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HARVARD DESIGN MAGAIINE 33 iii José Luis Vallejo and Belinda Tato Ecosistema Urbano, Spain u Harvard Design Magasine 2, Fall/Winter 2010-2011 cealstema Urbano, Air Tree, Shanghai Espo 2010, Ecosistema Urbano works to create public spaces that maximize social contact, We designed a project (opposite page) for the Urban Best Practice Area of the Shanghai Expo 2010 for the City of Madd, a project evolving from our Eco-Boulevard of ‘Vallecas, Madrid, For both cities we designed tech= nically performing outdoor "urban furniture” that provides climate comfort and something for people tointeract with. We are finishing an energy- efficient kindergarten building close to Madrid, one that provides a natural water purification system in the square in front of it while creating a microclimate to improve comfort outdoors. What is happening outside is just as important to us as what goes on inside, and we try to make its indoor spaces connected with the surrounding public space, ‘We won a competition in the Netherlands to explore unconventional outdoor play objects for children, since we believe that education is the most important means to a sustainable future, We also work in the digital publicrealm, through our Inter- net platform [ecosistemaurbano.com), creating projects that generate interaction between physical and digital worlds, We developed an Internet tool to empower citizen participation in urban develop- ‘ment and design. Ithas been implemented in differ- ent European cities: Copenhagen, Nantes (France), Ferrara (Italy), Caceres, Corufta, and Alicante (Spain), as @ way to launch public discussions. On- line, citizens offer their visions for an alternative future urbanity growing from the existing urban environment. ‘Our Shanghai project countered high humidity ‘with fan-produced air currents, Sensors taking, readings of the Shanghai climate in real time acti- vated the technologies, raising and lowering and slowing down or speeding up a seven-meter- diameter fan. This fan was powered by five micro- ‘wind-power generators designed for urban sites producing energy from low speed winds. The public space created by this new urban furniture was used by people to relax and thus have the opportunity for social interaction. It was the most visited city pavilion, with more than three million visitors in. fourmonths, Public spaces at the Shanghai Expo did not usually have human scale; the pavilions ‘ware isolated sculptures that entered no dialogue with the surrounding spaces, People are queuing uncomfortably outside pavilions for hours waiting for much shorter indoor experiences! ‘The Eco-Boulevard project in Madrid provides public space ina sprawling peripheral area. We recycle" the city: Through small transformations, we make space for cars into space for people. We ‘counter excess dryness by humidifying air with water atomizers at the top of the cone-shaped struc ture when itis over twenty-seven degrees Celsius; ‘the humid air drops down to the bottom, People use italot to cool off. The technologies in these projects are easy and cheap, so they can be duplicated else- where: We use low tech technology thats off-the- shelf and easy tomaintain. We are more interested in offective real life interventions than in developing theory. We trans- form the reality, then later we may stop to reflect; it's more important to us to make things, Working with students and citizens, we develop low-budget, “urban actions": During a short period we work intensely to transform aspects of their urban environment. We have developed different urban actions such as creating an urban beach ina deprived area of Madrid, a park from a parking lot in just one week (at Alcalé de Henares), viral publi- city to raise awareness of an abandoned area of Milan, and a toys exchange webpage for children in Madrid, Our practice is not utopian: We wantto address existing city problems and not start from scratch, Now isnot the time for megalomaniac projects; we simply plant idea seeds. We don't want to determine the conditions of future generations— things should change and grow after we leave, We want to make people think about the import- ance of the "commons." ‘We are very optimistic—to enjoy your work, you have to be, We don't want to become a large “factory” firm, We were working only in Madrid ten years ago; now we are working in Norway, Shanghai, Paris, Nantes, Rotterdam... Life is good. ‘Contemporary Pretice