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Making the Collective City: Reflections on Participatory Processes | Conference in Lisbon

Category : ⚐ EN + city + news

Participatory Workshop by Ecosistema Urbano

Next June 8-9th the conference “Making the Collective City: Reflections on Participatory Processes” will be held at the University of Lisbon, with João Ferrão and José Luis Vallejo as keynote speakers.

In contemporary society, a time marked by globalisation, social and economic instability, a weakening of administrative “capacities” and increasingly complex social dynamics, new actors are emerging to support the development of community initiatives. Within this context, the conference aims to promote debate and reflection on methodological approaches applied in Participatory Projects in Architecture, Urbanism and Design.

This international conference will be an opportunity to discuss participation in architecture and urbanism and its role in defining common practices, policy measures and urban management strategies, in order to respond to issues of urban governance and the social needs of inhabitants.

The conference will focus on two central themes: the theoretical perspectives on the co-production of cities, and new approaches and challenges for participatory processes. To add a practical note, José Luis Vallejo will be sharing our experience and approach, and the activities we developed during the last participatory projects we have taken part in.

Save the date! You can submit an send an abstract before February 28th 2017, or register until May 22th 2017. We recommment you to check the website, as some discounts may be available for early registrations.

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Ruralism: The Future of Villages and Small Towns in an Urbanizing World | Book and Interview

Category : ⚐ EN + publications + sustainability + urbanism

Ruralism: The Future of Villages and Small Towns in an Urbanizing World book

Last year we were contacted by Vanessa Miriam Carlow from the Institute for Sustainable Urbanism to make an interview for the book Ruralism: The Future of Villages and Small Towns in an Urbanizing World. This book is dedicated to the significance of rural spaces ‘as a starting point for transformation’. Different international experts were asked to reflect on rural spaces from an architectural, cultural, gender-oriented, ecological, and political perspective and ask how a (new) vision of the rural can be formulated. As the introduction states:

In an urbanizing world, the city is considered the ultimate model and the measure of all things. The attention of architects and planners has been almost entirely focused on the city for many years, while rural spaces are all too often associated with visions of economic decline, stagnation and resignation. However, rural spaces are transforming almost as radically as cities. Furthermore, rural spaces play a decisive role in the sustainable development of our living environment—inextricably interlinked with the city as a resource or reservoir. The formerly segregated countryside is now traversed by global and regional flows of people, goods, waste, energy, and information, linking it to urban systems and enabling them to function in the first place.

Today we are publishing the interview, answered by Belinda Tato. If you find it interesting, there is much more in the book! We recommend you to get a printed copy here. Here is the full transcript of the interview:

Q: Your office name, ecosistema urbano, brings with it a certain tension that somehow combines unexpected contrasts. How did you come to this name and what do you want to express with it?

A: It took us a while to choose a name or concept that communicated our interests and the complex reality of urban issues we face. We found the idea of ‘ecosystem’ an appealing one, its definition implies a group of interconnected elements formed by the interaction of a community with their environment. This relationship between the natural and the artificial aims for a balance between these two worlds, and reflects the issues we care about when designing architecture and practicing territorial and urban planning.

Q: In your presentation, you said that during your studies the planning approach mainly focused on infrastructure and the physical environment. How would you describe the situation today?

A: I believe there is a clear shift between the object-focused educational approach from the nineties towards a more polyhedral approach and understanding of cities and design that is happening today. There is a growing interest in considering processes and interactions and taking the social, cultural, or economic aspects into account leading to more comprehensive and ambitious proposals to transform reality.

Q: Which approach does your office have today? How would you describe the current role of the architect and planner?

A: That is not an easy question to answer briefly! We recently made an effort to try to summarize our approach and the result is a kind of manifesto in ten points.

Urban. Social. Design. Three words that describe our dedication: the urban context, the social approach, and the design understood as an action, an interaction, and a tool for transformation. Understanding types of behaviour and processes at different levels is crucial.

Creativity is a network. In a globalized world, creativity is the capacity to connect things innovatively and thus we understand that the protagonist of the creative process is not just a team but an open and multi-layered design network.

Community first. Cities are created and maintained by people for people, and urban development only makes sense when the community cares about it. We work to empower the communities to drive the projects that affect them, so social relevance is guaranteed.

Going glocal. Just as cities have residents and visitors, and planning is made at different scales, every urban project is born in a constant movement between the direct experience and specificity of the local context, and the global, shared flow of information and knowledge.

Accepting –and managing– conflict. Participation, like conversation, means letting all the points of view be raised and listened to. Public debate only makes sense if all the stakeholders are involved. Every project affecting the city has to deal with both opposition and support, consensus and contradiction.

Assuming complexity. Encompassing the complexity of the urban environment requires simplifying it. Instead, we prefer to admit its vast character and understand our work as a thin layer –with limited and, at times, unpredictable effects– carefully inserted into that complexity.

Learning by doing. Our experience grows through practice. We know what we can do, and we challenge ourselves to do what we think we should be doing. We solve the unexpected issues as we move, and then we take our lesson from the process and the results.

Planning… and being flexible. Urban development is what happens in the city while others try to plan it. We think ahead, make our dispositions, but we are always ready for reality to change our plans… mostly for the better. Rigidity kills opportunity, participation and urban life.

Embracing transdisciplinarity: We assume that our role as professionals is evolving, disciplinary bonds are loosening, urban projects are complex, and circumstances are continuously changing. This requires open-minded professionals, flexible enough to adapt their roles and skills and to use unusual tools.

Technology as a social tool: Today’s technology enables us to better relate and interact with each other and with the surrounding environment. As the digital-physical divide narrows and the possibilities multiply, it becomes an increasingly significant element in urban social life.

Keeping it open: Open means transparent, accessible, inclusive, collaborative, modifiable, reproducible. Open means more people can be part of it and benefit from it. These are the attributes that define a project made for the common good.

Ruralism: The Future of Villages and Small Towns in an Urbanizing World book

Q: From your presentation, it emerged that the integration of the local conditions—as a climatic and social issue—represent an important focus of your work. How do you rate the relationship between global-local influence in relation to the architectural or urban design?

A: This is a very interesting question, and one we have asked ourselves several times. We have worked mostly abroad during the last years, and over and over we find the same situation where we have to balance the local and the global dimensions of design and planning. Local conditions are always the main terms of reference for our work. They give accuracy and pertinence to our proposals. They not only determine the boundaries we have to respect, the resources we have available, or the particularities we have to take into account, but also the potential for improvement that each particular place has. Local context is a source of invaluable site-specific knowledge, even if that knowledge is not always conscious or apparent, especially to locals. Opening a project to participation is a great way to make local values stand out and locals become self-aware… if you are able to ask the right questions and then read between the lines, of course. But relying solely on local conditions rarely provides the best solutions. You usually find situations that have become stagnant precisely by the lack of confrontation and external feedback. Then you need to confront the local ‘ways,’ often loaded with prejudices or relative narrowness, or with something else. And that is where global influence comes into play: the contrast, the opposition that clears concepts, breaks groupthink and gives a relative measure to local values. Global is the mirror that local can use to become self-conscious. We could speak of bringing knowledge from the global to the local, or even generating local knowledge by confronting it with the global. But it is also creativity that is being created or transferred. The ability to connect, articulate, and interpret different contexts is crucial whenever a new approach is needed and local conditions have proven insufficient to deliver it.

Q: You showed us some practical examples of your current work, which pursues sustainable approaches in terms of water recycling systems for the kindergarten in Madrid or climatic adaptations for the Expo pavilion in Shanghai. What opportunities do you see for the implementation of sustainable planning tools or strategies in larger, urban scale projects?

A: Urban planning and urban design have a great impact on people’s lives, shaping the way we live, move, relate, consume, etc… In addition to this, its impact will be of a long term as it is less ephemeral than architecture. For these reasons, it is important to design integrating with nature, its cycles and processes, taking advantage of the environment and optimizing interventions.

Q: Let us take a closer look at the countryside: in the current city-centered discourse, rural spaces are often dismissed as declining or stagnating. However, rural spaces also play a critical role in sustainable development, as an inextricably linked counterpart, but also as a complement to the growing city, as extraction sites, natural reservoirs for food, fresh water and air, or as leisure spaces. Do we need to formulate a (new) vision of ‘ruralism’? What would be your definition of the future rural? What new concepts for the rural exist in Spain?

A: When talking about ecosystems, it is crucial to understand the interwoven connections between the urban and the rural, and how they relate and affect each other in a critical balance. Although the urban expansion has some environmental consequences, there are also some interesting phenomena happening. As today’s IT keeps us connected and allows us to work remotely, this neoruralism enables us to have a renewed vision of the territory and its possibilities, offering development opportunities in towns that have been abandoned for decades, for instance in Spain. This new trend is transforming these abandoned towns into new activity hubs, creating a new migration flux from cities. It will be possible to measure the socioeconomic impact of this activity in a few years.

Ruralism: The Future of Villages and Small Towns in an Urbanizing World book

Q: The once remote and quiet countryside is now traversed by global and regional flows of people, goods, waste, energy, and information, interrelating it with the larger urban system. Is a new set of criteria for understanding and appreciating the rural required? How would you measure what is rural and what is urban?

A: In a globalized world with an unprecedented ongoing process of urbanization, and under the impact of climate change and global warming, it is becoming more and more difficult to precisely define the limits between the rural and the urban as the urban footprint is somehow atomizing and gobbling the rural. Cities are the combination and result of the simultaneous interaction between nature and artificial technology, and their ecological footprint expansion forces the extraction of natural resources from even further sources, with obvious environmental consequences. At the local scale, it is necessary to point out the close relationship between the way a city relates to its environment, the way it manages its natural resources, and the quality of life it can provide to its inhabitants. This could be summarized as: the more sustainable a city/territory is, the better its inhabitants will live.

Q: What role do villages and smaller towns have in a world in which the majority live in cities? Could you comment on and describe a bit about the situation in Spain or the other countries you have been working in?

A: In cities, innovation and creativity concentrate and emerge naturally. The rural environment also requires people willing to create, to innovate, to connect, etc…. This creative ruralism could lead to the creation of eco-techno-rural environments, which would provide some of the features of the rural combined with specific services of the urban…the perfect setting for innovation to take place!

Q: Which role could the rural play at the frontlines of regional transformation and sustainability? What are the existing and potential connections between urban and rural spaces?

A: The rural could provide a complementary lifestyle for people fleeing from the city to re-connect or re-localize. At the same time, we would need to explore and expand technology’s possibilities, pushing its actual limits, and foreseeing potential new services that could enhance life in the rural by making it more diverse, fulfilling, and even… more global.

Q: And what role can urban design play in preparing rural life and space for the future? Is the rural an arena for ‘urban’ design at all?

A: I think the challenge would be to create the conditions for social life and interaction. We do have the conditions for that activity to happen digitally, but how can we foster social activity in low-density environments? Would it be necessary to create small urban nodes in the rural? These issues are interesting challenges we have to face conceptually and design-wise.

Are you interested in this topic? You can get the book here…

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LAB1 Bogotá: reactivando la ciudad desde el trabajo colaborativo y la creatividad

Category : ⚐ ES + arquitectura + ciudad + creatividad + cultura abierta + laboratorios urbanos

Hace unas semanas, en el marco del Jurado del concurso BID URBAN LAB organizado por el Banco Inter Americano de Desarrollo, tuve la oportunidad de conocer a Leonardo Velasquez, miembro de uno de los equipos participantes y que resultaron finalistas en este interesante concurso, del que os informamos el pasado mes de junio.

Leonardo, durante su presentación, mostró el trabajo que desarrolla junto con otros estudiantes y creadores en la ciudad de Bogotá. El proyecto se llama LAB1 y hoy compartimos con vosotros algunas imágenes de esta interesante labor colaborativa así como una breve descripción de su actividad, facilitada por el propio Leonardo.

Podéis ver su página web y seguirles a través de Facebook e Instagram. ¡Esperamos que su actividad os resulte inspiradora!

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El Plan CHA de Asunción, finalista en el Premio Internacional de Guangzhou

Category : ⚐ ES + noticias + Plan CHA + urbanismo + video

El Plan Maestro del Centro Histórico de Asunción, o Plan CHA, fue presentado al público en mayo de 2015, y ahora está en sus primeras fases de implementación. Hace poco os hablábamos del primer festival de arte urbano, Latido Americano, y hay otras acciones en marcha gracias al equipo técnico del Plan CHA (que está trabajando en la creación de AsuLAB, un laboratorio urbano para el Centro Histórico) y a la recientemente creada Oficina del Centro Histórico de la Municipalidad de Asunción.

Gracias a este Plan (o proceso de revitalización, como preferimos entenderlo), Asunción fue recientemente seleccionada para el Premio Internacional de Guangzhou para la Innovación Urbana.

Aprovechamos la presentación a este premio como una oportunidad de contar de forma muy breve un proyecto largo y complejo. El resultado es el vídeo que podéis ver a continuación, realizado con materiales de Christian Núñez, de Dronepy, de Juan Carlos Meza de Fotociclo, del festival Latido Americano y de la excelente publicación Kurtural, y animado con la música de Chancha Via Circuito.

Este premio bienal busca identificar el proyecto urbano que mejor refleje la necesidad de la sostenibilidad social, económica y ambiental de las ciudades en el mundo. Está organizado por la Red Mundial de Ciudades y Gobiernos Locales y Regionales (CGLU), la organización Metropolis y la ciudad de Guangzhou, ubicada al sur de China Continental, en el corazón de la rica región industrial y comercial del Delta del Río Perla.

Esta tercera edición ha atraído a 171 ciudades, con un total de 301 iniciativas aprobadas por el Comité Técnico, de las que sólo 15 quedaron seleccionadas. Una de ellas, Asunción con su Plan CHA, lo que supone un reconocimiento importante para un proyecto que apenas acaba de comenzar su andadura.

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Espacios de coworking en red para la regeneración del territorio

Category : ⚐ ES + ciudad + creatividad + sostenibilidad + urbanismo

Desde la apertura de Citizen Space en 2006 en San Francisco, el número de espacios de coworking se duplica cada año. Un estudio de Deskwanted demuestra que Europa cuenta con más lugares de trabajo compartidos en el mundo, número que asciende, en 2013, a 1.160 de un total de 2.500. El fenómeno de los coworking spaces emergió en los movimientos de lo “libre” (open innovation, hacking, open source, open data, etc.) y en la cultura urbana y digital (Douheihi, 2011; Anderson, 2012). Cabe señalar que está relacionado con el aumento continuo del número de trabajadores autónomos. Entre 2006 y 2011, según el INSEE (Instituto nacional de estadística y de estudios económicos), aumentó un 26 % en Francia, lo que representaba, a finales de 2011, un 2,8 millones de personas.

1. El coworking en una red de espacios urbanos y rurales

Observamos un hecho notable en los últimos años : los espacios de coworking, inicialmente de carácter urbano, empiezan a desarrollarse también en los territorios periurbanos y rurales. Solamente en Francia y desde el 2012, observamos la creación exponencial de coworking rurales en las regiones del Perche, del Verdon, la Orne, el Alto Jura (Morez), la Ardèche meridional (Saint-Etienne de Boulogne), y en Aquitania, en Mont de Marsan, Hagetmau, Mimizan o Captieux. Colectivos como Coop Connect en la región PACA o La Coopérative des Tiers Lieux en Aquitania, intentan crear redes para conectar estos espacios y profesionalizarlos. Por su parte, Grand Genève (área metropolitana de Ginebra) trabaja en elaborar lo que sería la “primera red mallada de espacios de trabajo compartidos en el mundo”. Un estudio reciente de las consultorías Ocalia y Sofies prevé la creación, para 2025, de más de 200 nuevos espacios de co-trabajo en el territorio del Grand Genève, con 7.000 puestos de trabajo para 35.000 clientes potenciales.


Este trabajo de entramado de espacios a escala de los territorios rurales y urbanos responde ante todo a una cuestión de sostenibilidad. Se trata de disminuir los desplazamientos domicilio-trabajo, a fin de reducir las emisiones de C02 y aumentar la calidad de vida de los autónomos y asalariados. El estudio sobre el Grand Genève ha demostrado que la creación de 200 espacios de coworking conllevaría reducir del 6% los desplazamientos en la población, o sea casi 12 millones de desplazamientos anuales.


El programa europeo “Coworking Pyrénées”.

Esta apuesta por la sostenibilidad es también central en las preocupaciones de un gran proyecto transfronterizo, Coworking Pyrénées, que pretende poner en red espacios de coworking. Este programa europeo reúne cuatro socios franco-españoles : el SMALCT – Syndicat Mixte Arize-Lèze de Coopération Transfrontalière, La Coopérative des Tiers-Lieux y dos organismos de formación profesional españoles, el Centro de Formación Somorrostro y el Fondo Formación Euskadi. Debe permitir capitalizar y valorar los recursos y las competencias de más de 200 espacios de coworking pirenaicos, localizados en grandes áreas urbanas como Barcelona o Tolosa o en espacios rurales. Para ello, Coworking Pyrénées está sólidamente fundamentado en redes existentes como Cowocat Rural, Pandorahub, Xarxa d’Espais de Coworking del Camp o la Coopérative des Tiers Lieux.

Coworking Pyrénées (Cowopy) inició hace un año una serie de estudios y jornadas de intercambios. Abarcan diversos temas: la formación de los trabajadores, las puestas y condiciones del desarrollo de los coworking rurales, las perspectivas de intercambio entre universidades y espacios de coworking, y las oportunidades de cooperación transfronterizas. Más allá de la problemática medioambiental, la red Cowopy tiene una visión global del desarrollo territorial que radica en hipótesis ambiciosas. Se centran más en su capacidad de innovación y puesta en valor de sus “ventajas diferenciales” (Courlet et Pecqueur, 2013), que en la competitividad y la productividad de los territorios.

2. Recursos y ” ventajas diferenciales” de los territorios

El proyecto Cowopy defiende una visión dinámica de los territorios, que ya no son percibidos como un almacén de recursos estáticos. Se trata en realidad de revelar estos recursos latentes (Colletis y Pecqueur, 2005), sirviéndose del potencial de los espacios de coworking. Desde el punto de vista de los territorios rurales y periurbanos, los lugares de trabajo compartidos desempeñan un papel central a la hora de retener e incluso atraer talentos, trabajadores independientes, startups de sectores innovadores, así como teletrabajadores regulares, ocasionales o nómadas. En estos espacios, encuentran servicios mutualizados, conexiones de muy alta velocidad, redes y un conjunto de informaciones tácitas que resultan determinantes en el ejercicio de su actividad.

Por otra parte, estos espacios asumen una función clave de movilización de los recursos de los territorios. La organización periódica de acontecimientos como los co-lunchs, sesiones de presentación de proyectos, barcamps o talleres, permite a las fuerzas vivas del territorio encontrarse e intercambiar competencias, ideas y saberes. Un reciente estudio de la Cooperative des Tiers Lieux ha demostrado que se organizaron más de 1.000 eventos en terceros lugares1 de Aquitania desde el año 2010.

En cuanto al mantenimiento de esta efervescencia, necesita una “gobernanza creativa” (Cordobès y Ducret, 2010): una mirada sistémica sobre los recursos territoriales, la conexión entre actores de diversas disciplinas, y un interés continuo por la innovación.


Taller de creatividad de la red Cowopy en Anglet (fuente: Jérome Bélon //

Por último, la articulación en redes permite a cada espacio identificar sus “ventajas diferenciales”. En tal contexto, se trata menos de posicionarse sobre determinado sector, que de permitir el acceso a una temática que especifica y sitúa la vocación del territorio. Una de las plusvalías esenciales de lugares de trabajo compartido radica en su capacidad de organizar lo multiescalar, la interterritorialidad, e hibridar los sectores de actividad de los territorios a fin de revelar sus especificidades. De esa manera, los espacios de coworking no diferencian entre economías productivas, culturales o residenciales, convirtiéndose así en herramientas muy interesantes en la constitución de “sistemas productivo-residenciales”, como los denominan los economistas Laurent Davezies y Magali Talandier.

3. La difusión y la hibridación de los conocimientos

El tercer campo investido por la red Cowopy se refiere a la formación, la difusión y la hibridación de los conocimientos. Recientemente se lanzó un programa piloto para crear una plataforma digital de formación a distancia de teletrabajadores y gerentes de coworkings. Una encuesta permitió la identificación de sus necesidades de formación, en cuanto a gestión de proyectos, mediación o comunicación (ver presentación).

Más allá de este proyecto, la red Cowopy se interesa por las oportunidades de colaboración entre los espacios de coworking y las universidades. El procedimiento consiste en apoyarse en la red de terceros lugares1 pirenaicos para asegurar una difusión del saber universitario en los espacios rurales y periurbanos, así como un mejor anclaje territorial de las universidades. Otro objetivo es la hibridación de los conocimientos teóricos con los conocimientos vivos y tácitos producidos en estos espacios (Besson, 2015); con vistas al desarrollo de nuevos modelos de aprendizaje colectivo y la inserción del saber universitario en las problemáticas socioeconómicas y territoriales (Llorente, 2012).

Taller de creatividad de la red Cowopy en Valls (España).

Taller de creatividad de la red Cowopy en Valls (España)

Desde este punto de vista, la red Cowopy ya puede apoyarse en experiencias significativas. Así ocurre, por ejemplo, con la creación de un espacio de coworking en la facultad de economía de la universidad de Barcelona. Este espacio ha permitido apoyar a una treintena de proyectos coproducidos por los estudiantes de la facultad. Estos proyectos pertenecen a ámbitos tan diversos como la gastronomía, el deporte, la impresión 3D, las aplicaciones móviles, los comercios de proximidad o las nuevas tecnologías aplicadas al aprendizaje de idiomas. El otro interés de este espacio de coworking reside en su relación en red con otros espacios de coworking nacionales e internacionales, que acogen a los estudiantes barceloneses. Défi Locacitées otro proyecto, desarrollado en un espacio de Tolosa, Le Multiple. Su objetivo es la promoción de la cultura colaborativa y multidisciplinaria entre los estudiantes de las universidades y escuelas de la región Midi-Pyrénées. Consiste en un ciclo de encuentros, talleres y experimentaciones en Tolosa.


La creación y el desarollo de redes de espacios de coworking a escala de territorios rurales, urbanos o transfronterizos abre nuevas perspectivas para las políticas de desarrollo territorial. Tales experiencias replantean la organización de los desplazamientos, de los servicios y la separación rígida y funcional de los lugares de trabajo. Proponen bases sólidas para pensar “sistemas productivo-residenciales”, basados en la valorización de las “ventajas diferenciales” y en los recursos locales. Estimulan a que se organicen la difusión y la hibridación de los conocimientos en los territorios, bien sean teóricos, codificados, tácitos, experimentales o procedentes de intercambios informales entre las redes de coworkers. Tales políticas de red de los espacios de coworking tienen incógnitas pendientes en relación con la evolución de las realidades del territorio; estas estrategias se basan en hipótesis, especialmente desde el punto de vista de su impacto socioeconómico y medioambiental, que todavía han de ser verificadas.


1. Nota de traducción: “Tercer lugar” es una traducción directa de “tiers-lieu” (en inglés, “third place“), término referido en general a entornos sociales diferentes de la vivienda (primer entorno) o la oficina (segundo entorno) y usado concretamente en Francia para referirse a nuevos espacios de trabajo como coworkings, fab labs, living labs o hackerspaces. No confundir con el “tercer entorno” de Javier Echeverría.


Anderson, C. 2012. Makers: the new industrial revolution, New York : Crown Business.
Besson, R. 2015. « Espaces de coworking : nouveaux lieux d’apprentissage du capitalisme cognitif ? », Echosciences.
Colletis, G. et Pecqueur, B. 2005. « Révélation de ressources spécifiques et coordination située », Économie et Institutions, 1er et 2nd semestres, p. 51-74.
Cordobès S. et Ducret R., 2010, « Le “territoire créatif” : nouveau modèle ou utopie ? », in Conseil d’analyse économique, Créativité et innovation dans les territoires, La Documentation française, p. 327-351.
Courlet, C. et Pecqueur, B. 2013. L’économie territoriale, Grenoble : PUG.
Davezies, L. et Talandier, M. 2014. L’émergence des systèmes productivo-résidentiels. Territoires productifs – Territoires résidentiels : quelles interactions ?, La documentation française, Datar, coll. Travaux, n° 19.
Douheihi, M. 2011. Pour un humanisme numérique, Paris : Seuil.
Llorente, C. 2012. Coworking. Compartir para crecer, Omneom

Raphaël Besson

Experto en socio-economía urbana y doctor en urbanismo, Raphaël Besson es director de la Agencia “Villes Innovations” (Madrid, Grenoble). Villes Innovations es una agencia especializada en los temas de la ciudad innovadora y creativa, con un enfoque pluridisciplinar (investigación, consultoría estratégica, conferencias y enseñanza, centro de recursos). Asociado al laboratorio Pacte (Universidad de Grenoble), sus investigaciones se centran en el desarrollo económico de los territorios, los sistemas de innovación abierta y la cuestión de las ciudades innovadoras y creativas. En su trabajo de tesis, ha elaborado la noción de Sistemas Urbanos Cognitivos, a través del estudio de grandes proyectos urbanos localizados en Buenos Aires, Barcelona y Grenoble. Por supuesto, en sus investigaciones, Raphaël Besson es atento a la durabilidad de los modelos de desarrollo local.

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CUENCA RED en el libro “La participación en la construcción de la ciudad”

Category : ⚐ ES + arquitectura + Cuenca Red + ecosistema urbano + publicaciones + urbanismo

La Escuela Técnica Superior de Arquitectura y Edificación de Cartagena publica el libro “La participación en la construcción de la ciudad”, y Ecosistema Urbano ha sido invitado a contribuir en el mismo, compartiendo alguno de nuestros últimos proyectos. Hemos decidido narrar el proceso de trabajo, los resultados y la experiencia adquirida en el proyecto CUENCA RED, un proyecto que finalizamos la pasada primavera, después de un intenso proceso de trabajo que culminó en la definición de 6 propuestas urbanas para la transformación de espacios públicos de la ciudad.

El libro ilustra este proceso en más de diez páginas de contenido exclusivo, por lo que agradecemos a los editores y coordinadores Jaume Blancafort y Patricia Reus, la oportunidad que nos han brindado.

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PDX Carpet y la gentrificación en Portland

Category : ⚐ ES + ciudad + creatividad + urbanismo

Hasta hace relativamente poco tiempo la gente en Portland, Oregón, se sentía como en casa nada más aterrizar en el aeropuerto. La culpa de esto la tenía la moqueta de aeropuerto más famosa de Estados Unidos. La PDX Carpet (PDX es el código del aeropuerto de Portland) era una moqueta de estilo ochentero con un diseño muy valorado por los hipsters que pueblan esta ciudad de la costa oeste americana. Muchos jóvenes, embelesados por su estilo vintage y su llamativo color verde, generaron un auténtico fenómeno en las redes sociales cuando, en el año 2013, las autoridades anunciaron la sustitución del diseño original por una nueva versión actualizada. En enero de 2015, la antigua moqueta fue sustituida por una nueva versión. Desde ese momento, y como consecuencia del fenómeno provocado en las redes sociales, se comercializaron numerosos productos con el diseño de la antigua moqueta, desde alfombrillas a camisetas estampadas.

Incondicional de la moqueta del aeropuerto de Portland con camiseta a juego. Fuente: The Guardian, Zachary Tyler George.

Incondicional de la moqueta del aeropuerto de Portland con camiseta a juego. Fuente: The Guardian, Zachary Tyler George.

Este fenómeno, que no tendría más interés que la simple curiosidad que lleva a plantearse las razones por las que una simple moqueta conduce a generar un movimiento de tales dimensiones, trasciende la mera curiosidad intelectual desde el momento en el que

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¿Qué está pasando en el puerto de Valencia? Conoce el Civic Factory Fest

Category : ⚐ ES + ciudad + creatividad + eventos + urbanismo

Interior de la base del equipo de vela Alinghi - Foto: CivicWise

Interior de la nave que sirvió de base para el equipo de vela Alinghi, y que ahora se abre a la ciudad – Foto: Civic Factory Fest

Sobre los muelles del puerto de Valencia, en algunas de las naves que en su día ocuparon los barcos y equipos de la Copa América, está sucediendo algo tan interesante como difícil de explicar en pocas palabras.

¿Cómo imaginamos la Valencia de mañana? ¿ Y si fuéramos capaces de combinar la inteligencia, experiencia y habilidades de todos los actores de la ciudad para dar respuesta a los retos a los que se enfrenta nuestra ciudad? ¿Y si además fuéramos capaces de hacerlo conectando con colectivos, proyectos y expertos de la comunidad internacional?

Así, a través de preguntas, lo plantean sus organizadores: como la ocasión para reimaginar Valencia desde otros valores y otros modos de hacer ciudad, estableciendo una “fábrica” cultural local desde la que lanzar propuestas.

Y es una fiesta, porque la acción ocurre en el marco de un evento que, durante este mes, servirá para celebrar el empoderamiento ciudadano, la colaboración y la innovación urbana. El formato pop-up de “festival” permite experimentar ese tipo de espacios y dinámicas de forma temporal, tomando el pulso a una iniciativa que seguramente vuelva de nuevo con más fuerza, quizás para quedarse.

Y es una fábrica, porque la idea es reimaginar Valencia, pero reimaginarla haciendo, desde la intervención y la transformación directa y tangible de uno de sus espacios más grandes e infrautilizados: la Marina Real de Juan Carlos I. Una transformación espacial que convierte el lugar en un espacio de creación ciudadana y da soporte a la realización de las demás actividades.

Y es una iniciativa cívica, porque promueve el encuentro y la colaboración entre los diversos actores que contribuyen a hacer ciudad, buscando que estudiantes y profesionales, vecinos y visitantes internacionales, empleados públicos y empresarios puedan aportar algo a la ciudad, cada uno desde sus recursos, conocimientos, habilidades y experiencia.

Esquema general de espacios, actividades y temáticas - Fuente: CivicWise

Esquema general de espacios, actividades y temáticas – Fuente: Civic Factory Fest

El proyecto muestra lo amplio de su mirada desde el propio planteamiento. Por un lado propone la creación de diferentes tipos de espacios según las actividades: un taller para la producción, una escuela para el co-aprendizaje, una galería para la divulgación y un ágora para la reflexión. Y por otro, ocupando, desarrollando y activando esos espacios a través de la intervención de los propios participantes y la celebración de talleres, charlas y encuentros, apunta a la generación de reflexiones y propuestas en torno a seis temas clave de la ciudad: el desarrollo social, la formas emergentes de ciudadanía, la economía cívica, la cultura y la creatividad, la transición ecológica y la cultura de lo compartido.

A fecha de hoy las actividades, organizadas en cuatro fases, están ya a la mitad de su recorrido. El “lab” inicial, con actividades como el taller #PopUpFactory coordinado por Zuloark, Adrián Torres y Civic Factory, permitió intervenir en el espacio y prepararlo para las siguientes actividades. A continuación se desarrolló el “camp“, donde la comunidad empezó a instalarse en el espacio y reflexionar sobre sus posibles futuros a través del taller #caminaMarina, coordinado por Asociación Arquitectúria y CivicWise con la colaboración de EFGarquitectura y Carpevía . De ahí se abrirá más hacia el exterior con un foro de reflexión sobre la ciudad y se finalizará con una exposición que permita contar el propio proceso y sus resultados.

Calendario general del Civic Factory Fest: lab → camp → foro → expo. Imagen: Civic Wise

Calendario general del Civic Factory Fest: lab → camp → foro → expo. Fuente: Civic Factory Fest

Las imágenes del proceso hablan de la gran transformación cualitativa que está viviendo el lugar, a través de intervenciones ligeras de medios pero cargadas de intenciones y compromiso por el desarrollo urbano y humano.

Instalación realizada durante un taller con Zuloark, que prepara el ágora para realizar encuentros y charlas - Foto: CivicWise

Instalación realizada durante el taller #PopUpFactory, que preparó la nave para encuentros y charlas – Foto: Civic Factory Fest

Vista de uno de los nuevos espacios creados durante el taller - Fuente: CivicWise

Vista de uno de los nuevos espacios creados durante el taller – Fuente: Civic Factory Fest

Durante una de las actividades -Fuente: Civic Factory Fest

Durante una de las actividades – Fuente: Civic Factory Fest

Intervención en el espacio exterior que rodea la nave - Fuente: Civic Factory Fest

Intervención en el espacio exterior que rodea la nave, taller #CaminaMarina – Fuente: Civic Factory Fest


Y pese a todo lo hecho, aún queda mucho por delante. Si estáis por Valencia durante este mes o tenéis la posibilidad de acercaros, no perdáis la oportunidad de sumergiros en el proceso, aunque sea durante un par de horas. Podéis participar en cualquiera de las actividades o simplemente acercaros a trabajar un rato, como si de un espacio de coworking se tratara, y respirar el ambiente. Durante la próxima semana las actividades alcanzarán un nuevo pico de intensidad con la celebración del foro —talleres, charlas y debates— sobre activación productiva, espacio público, urbanismo y participación.

Programa del foro - Fuente: Civic Factory Fest

Programa del foro – Fuente: Civic Factory Fest

Detrás —y delante, debajo o alrededor— de este proyecto está CivicWise, una comunidad internacional de personas interesadas por el urbanismo colaborativo, el empoderamiento ciudadano y la innovación cívica, todos ellos aspectos estrechamente relacionados con el concepto de “diseño cívico“. CivicWise viene a ser como un enorme paraguas o una red en la que van condensando proyectos, y uno de ellos es el Civic Factory Fest, realizado con la colaboración de colectivos locales como Carpe Via, patrocinadores como la cerveza valenciana Turia e instituciones como La Marina de València o el Ayuntamiento de Valencia.

Puedes seguir las actividades de Civic Factory Fest en Facebook, Instagram y Twitter.

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public space for the extreme: evaporation

Category : ⚐ EN + architecture + city + networkedurbanism + research + sustainability

Fog Assembly, Olafur Eliasson, Versailles 2016. Image courtesy of Olafur Eliasson, Anders Sune Berg

Fog Assembly, Olafur Eliasson, Versailles 2016. Image courtesy of Olafur Eliasson, Anders Sune Berg

Evap·o·rate, to pass off in vapor or in minute particles.

All evaporative cooling rely on the energy required for the evaporation of water to absorb heat from the air and lower the temperature. This is due to the very high enthalpy of vaporization of water, the phase transition between the liquid and the gaseous state requires in fact a large amount of energy (which is more properly called enthalpy) that is taken from the air in the form of sensible heat (which is the temperature, something we feel with our skin and determines our comfort) and it is converted into latent heat (which is an energy “hidden” in the vapor component of the air). The result of this adiabatic process is a drop in the temperature of air and an increase in its humidity, therefore it’s clear that this cooling system is particularly effective in dry and hot climate zones where the higher humidity and the lower temperature can be both seen as advantages. Clearly the evaporating process is a key also for some convective cooling processes (that we treated here) but they rely also on the reduced buoyancy of cooler and more humid air to obtain the final effect while evaporative cooling techniques only rely on the evaporation of water.

Blur Building, by Diller+Scofidio, Swiss EXPO 2002. Image taken from

Blur Building, by Diller+Scofidio, Swiss EXPO 2002. Image courtesy of david huang

Although primitive evaporative techniques were used in ancient times (in combination with convective and ventilation devices like windcatchers and qanats in iran) and porous water jars are still used in many hot areas in combination with Mashrabiya other ventilation apertures to naturally cool down the interior of buildings the use of evaporation to cool down outdoor spaces is very recent. Evaporative cooling depends largely on how effective we are able to evaporate water, and a basic physical variable plays a big role in this case: surface-area-to-volume ratio, the more surface area we are able to expose the more energy we are able to exchange.  There are basically  two ways to proceed nowadays to maximize the surface area, evaporative pads and misting. Evaporative pads are generally used in evaporative cooling machines oriented to indoor cooling, these pads are cheap and effective but they are relatively fragile, require continuous maintenance and are most effective in controlled environments where the airflow can be adjusted and controlled, the “wetpads” are made of porous materials that have to be maintained wet while air passes through. The peculiar structure of these materials offers the largest possible surface area to the passing air which is then humidified and pushed into the building or the room. This technique can’t be used for outdoor cooling clearly because of the required control to the ariflow that is necessary.

Misting is instead widely used nowadays to lower temperatures both in buildings and open spaces. The use of water mist to generate passive cooling in closed buildings is strictly related to passive (or mechanical) evaporation towers and therefore to what we have been explaining in the convective technique post in open spaces the use of water jets and mist is instead very efficient (of course depending on specific climate conditions) and cost effective.

Although it is not strictly designed to be a bioclimatic public space, the Miroir d’eau designed by Michel Corajoud in 2006 in Bordeaux is one of the most successful examples of water evaporation usage in public space design. In this case a large square, just in front of the famouse Place de la Bourse, is designed to be a large water mirror where hundreds of water nozzles spray water from the floor either in the form of a fountain or of a mist cloud. In the first case, where tall gushes are produced, water evaporation is limited and the playful atmosphere dominates the large plaza, but when short mist clouds are produced the evaporation rate of the water is greatly increased and a cooling effect is produced, although in Bordeaux climate conditions are quite mild, and hot days are limited to few occasions during summer the square is very popular.

Miroir d’eau, Michel Corajoud, 2006, Bordeaux, France. Image courtesy of Tony Hisgett CC-BY-NC

Miroir d’eau, Michel Corajoud, 2006, Bordeaux, France. Image courtesy of Tony Hisgett CC BY 2.0

Vaporizing water coming from the floor is a quite common and effective mean to condition large open spaces, the effect that everybody has noticed of a slight refreshment when passing by a fountain in a square or, even more, while staying close to a waterfall is due to the very same thermodynamic principle, the small drops of water that the are created when water breaks while falling to the ground or splashing into more water dramatically increase the surface-area-to-volume ratio favoring a faster evaporation, the nebulized microscopic drops evaporate instantly causing a sudden temperature drop that can be magnified by the wind or other design inventions. In the Sevilla 1992 EXPO this effect was widely used, large fountains and water basins were placed all around the EXPO along all the main paths and squares to increment climatic comfort, in some areas even vertical walls of water were designed to expose the visitors to an even more effective cooling device, but the most common strategy was the use of conventional fountains and mist nozzles integrated in the many green shading roofs.

Calle Torricelli, EXPO 1992, Sevilla. Image Courtesy of Mapio

Calle Torricelli, EXPO 1992, Sevilla. Image Courtesy of Mapio

The design of these spaces has to be developed with special care, the effectiveness of the strategies used in Seville for example varied much depending on the surrounding conditions, evaporative cooling could be very effective if combined with the right design of protective and shading elements, with a correct sun and wind exposure and material use but could be also nullified simply by not considering the wind variation. Even if water vaporization is widely used in many terraces, bars, public venues, etc. because of its low cost, obtaining an effective bioclimatic effect is harder to achieve. Ecosistema Urbano employs evaporative cooling in one of their seminal project, in the Vallecas ecoboulevard, the Ludic and the Media Tree are not equipped with evaporative towers but with water spraying nozzles that are oriented towards the circular public space beneath them.

Media Tree, Ecobulevar, Ecosistema Urbano, Vallecas 2004. Image courtesy of Ecosistema Urbano

Media Tree, Ecobulevar, Ecosistema Urbano, Vallecas 2004. Image courtesy of Ecosistema Urbano

The main innovation in the use of evaporation in this case is due to the form of the designed public space, because, as we already said, there is not much to innovate about the nozzles technology itself. Actually the most important issue is the control of the water flow and pressure as it has to be correctly regulated depending on the actual dry-bulb and wet-bulb temperature, relative humidity etc. in the case that those variables are considered, evaporation should be instantaneous without any dripping nor condensation. In the case of the Media Tree temperature and humidity sensors regulate the flow and the pressure of the water flowing to the spraying nozzles constantly adapting it to the weather conditions. In this case the design is particularly effective not only because of the cooling technology but mostly because of the shadow provided by the “trees” themselves and the protective design of the ground section that allow the cooled air to linger in the “inhabited” space and not being immediately dispersed.

Blur Building, Diller+Scofidio, 2002 EXPO, Switzerland. Image courtesy of theredilist.

Blur Building, Diller+Scofidio, 2002 EXPO, Switzerland. Image courtesy of theredilist.

But misting has a close bound with atmosphere and space, being one of the few atmospheric phenomena that we can directly observe fog and mist have been used also to define spaces, these new approaches, even though not directly related with bioclimatic architecture, open the door for future developments. In one of their most famous, and paradoxically iconic, works Diller+Scofidio designed a “formless, massless, colorless, weightless, odorless, scaleless, featureless, meaningless” that was basically made of mist and nothing else. Their explication for the work was open-ended, blur-building was not only the name they gave to it but also a factual assertion: the definition of it was also blurry. This event contributed to redefine, or to destroy, the meaning of building and the separation between what is a building and what is environment, up to even questioning what is architecture, for the first time the space was not defined by walls or windows or any stable solid material but was only an undefined mutating cloud made of vaporized water.
But this wasn’t in fact the first building that used mist water to blur its edges (although that they are all curiously related to universal expositions, more about expos here), the Pepsi pavilion in Osaka was the result of the fructuous cooperation between engineers and artists within the Experiments in Art and Technology  group and it was constantly covered with a thick layer of fog that partially hid it. In this case the building was still present and firm, a concrete entity with an interior and exterior form and a “conventional” space inside but the fog sculpture, designed by the japanese artist Fujiko Nakaya who spent her life working with fog, contributed to the creation of a memorable innovative pavilion.

Pepsi Pavillion, A.E.T. Osaka EXPO 1970, Osaka.

Pepsi Pavillion, A.E.T. Osaka EXPO 1970, Osaka. Image courtesy of A.E.T.

At the Seville EXPO in 1992 the so called “bioclimatic sphere” was also one of the main attractions of the whole exhibition and surely one of the most iconic ones. A tubular sphere was placed in the middle of one of the most important boulevards of the exhibition rounded by fountains and water basins as a part of the bioclimatic design of the open space of the exhibition. Although being highly symbolic and recognizable this sphere as reported in the follow-up publications about the Expo was not really contributing to any bioclimatic effect on the square or the boulevard, this depended basically on the fact that the device was placed in an open space and the diffusion of mist was not controlled in any way (a very interesting publication about the follow up of the climate conditioning in the EXPO 92 has been published by the same engineers that contributed to the design of the project and a short extract can be found here).

Esféra Bioclimática, EXPO Sevilla 1992.

Esféra Bioclimática, EXPO Sevilla 1992.

In 2016 also the famous artist Olafur Eliasson started working with fog and misting, naturally he is not concerned with the bioclimatic function of fog but more about the terms of landscape and vision and interaction between the user and the fog itself. Placed in the Versailles garden, “fog assembly”, is a ring emitting a swirling mist that involves the objects around and changes appearance depending on the site conditions. The user is invited to interact with the installation, crossing it and begin part of the fog it is producing, in this sense, this artwork can be easily assimilated to a public space generating a connection with the theme of this research.

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Public Space for the Extreme: Convection

Category : ⚐ EN + architecture + city + networkedurbanism + research + sustainability + Uncategorized

Digestible Gulf Stream, Philippe Rahm, Venice Biennale 2008. Image courtesy of Philippe Rahm.

Digestible Gulf Stream, Philippe Rahm, Venice Biennale 2008. Image courtesy of Philippe Rahm.

Con·vec·tion. Convection results from the tendency of most fluids to expand when heated.

The use of convective air flows with the purpose of cooling traditional houses was not alien to traditional Persian and middle eastern architecture. Joining the “simple” badgir ventilation system with more refined and complex cooling technologies was one of the most advanced points reached by Persian/Iranian building knowledge. Passive cooling systems in the Yazd desert were so advanced that iced formed (and accumulated) during the cold winters could be conserved frozen until the height of the long, hot, desertic summer.
In addition to sensible cooling, the cooling caused by a change of air temperature but not its humidity, badgir combined with a savvy use of water can provide also evaporative cooling which is generally more effective than sensible cooling alone.

Water deposit cooled with badgirs in the Yazd desert, in Iran

Water deposit cooled with badgirs in the Yazd desert, in Iran. Image courtesy of Flickr user dynamosquito, CC BY-SA

In order to do so, windcatchers have to work together with a water source that supplies water which is then evaporated cooling down the flowing air, this can be achieved in many ways. The first one is taking advantage of the of the basement damp walls of the windcacher itself, if there is enough humidity in the underground the basement walls will be constantly wet and when the wind tower is working as an air intake the evaporation of the thin superficial layer of water will cool down the downward incoming stream of air. The second solution is to put a water source, if available, right under the shaft of the tower, a fountain or a small pool is used in this case, sensibly and evaporatively cooling down the entering wind. A great example, found in Yazd, combines and refines even more these two methods placing the tower further than usual from the house (50 m) and then using an underground tunnel to connect the tower with the house. The tunnel, being underground benefits both from the earth thermal inertia and from the humidity of the soil and at the end of the tunnel a fountain is placed to cool down even more the air. The third, and more advanced, passive cooling system based on windcatchers benefits from an underground water stream to cool down the water.

Climatic Tree in the Vallecas Ecoboulevard, Madrid 2004. Image courtesy of Ecosistema Urbano.

Climatic Tree in the Vallecas Ecoboulevard, Madrid 2004. Image courtesy of Ecosistema Urbano.

The use of convection with the purpose of cooling public space is mostly centered on evaporative towers, in a normal evaporative (cooling) tower hot water is distributed in the upper part of the tower, the sprayed hot water release heat in the atmosphere condensing and flowing down to the bottom of the tower where it is collected and recirculated if it’s the case. In evaporative towers designed to cool the surrounding space the process is inverted, cool water is sprayed with nozzles at the top of the tower and rapidly evaporating absorbs energy from the air coming in from the top of the tower, the cooler and more humid air being denser descends to the bottom and causing the area above it to cool down. The design of an evaporative tower able to work properly is challenging, a single design flaw or dysfunction can cause the sprayed water to condensate an drip.

During the 1992 Seville Expo the white towers of the Avenida de Europa were originally designed just to be architectural objects landscaping one of the main avenues of the exhibition but considering a wider plan to improve public space comfort in the whole exhibition area, technically developed with the help of the “termotecnica” group of the university of Seville, were converted into evaporative towers to improve the environmental conditions in the area.

The design, obviously not conceived thinking about the cooling effectiveness, had to be converted a posteriori into a cooling machine. Two main modifications were made: a wind collecting cap was added to the top of the tower and nozzles were installed inside it. For six months the exhibition remained open and the engineers responsible for the bioclimatic design of the event collected data about the functioning and the performances of the design (the report can be found in this book). The added wind-collecting cap proved to be too small for the purpose it was installed and was not sufficient to “catch” enough wind during an average summer day. The second flaw was caused by the structural design of the tower itself, the internal part of the chimney wasn’t smooth and wasn’t totally free either, the secondary steel structure that stiffened the tower was in fact a lattice continuously crossing the chimney section, water nozzles were installed in circles on the inner perimeter of the membrane and functioned properly but the vaporized water copiously condensed on the lattice structure causing continuous dripping under the tower itself. This was obviously a major flaw and the towers functioned only partially, also due to the difficult maintenance of the water nozzles.

In 2004 Ecosistema Urbano realized one of its most iconic designs, the eco bulevard in Vallecas, Madrid. Each one of the three trees has different characteristics and each one is focused on a different aspect of public space, but in this case the most interesting is the northernmost one that was designed as a rack of twelve evaporative cooling towers grouped to form a semi-enclosed public space shaded and cooled by the bioclimatic tree. Each one of the cylinders is made of two textile tubes, the exterior and reflexive one creates a protective layer for the inner cooling mechanism, the interior tube is the evaporative tower itself. A cap, provided with three openings to collect winds from all directions, is placed on the top of the inner cylinder, right under the cap there is a fan that starts spinning when temperatures rise above 28ºC to increment the existing breeze or to move the air if there is no breeze at all. About at the height of the fan water is sprayed creating a fine mist and its evaporation greatly increases the cooling effect on the air descending in the inner tube and then exiting in the semi-enclosed public space, delimited by the crown of the cooling towers.

Ecobulevar- Arbol de Aire, Ecosistema Urbano, 2004, Ensanche de Vallecas, Madrid.

Ecobulevar- Arbol de Aire, Ecosistema Urbano, 2004, Ensanche de Vallecas, Madrid.

The ecobulevar, being a fully designed public space, can count on many other design characteristics that improve the overall functioning of the cooling towers, their efficiency and the energetic behavior. The design of the public space under the “tree” is very important, the enclosing section, creates a favorable space for artificial climate conditioning, though it is an open space the “habitable” part (the first 2m from the ground) are somehow closed by the design of the pavement itself, this design contributes to the refrigeration of the central area reducing the hot breeze influence at the ground level and avoiding the direct escape of cooled air. Solar panels contribute to the over sustainability of the artifact generating enough energy to power the fans and the pump for the water. Extensive studies on the ecobulevar, demonstrated that air temperature at the ground level can be up to 9ºC cooler than the air at the top of the tree and that the average temperature difference is around 6,5ºC.

The last two examples are practically based on the same design principle but there are huge differences concerning both the size and the technological character of the project.

The first one is the wind tower that the British architects Foster+Partners designed for the Masdar Institute in the planned city of Masdar, Abhu Dhabi (which they also planned). The Masdar institute is, as of 2016, one of the few built parts of the city, which, in turn, is facing serious development and financial problems with only the 5% of the planned area being completed. The core plaza of the institute hosts a 45m tall windtower that contributes to the climatic comfort of the plaza channeling down the breezes that often spire in the desert, it is important to notice that the tower is not the only element designed to improve the ambient conditions of the plaza but all the strategies are focused on the sustainability and the comfort of both the buildings and the public spaces, in this case the dense urban form is supposed to reproduce the one of the traditional local architecture and buildings façades are self shadowing reducing the reflected sun radiation in the square, streets are narrow, etc.

Masdar Institute Courtyard showing the wind tower. Image Copyright: Nigel Young/ Foster+Partners

Masdar Institute Courtyard showing the wind tower. Image Copyright: Nigel Young/ Foster+Partners

This tower is a hi-tech interpretation of traditional ones, its size is greatly increased (the highest windtower in Iran is 33m high) and many design details are engineered improvements of the original windwoter concepts. The 45m teflon sleek tube is naturally designed to offer the smallest possible resistance to the passage of the wind and to reduce the possibility of condensation to the nebulized water used for passive cooling. Computer controlled louvers opens and close according the direction and the speed of the incoming wind and reduces the suction caused by negative pressure on the downwind side of the tower, with this refined mechanism, and the triangular design, the tower is always exploiting the precious wind. To increase even more the cooling potential a ring of water nozzles, also computer controlled, is placed right at the top of the shaft transforming this tower in a evaporative cooling device.

A low-tech version, though very similar in the functioning is the windtower built at the Nitzana Educational Village, in the Negev desert at the border between Israel and Egypt. This design is constituted only by a vertical metal chimney topped by a fixed wind catcher oriented towards the prevailing wind. The playful design is enhanced by a clever usage of the bottom part of the tower, a perforated ceramic brickwork is used to enclose a relatively generous meeting place that can host dozens of people from the local community, to reduce solar gain on the habitable part of the tower a sun protection is installed around it permanently shadowing the ventilating part.

Nitzana Educational Eco-Village, Nitzana. Picture courtesy of the The Jewish Agency for Israel CC BY-SA 2.0 from flickr.

Nitzana Educational Eco-Village, Nitzana. Picture courtesy of the The Jewish Agency for Israel CC BY-SA 2.0 from flickr.


The cooling process is based on a combination of wind-catching, mechanical ventilation, and evaporative cooling. In the upper part of the shaft a large fan is installed to generate an artificial windflow (power is apparently generated by solar panels placed on the south side of the tower) and under the fan two rings of nozzles are placed to implement passive evaporative cooling. Though being quite a raw design, this cooling tower uses all the technical mechanisms to achieve a cost effective cooling for the small public it has to refrigerate. Compared to the Masdar windtower this one might have a major flaw, in both the Ecobulevar and Masdar the proper cooling shaft is always protected from the direct sunlight, in this case instead the shaft is thermally conductive and prone to overheating,

But the most advanced look at what convection means for the perception and comfort of the human body in the space has to be find in Rahm’s “Digestible Gulf Stream”. In this project, two white sleek metal boards are placed at different heights in a room, one of the boards, placed on the floor, is constantly heated to 28º C, the second one, hanging at a higher point is cooled down to 12ºC. The temperature difference between the two panels creates a convective flow, the air heated on the lower plan becomes less dense and lighter and tends to float towards the second object that gradually cools it down causing it to descend until reaching again the warm plate. This constant air flow is invisible but certainly perceivable by the human body, for the purpose of the exhibition in fact, actors with different clothing (from naked to well dressed) were standing on the plates showing various levels of comfort and doing various activities that had a different impact on the heat production.

Digestible Gulf Stream, Venice Biennale 2008 - Philippe Rahm. Image courtesy of Philippe Rahm.

Digestible Gulf Stream, Venice Biennale 2008 – Philippe Rahm. Image courtesy of Philippe Rahm.

Rahm’s pioneering work in “climatic architecture” is extremely interesting, in this case the space is defined only by its temperature which is something we are not really used to, our normal physical division of space (walls, windows, curtains…) is totally visual but then our comfort is determined by variables like air temperature, this is particularly true in public space, where usually there are no “rooms” and the use (or the avoidance) of space is more often determined by factors like shadow, noise, comfort, etc.