Constructing children’s playgrounds in antiquated industrial parks may not seem like the best idea. But this is Madrid – and taking advantage of any and every available square meter has become an art form in the Spanish capital. Ecopolis Plaza is yet another example of creative urban reusability, but its focus on education makes it truly unique. A public nursery school is located at the heart of the plaza, which is designed to bring together community, sustainability, and education in one very brightly colored building.
The Spanish architectural firm Ecosistema Urbano has once again managed to transform an unlikely area into a sustainable, family-friendly community center, much like its Air Tree project in Vallecas. This time, however, the project is designed to be an “open environmental classroom” for teaching children about the benefits of reduced energy consumption.
Built in 2009, Ecopolis Plaza is a childcare center in Rivas Vaciamadrid. Located about 20 km (12.4 miles) outside Madrid Centro, Rivas Vaciamadrid is currently one of the fastest growing municipalities in Spain. Previously known more for its industrial areas, Rivas Vaciamadrid has recently seen an abundance of renovation and revitalization with new urbanization projects.
While Ecopolis Plaza certainly isn’t one of the most obvious tourist destinations, you won't need a map, directions, or even a street name to find it: Its bright yellow color and geometric design make this building virtually impossible to miss.
Its structure has been described as “a canvas-like shell stretched on to a sculptural steel frame,” and it has all of the makings of a modern nursery school and family center. While the color is its most notable feature aesthetically, the building is abundantly equipped with practical green features. The strategy behind its shading is to control temperatures inside the multi-level building and to provide shade in the outdoor play areas. The retractable shades also allow for optimal organic gardening, which is incorporated into the children’s’ many activities. In addition to strategic structural designs, the Ecopolis Plaza also includes multiple solar panels and a large play area that surrounds a natural water-purification system.
Although the ideas embodied by the Ecopolis Plaza are not uncommon in today's urban design trends, here these elements offer more than just a pleasant ambience of “greenness” – they show the children the full cycle of energy consumption and the importance of conservation.
Adjacent to the school are two smaller structures, the “solar house” and the “energy agency.” Thanks to the open access of these structures, children (and residents) can actually see the benefits of incorporating sustainable solar and landscaping strategy within the architectural design process. It is first-hand sustainability education at its best.
Ecopolis Plaza highlights the city’s dedication to sustainable design education within the community. It is a highly commendable project for an area that might not otherwise be noticed for its design features. The plaza was built on the idea that it’s never too early to educate children on the benefits of conservation. Certainly, with the implementation of Ecosistema Urbano’s design, Rivas Vaciamadrid has become a standout example of successfully blending urban planning with education.
Nicole graduated from Georgia State University with a Post Graduate degree in Spanish to English Translation and a B.A. in Spanish and International Business. Presently living in Madrid, Nicole works as a freelance writer and translator and enjoys traveling around the Iberian peninsula taking photos of Spain's rich blend of historic and modern architecture. Her articles and photos have been published in various trade publications and websites.Website: www.passtheham.com/