The Aranjuez cultural landscape is an entity of complex relationships: between nature and human activity, between sinuous watercourses and geometric landscape design, between the rural and the urban, between forest landscape and the delicately modulated architecture of its palatial buildings. Three hundred years of royal attention to the development and care of this landscape have seen it express an evolution of concepts from humanism and political centralization, to characteristics such as those found in its 18th century French-style Baroque garden, to the urban lifestyle which developed alongside the sciences of plant acclimatization and stock-breeding during the Age of Enlightenment.
The Aranjuez Cultural Landscape is a singular entity of complex and historic relationships between nature and human activity, the sinuous watercourses of the rivers and the geometrical design of the landscape, urban and rural life, and between the forest wildlife and the refined architecture. The Tagus and Jarama rivers are the two main arteries of the Aranjuez Cultural Landscape, an extensive area (2,047.56 ha) in the south of the Autonomous Community of Madrid. The surrounding buffer zone is located within the municipal boundaries of Aranjuez (16,604.56 ha).
Aranjuez bears witness to various cultural exchanges over a span of time that had a significant influence in the development of its landmarks and the creation of its landscape, thereby becoming a model for its culture’s use of its territory. The process of transformation dates back to the reign of Philip II when, with the influence of the Crown and the wealth of nature as the determining elements, Aranjuez was established as a Real Sitio (Royal Site) in the sixteenth century. The Royal Commands of Ferdinand VI, Charles II, and Isabella II marked its evolution in the 18th and 19th centuries. This landscape survived during the 20th century when it was opened for the enjoyment of the public.
The property comprises diverse elements that make up the different zones: historic vegetable gardens, tree-lined avenues and groves (Legamarejo, Picotajo, El Rebollo), the Palace and ornamental gardens (the Prince’s, the Island, the Parterre, the King’s and Isabella II’s gardens) and the 18th century historic town centre. The conceptual combination of these zones creates a series of landscapes that, together, comprise the Aranjuez Cultural Landscape. These include the water landscape (rivers, ponds, dams and ditches), the agricultural landscape (orchards and nurseries, stock-breeding farms, and meadows), the delectable landscape for leisure (ornamental gardens), the ordered landscape (the geometry of the streets and squares that shape the natural terrain), and the constructed landscape (the palace, the planned town, the roads, and agricultural buildings).
Aranjuez represents the coming together of diverse cultural influences to create a cultural landscape that had a formative influence on further developments in this field.
The complex designed cultural landscape of Aranjuez, derived from a variety of sources, marks a seminal stage in the development of landscape design.
The Aranjuez Cultural Landscape contains all its elements and attributes: the irrigation and hydraulic systems, the vegetable and ornamental gardens, the tree-lined streets and squares, the Royal Palace, and the historic centre.
Both the natural and geometric components of the property as a whole have survived remarkably well, with relatively little loss and effectively no inappropriate intrusion other than modern communication routes. Major buildings as well as the city’s layout, its gardens, and tree-lined avenues have been preserved as characteristics of an urban community among orchards and groves, living on a ground plan that mirrors those of ornamental gardens across the river. The 19th-century historic railway, which was the second to be built in Spain, is still maintained.
The measures in place for the conservation of its elements and attributes guarantee the integrity of the property, which is favoured by the fact that most elements are still used for their original purpose. The hydraulic and irrigation systems are still in use. The historic vegetable gardens are still cultivated and the tree-lined streets and squares are conserved and renewed. The ornamental gardens are still visited for leisure and for cultural events. The Royal Palace is used for cultural and institutional acts. The 18th-century town combines its function as a residential centre with the aesthetics and cultural aspects of its urban layout, its architectural features and outstanding buildings.
The conservation of the site is not a contemporary phenomenon but goes back to the patronage of the Spanish Crown. The property confiscations that were carried out in the 19th century and the aggressive development during some years of the 20th century have not had any significant negative effect.
The property is not under any significant threat. There are no natural risks, and the measures taken to address the threats posed by industrial development or demographic growth, including those that might impact its wider setting, guarantee a good state of conservation for all attributes of the property.
The Aranjuez Cultural Landscape is remarkable from a historical, chronological, and spatial viewpoint. From its origins in the 16th century, Aranjuez has been a reflection of the patronage and splendour of the Spanish Crown, personified by two of the most important monarchs in universal history, Charles V and Philip II. Aranjuez has been a convergence of ideas, aesthetics, and science at different times throughout history. It has also been a melting pot of ideas, a reference point and place of influence since its formation.
Although it has lost its role as a royal residence, the property has retained its authenticity to a considerable degree in terms of place and design, architecture, hydrology and to a remarkable extent in function.. Though some of the garden areas require restoration, the overall state of conservation is such that the site is able to demonstrate clearly the stages of its development from the mid-16th to the mid-19th century.