Ecosistema Urbano is a Madridbased architecture and design firm founded in 2005 by Belinda Tato and Jose Luis Vallejo. Ecosistema Urbano, which means “urban ecosystems,” works in mainly urban areas, revitalizing industrial areas and poorly developed innerring suburbs by creating new buildings and public spaces that focus on increasing both social activity and biodiversity.
Ecosistema Urbano uses off the shelf products, common sense green building principles like Passivhaus design, and open source tech platforms that are easy to access, translate, and tweak. They bring together the architectural details of good placemaking with the participatory aspects of community development.
We honor Ecosistema Urbano particularly for their progressive ideas on community participation. The group has worked to update the very notion of “community participation” through the development of online tools which encourage global participation on local projects. The group has developed several apps to collect community input throughout the design process. New technologies work to break down barriers which traditionally inhibited the full participation of community. Many of our ‘communities’ today are in fact digital, so the idea of community participation must be updated as well.
In a physical space, the group is best known for their green projects like Ecobulevar – a project of ‘air trees’ in the Madrid suburb of Vallecas. The project is intended to be temporary, but creates the same sort of community space that one would find in an old growth allée.
The air trees are made from repurposed industrial materials such as recycled plastic, greenhouse fabric, rubber tires. They contain rooting vegetation and atomizers that cool and moisten the air in the cylinder and around it (8oC to 10oC cooler than the rest of the street in summer). The cylinders can be used for public gatherings, and solar panels provide electricity for lighting when needed (excess energy is sold back to the grid and helps fund the maintenance of the structures).
This and other sustainability projects like Ecopolis in Madrid speak to a shared sense of community responsibility and interaction.
We had a chance to speak with Belinda Tato of Ecosistema Urbano, along with Daniel D’Oca of Interboro on June 1 and later on June 8. Listen to the podcast here.