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Prior to the intervention. Pamplona’s city centre is built on a promontory that abruptly drops thirty metres on the northern side to form an escarpment going down to the River Arga.


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previous state

Pamplona’s city centre is built on a promontory that abruptly drops thirty metres on the northern side to form an escarpment going down to the River Arga. The medieval city wall running along the top of this deep bank is crowned by a rampart walk that offers views over the river, the riverside park and the surrounding mountainous landscape. The Cuesta (Slope) de San Domingo and the Cuesta de Curtidores (Tanners’ Slope) follow the base of the bank and meet at the Curtidores Bridge, which crosses the Arga to give access to La Rochapea, the only extramural neighbourhood of medieval Pamplona.

Although it was virtually excluded from the rest of the urban fabric for centuries, La Rochapea is today a consolidated, well-connected neighbourhood. However, until recently, the northern sector of the old centre suffered the consequences of the cul-de-sac effect caused by its topographic features. Calle Eslava, one of the main thoroughfares, running through the sector in a north-south direction, meets Calle de Los Descalzos at a right angle, at which point the row of houses looking out over the River Arga constituted an insurmountable, opaque barrier that blocked any relationship with the rampart walk or with La Rochapea. Accordingly, for all the renown of Pamplona’s gastronomic offer and the famous sanfermines (bull running that is part of the Saint Fermin festivities) which fill the streets with visitors each July, the day-to-day pedestrian presence in this sector was slight and there was a clear dearth of economic and commercial activity. The buildings and public spaces were in a run-down state while the population concentrated in the zone was elderly, in straitened circumstances and affected by social problems and conflicts of coexistence.

aim of the intervention

In 2005, the Pamplona City Council decided to tackle the lack of dynamism and challenges to the smooth running of daily life in the northern sector of the historic centre, opting to take up the public funding of the URBAN II programme, an initiative by means of which, from 2000 to 2006, the European Union promoted sustainable development in the cities and neighbourhoods of its territory. The project was undertaken with a contribution of more than eight million euros from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). Although the intervention was specific, its aim was to substantially improve the sector’s connection with the rest of the city and thereby give it new life.


Besides renewing the paving of the rampart walk, the intervention has replaced one of the buildings of Calle de Los Descalzos by a new edifice that brings the street into direct relation with the rampart walk, connecting both of them with the Cuesta de Santo Domingo. Since care was taken not to break up the riverside profile of the city, the new construction is of a similar height to that of its neighbours and shows a sense of community in its solidary alignment with them. However, the composition of its two facades, which are brought together by a single two-level opening, takes on a notably superior degree of monumentality.

The building contains two mechanical lifts that run diagonally through the subsoil of the escarpment. With a capacity for transporting six thousand people per day, they negotiate the thirty metres difference in level between the historic centre and the river in sixty seconds. They reach the ground floor at the level of Calle de Los Descalzos through a large two-storey vestibule, which is the start of a pedestrian ramp that rises about another two metres to reach the level of the rampart walk. On the second floor there is an exhibition space with large windows looking out over the Arga Valley and over the Calle de Los Descalzos. At the top there is a restaurant with two terraces that also offer the chance to enjoy these views.


Although the work has been carried out with surgical precision, barely going beyond the limits of the block of land involved, the intervention is of a scope, on the urban scale, that spreads its effects throughout the whole northern sector of the historic centre. Making the riverfront permeable and negotiating the difference in level that was imposed by the topography of the place, the new connecting infrastructure has achieved two major successes.

First, it considerably improves the neighbourhood’s accessibility. At river level, it gives continuity to the Curtidores Bridge while, at the city level, it is all but directly aligned with the unifying axis of Calle Eslava. This strategic positioning effectively does away with the cul-de-sac effect, opening up new access to the old city centre. This, along with the monumental character of the building’s facades and the fact that its route passes through the wall of the old quarter of the city, gives it the status of a main gateway, thus surpassing the merely infrastructural dimension to take on the dimension of symbolic representation.

Second, the intervention not only improves the accessibility of the sector but also breathes new life into it by substantially enhancing its charms. Visiting the zone becomes desirable because it brings into direct relation two such appealing spaces as the rampart walk and the River Arga park. As if this twofold allure were not enough, it also puts within the reach of everyone a lofty lookout with privileged views, equipping the neighbourhood with an exhibition space as well as a restaurant that bolsters its cultural and gastronomic offer.

David Bravo Bordas, architect

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technical sheet

CITY: Pamplona (194,894 inhabitants)





AREA: 1,350 m2

COST: 8,563,360 €



Ayuntamiento de Pamplona




Jesús Cabrejas José Luis Sola y Arturo Pérez Espinosa P y P Ingeniería