Processes of transformation in the informal settlement of Cañada Real Galiana (Madrid)

The ‘Cañadas Reales’ are livestock routes reserved for transhumance of cattle between different areas of Spain. They were created in the modern age and are owned by the State.  In principle, law said it was strictly prohibited to build in a ‘Cañada Real’.

During the 60s-70s law was modified. From that moment, law allowed to established small orchards and storage houses along its route to facilitate the journey of the transhuman shepherds.

In general, this regulation had not a big impact on the rural areas, but arriving to Madrid were density is very high, the law created a gap between strict legality and illegality that was taken from the most vulnerable population as a chance to have a house.

Currently, the informal settlement of Cañada Real in Madrid is a 15 km length succession of self-built shacks. It extends from the

Avenida de la Cañada de Coslada till the limit between Madrid and Getafe, crossing Coslada, Rivas-Vaciamadrid and Madrid. In the last 20 years the number of buildings and inhabitants has been increasing enormously, estimating its existing population in 50,000 inhabitants.

The area presents a fragmented and unstructured urban fabric, with a vulnerable and socially excluded population, which in some sectors reaches high levels of marginality. Especially the so-called sector 6, which covers about half of the settlement, suffers from high levels of discrimination, insecurity and, in general, degradation.

In the Design Studio we worked collectively on researching solutions for the informal settlement, through proposing hypotheses of urban processes and fabrics that could achieve a correct integration of this reality in Madrid’s conurbation.


Luis Basabe Montalvo
Ismael Miguel Prieto


Alba Balmaseda
Elia Sáez

Chair Professor

Dr. Ignacio Vicens Hualde

Departamento de Proyectos Arquitectónicos (DPA)
Polytechnic University of Madrid


Photo by Philip Mak


Born in La Coruña, Spain, in 1985. Graduated as an architect from the Polytechnic University of Madrid in 2010. Granted with the Erasmus program in La Sapienza University of Rome in 2007. Diploma Thesis rated as outstanding and winner of a National Prize in 2011. Secured a Master’s Degree in Advanced Architectural Projects at the Polytechnic University of Madrid in September 2011. 

Combines the practice of architecture with academic research and teaching. Collaborated actively with Irisarri+Piñera Architects, Vivero de Iniciativas Ciudadanas (VIC) and Anupama Kundoo Architects. Developed academic research and teaching at Vastu Shilpa Foundation in Amhedabad, University of Nairobi, Tokyo Wonder Site, University IUAV Venice, KAKD Copenhagen or TU Berlin.

Started own architectural practice in Madrid in 2014. Currently Assistant Professor at Stuttgart School of Architecture and Planning and PhD candidate at Roma Tre University Department of Architecture. 


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