elii [oficina de arquitectura]



Travelling on a constellation 


* First Award COAM -ex aequo- (Official Professional Association of Architects of Madrid), 2017

* Finalist FAD Award, Category: Ephemeral Interventions, 2017

Carriage of the Madrid Council, parade of the Three Kings, Madrid

As the sun set on 5th January 2016, Melchior, Caspar and Balthazar travelled the streets of Madrid on constellations of light, to be welcomed by hundreds of thousands of children.

The carriages of the Three Kings are built as a kaleidoscope of lights and mirrors, a dynamic optical device that is activated by the motion of the vehicles, playfully challenging the citizens' perception. The sides, formed by reflective aluminium pyramids, multiply the points of light and their depth, and are topped by a longitudinal platform that allows the to-ing and fro-ing of Their Royal Highnesses and their Assistants during the parade. A space for the utilities is also included inside. The geometry of the pyramids also ensures the generators are correctly ventilated. Platforms at the front and rear serve to stack the bags of sweets that will be handed out during the parade.

Each of the carriages has a predominating colour that is nuanced with other shades, depending on the personality of each King: gold and indigo for Melchior, blue and purple for Caspar, pink and green for Balthazar. They also produce certain effects related to their respective occupations: for Melchior, golden confetti is launched high up into the air as a symbol of astronomy and gold. In Caspar’s carriage, smoke is produced to represent alchemy and incense. Balthazar’s carriage blows water bubbles, as a reference to botany and myrrh. The textures and colours of the props and the clothing of the Royal Entourage accompanying the carriages are coordinated with the unit as a whole. Lastly, the units project a series of musical pieces from their lands of birth towards the public, thus adding to the festive atmosphere.

The size and height of the carriages is set by a study of the visual elements of the roads, so that they can be seen by the largest possible number of children, be they on the front row, standing behind these or in the stands. On the other hand, the volume of the carriages is set in relation with the urban scale, creating links with the most important streets, squares, towers, blocks, etc, of the city of Madrid.


* First Award COAM -ex aequo- (Official Professional Association of Architects of Madrid), 2017

* Finalist FAD Award, Category: Ephemeral Interventions, 2017

Travelling on a constellation

Dreams. In the two senses of the word. The carriages are part of a magical day that is full of hopes and dreams. Moreover, they are designed as a device with a dream-like appearance that creates sensory illusions.

What you see is not what it seems.

Kinetic device. The carriages move leisurely and incessantly during the parade. The carriages form a kinetic optical device that is activated with their motion, creating a changing perception during the itinerary.

Now you see it, now you don’t.

Efficient geometry. Every light bulb is multiplied at least eight times as it is mirrored on each of the seventy-six pyramids, creating the illusion of a constellation formed by 3600 points of light.

You see more than what there is.

Low consumption. Energy consumption is optimised by minimising the number of lights. The amount of energy used during the whole parade is equivalent to that used to bake a Three Kings’ cake.

Lower consumption, improved performance.

Kaleidoscope of lights and bodies. The lights, the surrounding bodies (of the Royal entourages, the citizens, etc) as well as some fragments of images of the city are reflected and multiplied on the mirror surfaces.

Virtual images are an architectural material.

Democratic device. The carriages rise to their maximum possible height, so as to guarantee they can be seen by children on both sides of the street.

Strategic gazes.

Mediated architecture. This project has a dual audience: firstly, the public that takes to the streets every year to welcome the Three Kings, and, secondly, the millions of spectators that follow the event ‘from a distance’ through the media (TV, internet, etc). The height is projected to work properly both live and on the screen.

Screens and mirrors, the surfaces where we are reflected.

Lightness. The carriages are built in aluminium, a light and reflective material that allows for quick assembly, without hindering the self-propelled platform on which it moves.

They look enormous, but they are light.

  • Architects:
  • elii - Uriel Fogué, Eva Gil, Carlos Palacios
  • Team leader:
  • elii - Ana López
  • Team:
  • elii - Ana Castaño + Claudia Pérez 
  • Design team for the 2016 parade:
  • Maral Kekejian, María Jerez, Jorge Dutor, Laura Millán, David Picazo, Oswaldo Terrones, Ignacio Buhigas y elii
  • Construction:
  • Scnik
  • Fotography and video:
  • Miguel de Guzmán, Rocío Romero
  • Surface area:
  • 104,4m2
  • Date:
  • 2016
  • Location:
  • Madrid