Reimagining Madrid's Plaza Mayor

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Reimagining Madrid's Plaza Mayor
One of the greatest freedoms of architecture in the 21st century is the abundance of technologies based on the ephemeral and transformation. Capitalizing on this, Rockwell Group Europe set out to draw on the history of Madrid’s Plaza Mayor and to envision interventions, both temporary and permanent, that would infuse energy into Madrid’s historical center, and to reintroduce elements of nature, art, and spectacle. The result is three distinct alternatives, each of which endeavors to accomplish a unique aim: the humanization of the plaza through technology and program. The mission is to create a new chapter in the history of this emblematic square and a connection with the contemporary world. These alternatives propose new programs of use and experimental interventions that strive to create a global reference for the relation between history and current day. Rockwell Group Europe’s design strategy is always based on the experience of the final user. Design concepts that start from the creation of an experience result in a more flexible and human design that has the primary goal of transformation of the space starting with the user. Alternative 1: The Mirage While the concept of a literal return to Plaza Mayor’s garden roots may be seductive to many, Rockwell Group endeavored to create a modern-day balance between a classic garden and innovative architectural interventions. A huge and transportable mirrored cube is inserted into the plaza creating a reflection and an optical illusion which distorts the traditional form of the square and replaces the architectural symmetry of centuries past with a new, kaleidoscopic vision. The interior of the cube hosts thick vegetation showing a strong contrast with the aridity of Madrid. The vegetation is dramatic and plays up the contrast between an organic world and a concrete one. When placed in the center of the plaza, this “organic mirage` will envelop the statue of Philippe III. Appointing the entry arches to Plaza Mayor with vertical gardens creates green access points that hint at the secret that lies within the cube. This generates a direct impact upon the senses of the visitor: scent, sensation of humidity, touch, and above all, visual. Alternative 2: Abstract Gardens The Abstract Gardens intervention recalls the most organic elements of nature through architectural components. The design of two shading mechanisms not only creates an urban garden, but the use of alternative technologies helps to mitigate the elements through thoughtful and sustainable design. A series of mobile sunshades line the perimeter of the square. A nod to Spanish culture, these gigantic fans have various positions. In their closed and vertical position they pose minimal interruption to the visual space. In the second position, they are opened vertically, creating screens for video projections during special events. The final position of the opened and horizontal fan delivers necessary shade to the terraces around the square. These mechanisms provide large shaded areas with only one structural element, very little construction, and minimal impact to the surface of the plaza. The automation of these shades will permit adjustment several times per day and will have relevance in all seasons. In the sprint and summer, the maylard (material used for sails) will provide both sunshade and protection from rainfall. In the winter, convection heaters powered by solar panels on the roofs of the adjacent buildings provide warmth. In the second intervention, a series of white aerostatic balloons are fixed to the surface of the square with adjustable height depending on wind and the desired effect. These “abstract gardens` create shady spaces, require no water, and can be moved to create different scenarios. When they cut a path from that creates a diagonal in the square, they facilitate traffic flow. When clustered in the corners of the plaza, they create small forests of shaded areas that play host to exhibitions or markets. When placed in a grid in the centre of the square, they provide a shaded garden for larger events. The slow movement of the balloons due to the wind provides a dynamic and sensual shadow, creating a beautifully kinetic installation. Alternative 3: Four Seasons Garden The Four Seasons Garden relates to the historical tradition of hosting public events inside the plaza. Utilizing simple technology of polyethylene sheets and temporary structures, we create a central element that serves as a platform for seasonal events. In parallel, the surrounding building façades are transformed from architecture into gigantic projection screens, creating a dialogue and adding an urban dimension that can be enjoyed by visitors, even those without direct sightlines to the activity at the center. Spring: The melted water will inspire a huge aquatic garden, and will host a carpet of flowers and aquatic plants that create a link with the aquatic origin of the plaza. Kaleidoscopic images of the plants will be projected onto the façades of the buildings. Summer: In summer the center will transform into a huge water mirror. The reflections of the streetlamps, the statue of Philip III and the adjacent buildings will be the protagonists. Steady evaporation will help to cool the temperature of the square during the hottest months. At night, the buildings will digitally transform into gigantic waterfalls. Fall: The central space will be covered by sand and used for various equestrian events. On the façades of the adjacent buildings, elegant equestrian figures will be projected on a large scale. Winter: Water will be frozen to create a public space such as the Rockefeller Centre or George Square in Glasgow, transforming Plaza Mayor into an ice skating rink. The circular movement of the ice skaters will be captured by cameras on the sides of the platform and projected onto the adjacent buildings. Exploring the psychological factors of the organic world, Rockwell Group Europe’s interventions introduce components stemming from our perception of parks, gardens and water. Plaza Mayor’s historical role evolves into that of an area for artistic and sustainable projects, again representing a national center of trends and information, and an active platform for new streams of natural scenery, technology, recreation and culture.


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