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elii [oficina de arquitectura]

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037 · P.N.S GENERAL VARA DEL REY

Opening the Black Box



ABSTRACT

Proyecto piloto para el Proyecto Madrid Centro

Pilot Project for the Proyecto Madrid Centro

General Vara del Rey square is a popular spot in downtown Madrid, and its claim to fame stems mainly from the Rastro street market that is held there every Sunday. This project integrates a solar farming power infrastructure within the city centre, redefining the environmental policy by means of a social-technical hybrid. The generated power shall be channelled to the network through a single connection point. The economic profit shall be used to pay for the square.

The design proves how integrated technical facilities provide a chance to not only improve the power performance of cities but also to allow citizen participation in the power management processes. Energy facilities are both an urban infrastructure and a means of communication for citizens. The square is an interface that explains the power production and management and translates them into spatial codes by means of various indicators that are integrated within the technical devices. The information is translated from an expert data language to easy formats that the public can read.

PROJECT

General Vara del Rey square is a popular spot in downtown Madrid, and its claim to fame stems mainly from the Rastro street market that is held there every Sunday. This project integrates a solar farming power infrastructure within the city centre, redefining the environmental policy by means of a social-technical hybrid. The generated power shall be channelled to the network through a single connection point. The economic profit shall be used to pay for the square. 

The design proves how integrated technical facilities provide a chance to not only improve the power performance of cities but also to allow citizen participation in the power management processes. Energy facilities are both an urban infrastructure and a means of communication for citizens. The square is an interface that explains the power production and management and translates them into spatial codes by means of various indicators that are integrated within the technical devices. The information is translated from an expert data language to easy formats that the public can read. For instance:

A. Solar photovoltaic power generation display, installed on the back of the solar panels. The night-time glare from these light-emitting displays shows the amount of power the panels have captured during the day. This provides access to the information on power generation. The geometry of the photovoltaic support means that the information will be more accessible in some areas of the square, so citizens may choose whether to access the information or to sit in parts of the square where it cannot be interpreted. These light-emitting displays complement the lighting of the square.

B. Accumulated water gauge. A network of small hills acts as tanks to collect rainwater. Recycled water is used to water the plants, and it is also sprayed during the summer months through nozzles and small fountains on the pavement. The hills are fitted with rain gauges that display the status of the water resources in the square.

C. Territory water gauge. Thirteen small ponds around the square, representing the reservoirs that supply water to the Comunidad de Madrid, fill up to a greater or lesser degree to represent the water stored in each. On the one hand this indicator serves to set the square in relation with the infrastructural network by highlighting the territorial dimension of resources, but also to showcase the relation between the scale of individual actions and the ecosystemic scale.

D. Recycling indicator. Located ate the waste recycling points. This indicator serves to establish energy equivalents between recycled resources and environmental care, highlighting the importance of citizen intervention.

E. Indicator of investment repayment. Citizens generally delegate the costs of the execution and maintenance of public spaces on public investment and taxes, therefore ‘blackboxing’ economic processes. However, General Vara del Rey square shall generate solar photovoltaic power to cover the cost of the works and its own maintenance. The display will show, in real time, how much of the investment has been already paid off. As the amount changes, so does the colour of the lighting in the square. This type of display helps people understand the effort behind this kind of investment and its project milestones, costs and guarantees. 

F. Pavement. The installation of recycled permeable slabs comes as the result of a detailed study of the solar radiation on the floor surface. The layout, colour and absorptance patterns of these slabs depend on the radiation incidence at each point. The floor is a display that shows the incidence of the sun and the warmer areas.

The combined action of the displays forms a pedagogical device that shows the problems that cities are faced with and makes the power controversies they are immersed in more tangible. In addition, it helps people understand the spatial-scalar, spatial and time relationship that networks operate in. Finally, it allows users to obtain information on the processes, but also to make decisions on their everyday actions in relation with energy.

CREDITS
  • Architects:
  • elii - Uriel Fogué + Eva Gil + Carlos Palacios
  • Team:
  • Elena Cuerda (Team leader), Enrico Forestieri, Ana López Sánchez-Vegazo
  • Developer:
  • Oficina Centro Ayuntamiento de Madrid 
  • Structures:
  • Mecanismo s.l.
  • Instalations:
  • Rafael Úrculo
  • Landscaping:
  • Raquel Álvarez, Daniel Castillo
  • PV consultant:
  • Schüco
  • Model:
  • elii - Ana López Sánchez-Vegazo
  • Size:
  • 5.366 m2
  • Date:
  • 2008 – 2009
  • Location:
  • Plaza del General Vara del Rey, Madrid