Luz’ (The Landscape of Light). The second name might refer to tourism branding which is meant to give the different objects a sense of oneness and togetherness, as well as to make them easier to refer to.

That monicker, however, has not yet gained traction in English and in the minds of foreign visitors so there is clearly more work to be done ahead. The connection to light is possibly derived from the Age of Enlightenment in the 18th century when many of these buildings and parks came into existence – specifically under the reign of King Carlos III.

What is more, the mayor also announced that, from the first quarter of 2022, there will be an interpretation centre of the Landscape of Light to bring the visitors closer to the values ​​of these properties as a historical landscape in the urban environment.

The centre will have an interactive model and explanatory videos in which one can see a description of the site, its evolution and history, as well as its influence on city planning in Spanish America and data on its protection and management plan.

In addition, as a result of collaboration, there will be a space for a guest institution, which will rotate from time to time.

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