What Makes a City Real?

At a first glance, Ciudad Valdeluz, located 60km from Madrid, Spain, has a lot to offer: cycleways, sport facilities, playgrounds and a high-speed train to the capital. However, those characteristics were not sufficient to attract people to the town. Conceived for 30,000 inhabitants, Valdeluz had only 2,500 people living in it by the end of 2014, which is the reason why the town is often referred to as a ghost town. Some key factors help to understand this scenario. Valdeluz started being constructed in 2006 and became one of the many towns victim of the Spain’s real state crisis of 2008. By that moment, the construction of several apartment blocks in Valdeluz was suspended, leaving behind paved roads, street signs and lamp-posts with no buildings around. In addition, Valdeluz lacks cost-effective public transportation for those inhabitants working in other cities. A both-way ticket to Madrid by high-speed train - which is currently the only public transportation option to the capital - can cost up to 27 euros, and those taking the high-speed train anyway may have to consider driving a car to get to its station, since there is no sidewalks connecting such station to the rest of the town. Also, the buses to Guadalajara, located 8km from Valdeluz, are very scarce. In view of that, a visit to Valdeluz provides an unusual experience. The silence is present in such a way that the “click" sound of a picture being taken at street is enough to catch the curiosity of people in their apartments. On the rare occasion that you cross someone on the streets, it is common to receive a mistrustful greeting. Moreover, it is hard to be indifferent to the numerous cycleways that connect nothing to nothing, as well as all the benches in the middle of nowhere. However, despite its unsuccessful beginning, Valdeluz may have better years in the future. After a decrease of up to 60% in the price of housing units, the town is becoming an option for families looking for affordable and good quality apartments. This project aims not only at capturing the unique characteristics of Valdeluz, but also proposing a question: what makes a city real?

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