urban social design
ecosistema urbano is a Madrid-based group of architects and urban designers operating within the fields of
urbanism, architecture, engineering and sociology. We define our approach as urban social design by which
we understand the design of environments, spaces, dynamics and tools in order to improve selforganization of citizens, social interaction within communities and their relationship with the environment.
Over decades cities have been conceived, designed and built from a physical point of view considering mainly
their infrastructures, buildings, technologies, materials, geometry...and completely forgetting about the
This dominant perception has led us to end up believing that reality and processes are final and closed
situations, rather than processes, relationships, patterns, and significant networks.
Architecture usually is about creating beautiful, sophisticated buildings and complex geometries and Urban
Design is always approached from a bird’s eye view, and a single designer’s perspective
People, fluxes, behavior and the social dimension of our work are usually not mentioned or considered.
social, environment and technology
These are the three main topics that underlie our approach to urban issues and architectural design.
Our professional research, as well as our teaching, focuses on exploring new possibilities through technology
to streamline processes and the relationship between people and their environment, aiming to improve
everyday life and social issues and promoting interdisciplinary cooperation in doing so.
ecosistema urbano philosophy can be shown around 3 strategies linked to 3 case studies, which are all of
them related to Madrid, the city where we are based.
1. transforming the existing
Instead of starting from scratch, we are very interested in working with the existing conditions and urban
environment as a way to enhance creativity and challenge ourselves within the physical, landscape, formal
and economic constraints of the existing city.
Case study: Ecoboulevard in Madrid’s outskirts
Program: Ecological Boulevard for a social and bioclimatically conditioned public space.
The Eco-boulevard in Vallecas can be defined as an urban recycling operation consisting of the following
actions: insertion of air trees-social dynamizers over an existing built-up area, densification of existing
alignment trees and reduction and asymmetrical arrangement of wheeled traffic circulation. Superficial
interventions reconfiguring the existing urbanization (perforations, fillings, paint, etc.) which defaces the
executed kerb development.
There are two main objectives: one social, aimed at generating activity, and another environmental, the
bioclimatic adaptation of an outdoor space, achieved with a passive air conditioning system based on chilling
by evapotranspiration. This system, commonly used in the greenhouse industry, is capable of lowering
temperature by around 10º C, depending on humidity conditions and temperature. Air trees are exportable
objects, so they may be re-installed in similar locations or in other types of situations requiring an urban
activity or reactivation.
2. designing responsive urban environments
Working beyond the physical dimension and materiality, incorporating other parameters such as: Air quality,
temperature, ICT (Information and communication technology) and energy consumption as part of the
design. Designs that react/respond, in real time, to the degree of occupancy, climatic and lighting conditions,
interacting with the specific physical conditions and the desires and needs of the users. The urban
environment as an evolving/changing background for urban life.
Case study: Air Tree Shanghai 2010 World Expo
Program: Public Space and outdoor pavilion for the City of Madrid.
The Air Tree emerges as an experimental prototype of intervention in contemporary urban public space,
capable of reactivating sites and creating the necessary conditions to empower the use of collective space. It
is conceived as technological urban furniture, which also serves as an interactive connective node between
Madrid and Shanghai for users.
Its different technical layers enable multiple final configurations and a myriad of intermediate positions
(opaque, translucent, transparent, bright, interactive, open, etc.). Different fabrics for video projections allow
an unlimited combination of scenarios adaptable to citizens’ needs. Its appearance can be transformed
throughout the daily cycle, as well as the different seasons. It is connected by sensors in real-time with the
climatic conditions of Shanghai, constantly adopting the optimal physical and energy consumption
configuration to generate climatic comfort for the citizens.
A 7.3 m diameter fan suspended at a height of 11.5 m by a tensegrity structure in the center of the space
provides air flows inside the space. The fan can be lowered several meters to come closer to the ground using
a telescopic system The exact position and speed are determined at each moment according to the instant
climatic conditions of the environment, monitored in the surroundings of the structure in real time.
3. raising environmental awareness
Making the environmental agenda visible, making it transparent and accessible to everyone as a way of
making a statement in the city, reaching a broad audience, raising awareness, creating curiosity and leaving a
cultural legacy - a `green footprint’ on every project we implement.
Case study: Ecopolis Plaza in Madrid’s outskirts
Program: Ecological reconfiguration of a former industrial site into a new public space
The Ecópolis Plaza is conceived as a source of learning for citizens, educating on energy saving and
optimization of natural resources. The project integrates ecology into everyday life, distancing it from
theme parks and museums. In this project, architecture is challenged beyond formal experimentation in
order to transform a vacant lot on the outskirts of Madrid into a space for social interaction.
Plaza Ecópolis brings together a kindergarten, a play space for kids, and public space on the same site.
The solution combines passive energy saving systems together with active systems, providing an A-grade
eco-label, the highest in Spanish law.
In addition, all the waste water from the building is naturally purified by a macrophyte lagoon incorporated
in the public space. This recycled water is stored in an underground gravel tank and then used for all the
irrigation needs of the garden. This artificial landscape emulates a natural riverbank. The surrounding
topography creates an enclosure and buffer area protecting the building and users from the aggressive