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USC Asia Architecture & Urbanism Study Abroad Program

Madrid es tu casa

Madrid is your home. Or at least what a home should be. Our visit to the Madrid Social Housing Pavilion at the Shanghai Expo encompassed the many ideas and concepts that we have been exposed to on our trip so far. Various other country pavilions on the other side of the river have touted their ideas about environmental-consciousness and sustainability endlessly, but few had physically manifested those ideas into the pavilion itself.

The Social Housing Pavilion is comprised of the bamboo house and the air tree, both of which are replicas of existing projects in Madrid. The bamboo house’s program, as a social housing project, is represented as different exhibit spaces within the pavilion. For example, the bedroom space houses the housing exhibit, the corridor represents the Gran Via boulevard and its importance to the city of Madrid, and the bathroom houses the exhibit for sustainability and efficiency Madrid is practicing.

The bamboo house is the epitome of the themes and ideas that Madrid as a city is putting into practice in order to make their city better. The first exhibit I visited detailed and mapped the various green spaces throughout Madrid and how there has been a legal municipal initiative on many levels to create a sustainable urban environment. One of the points of interests I took from the exhibits was the topic of green space in the city. They had diagrammed the green space in the entire city, a diagram which would have dwarfed the green space diagram of Los Angeles or many other cities in the U.S. for that matter. The implementation of this was seen on an architectural level on the bamboo house itself, with plants on the roof along with solar collectors.

And green space is not necessarily restricted to parks in Madrid. The exhibit also had an example of a project where the city solved a problem of physical disconnect between two areas with a strip of green space. To be honest, it is frustrating when project after project showcases a ‘green’ aspect of their project and have a strip of grass and that’s it. But to utilize a piece of green-scape as a part of an urban strategy to promote not only a sustainable environment, but also an environment that is enjoyable to its users is something that needs to be done more often. Just by plopping down a park in the middle of a city without any foresight is not the solution.

The far extent to which the exhibit documented not only the green spaces of the city, but also in mapping the various infrastructure and various commercial and residential districts was something to marvel at. This was truly a city that cares about itself and where it is going.

The implementation of this strategy not only in European cities but also in cities worldwide is something that was touched upon in Ibelings writing on Supermodernism, which discuss how globalization has enabled the rapid sharing of ideas, not just architecture, amongst the international community. The fact that cities are growing similarly and facing related problems has allowed for comparable urban strategies to be implemented in cities all across the world. So the solutions that are being used by Madrid are not just something one can marvel and appreciate but solutions that can be further be digested and taken to heart, so that people can return to their home countries and tell about what they’ve seen and employ ways to make their cities work more sustainably.

The air tree, located next to the pavilion, acts as a flexible outdoor multimedia screening program space that is powered by turbines on its roof which in turn powers a fan that keeps temperatures inside cool. It is easy to imagine something like the air tree being implemented in various urban situations, acting as means of bring a community together as well as being a tool of sustainability.

The pavilion guide describes their pavilion as ‘building a house and planting a tree in Shanghai…for you to make it your own.’ This pavilion truly stood out from the other pavilions by making its exhibits and information its own.

-Christopher Glenn

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AAU FALL 2013:

University of Southern California
School of Architecture
Asia Architecture and Urbanism
Study Abroad Program

Director:
Andrew Liang
Instructors:
Bu Bing
Steven Chen
Yo-Ichiro Hakomori
Andrew Liang
Yuyang Liu
Neville Mars
Academic Contributors:
Thomas Chow, SURV
Bert de Muynck, Movingcities.org
Manying Hu, SZGDADRI, ITDP, Guangzhou
Clare Jacobson, Design Writer, Editor, Curator
Laurence Liauw, SPADA, Hong Kong
Mary Ann O'Donnell, Shenzhen Noted, Fat Bird, Shenzhen
Paul Tang, Verse, Shanghai
Li Xiangning, Tongji University, Shanghai
Students:
Daniel Aguilar
Hong Au
Michael den Hartog
Caroline Duncan
Nefer Fernandez
Christian Gomez
Isabelle Hong
Jin Hong Kim
Ashley Louie
Javier Meier
Paula Narvaez
Ashlyn Okimoto
Tamar Partamian
Samuel Rampy
Luis Villanueva
Krista Won
Tiffany Wu

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