Aranjuez Cultural Landscape
Aranjuez Cultural Landscape
Cultural Spain Europe And North America Province And Autonomous Community Of Madrid

The complex cultural landscape of Aranjuez, derived from a variety of sources, marks a seminal stage in the development of landscape design. It represents the coming together of diverse cultural influences to create a cultural landscape that had a formative influence on further developments in this field. Aranjuez has been witness to various cultural exchanges over a span of time, in a specific cultural area, that has had a tremendous influence in the development of its landmarks and the creation of its landscape.

Aranjuez represents a model for a given culture's use of its territory. However, the city has become increasingly vulnerable since the disappearance at the turn of the century of the Royal Court that had so much influence on its development. This area enjoyed a long history of human settlement before becoming a strategic stronghold during Roman times, with its position at a river crossing (the Tajo and the Jarama) and cross-roads, to the south of Madrid and to the north-west of Toledo. Towards the end of the 14th century, the knights built a palace in the middle of the woods, then replete with game. But it was Philip II in the 16th century who created the first period of splendour. He built a new palace and large ornamental and vegetable gardens laid out according to geometric principles and it was also a private and personal retreat. During the 17th century Aranjuez prospered as the annual abode of royalty, a place of pageantry and hunting, and a source of inspiration for the patronage of some of the greatest Spanish poets of the Golden Age.

The continuing splendour of the 18th century culminated in the building of a new town close to the palace. After a brief revival which added a new element of modernism and eclecticism to the royal site during the first half of the 19th century, the end of the reign of Isabella II marked the close of the Crown's exclusive role in the history of this riverside complex and community. At the Revolution in 1868, all Crown property passed to the State. By the early 1870s the population increased and a railway line (1851) stimulated vigorous economic activity at the price of cutting the palace's eastern vistas and bisecting the Picotajo garden. During the 20th century, Aranjuez became a densely populated satellite city of Madrid, an industrial and cultural centre. Nevertheless, the site overall kept its integrity. The whole area appears as a green oasis in a landscape otherwise of sierra type, dry, brown and fairly barren of vegetation as a result of climate, geomorphology, and over-exploitive land use.

The site incorporates a planned town, large gardens, vegetable gardens and orchards, lagoons, rivers and waterworks, woods, and moors. The main elements are the Palace and Island Garden, arranged around a plaza with, on the east, the King's Garden of irregular plan with fountains and, on the west, avenues and vistas eventually cut by the railway with, across a canal to the north, entirely within a sharp bend of the river beyond the Garden of the Statues and a fountain, the geometric Island Garden full of fountains and other structures;the Great Historic Garden consisting of a series of gardens which together comprise the bulk of the area;the urban area is subdivided into an industrial area west of the palace, incorporating the railway station and the gardens west of the palace, and the 18th-century town that is now the historic core of modern Aranjuez (the original town plan is intact);and the Prince's Garden, a late 18th- to early 19th-century garden that stretches along the south bank of the Tajo, north-east of the town. These elements are subsumed in a series of intermeshed landscapes, all combining conceptually to create a cultural landscape with rivers, dams, ditches, and fountains. The agricultural landscape is formed by vegetable gardens, orchards, nurseries and stock-breeding;the gardens form a delectable landscape. The geometry, starting with the grand alignments of Phillip II, also influenced parts of the hydraulic system, although clearly other factors were at play there;conversely, the hydrology fed the fountains and ponds, which were usually placed at particular points determined by geometry, albeit serving an aesthetic purpose.

The constructed landscape is formed by roads, architecture, and town. Both the natural and geometric bases of the site as a whole survive remarkably well, with relatively little loss and effectively (modern communication routes apart) no inappropriate intrusion. Major buildings as well as the city's layout and its gardens and tree-lined avenues have been preserved as the characteristic of an urban community among orchards and groves living on a ground plan.