‘El Paseo del Prado y el Buen Retiro, Paisaje de las Artes y de las Ciencias’ has been registered on the World Heritage List, with the backing of 21 countries that form part of the World Heritage Committee, which met at its 44th session in an online format from Fuzhou (China).

The designation of the candidacy ‘El Paseo del Prado y el Buen Retiro, Paisaje de las Artes y las Ciencias’ comes as a result of the close collaboration between the Ministry of Culture and Sport (Directorate-General of Fine Arts), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation, the Regional Government of Madrid and Madrid City Council.

This candidacy, promoted by Madrid City Council, constitutes the green heart of the capital of Spain. Its exceptional nature lies in the presentation of an urban natural space formed in the mid-16th Century as a tree-lined area within the city, constituting the first boulevard within the city limits of all the cities and capitals in Europe: a space in which all citizens, without distinction of rank or class, are able to enjoy for leisure activities or simply strolling around.

This model of the inner-city boulevard rapidly extended throughout the Iberian Peninsula and American continent. In the 17th Century, the establishment of the Buen Retiro Palace as the second major public space within the city included the use of spaces located to the east of this great boulevard, creating a green zone in the very heart of the city.

And in the 18th Century, the design would give a new boost to the whole area, undertaking a qualitative transformation by introducing a vast programme of scientific infrastructures in the walkways and gardens of the Buen Retiro park. Accordingly, an extraordinary urban landscape was created in one area, which was to be available to the whole of society, integrating both culture and nature; geography and history; individualism and collectivism; and art and science.

Against the current backdrop of the pandemic, the designation of ‘Paseo del Prado y Buen Retiro, Paisaje de las Artes y de la Ciencias’ is particularly symbolic, since the area has fully met the function for which it was originally created, renewing its commitment to the people of Madrid, and, as of today, of the entire world. Madrid also becomes the first urban historical landscape designated in Europe, and the second in the world after Rio de Janeiro.

During today’s session, on 25 July, the member countries of the committee backed and advocated the registration of this asset on the World Heritage List, highlighting the importance of uniting nature, culture and science in an urban environment which – in the 16th Century – turned Madrid into the first sustainable capital in Europe.

The World Heritage Committee is made up of 21 countries chosen by the 194 States Parties to the UNESCO Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage (1972) and is the executive body of this international convention. As such, it is responsible for deciding what new sites meet the characteristics to be registered on the World Heritage List, upon a proposal from the States Parties.

Following this designation, Spain now has 49 World Heritage Sites, and is the third-highest ranked country in terms of the number of assets designated by UNESCO.