Elena Gallego de Velasco
Almost one year ago Spain rejected the permanent mechanism for the distribution of refugees derived from the Syrian conflict, refusing to accept almost 15,000 people. From the dissappointment with this situation arises this proposal, trying to generate a reception system capable of growing up as the asylum applications do and breaking the static and traditional Spanish state, both the poor ghettos generation and the stablished rich ones. The project is not only an architecture proposal but a political weapon.
One year ago Spain rejected the permanent mechanism for the distribution of refugees derived from the Syrian conflict, refusing to accept almost 15,000 that had been allocated to it according to an estimate of population, GDP and unemployment rate.
This project aims to generate a reception system that is capable of growing exponentially, as the number of asylum applications in Europe does in the proposed city of Madrid.
The key is really to welcome these people and not just to relocate them, as has been done in Madrid with the social housing granting.
Social housing and affordable places are usually found in the most peripheral areas, poorly connected, with the highest unemployment rates, and the most deficient public spaces, which causes the generation of ghettos of immigrant population, arbitrarily placed for their economic situation, without taking into account their potential and isolating them in areas that suppress their possibilities of integration and social, cultural and economic development.
It imposes a cyclical system which introduces the newcomer into an area that leads him to insulate himself – which as time passes reduces his chances of getting out of that situation.
A system based on the fear of different.
The future of cities is open to a total multiculturalism, a complexization of the concept of “belonging” to a particular place. This does not mean the imposition of a generic cultural identity that makes all local identities disappear, but the enrichment of all cultures through the others in an integrating system.
A city capable of accepting all types of citizens. And with that target, this project arises.
If we take care of the immigrants and people at social risk relocation plans in the Community of Madrid , we can observe that all these have been carried out in the city’s outskirts.
Applying the filters of the GDP and the percentage of immigration existing in each of the Madrid neighborhoods, the areas with danger of excluded ghettos formation and the armoured rich zones are clearly located. In addition, looking at other parameters that favor the integration of the inhabitants in a capitalist-based city like this, such as easy access to public transport and different equipment, we observe that the areas of the relocations are almost completely lacking in both networks.
Madrid is at a point of immobility which is necessary to break.
The quadrants of the official tourist map of the city of Madrid leave out all the current relocation plans; Vicálvaro, Villa de Vallecas and Villaverde.
Looking at the position of buildings of tourism interest, and establishing relationships between them that are logical and easy to move, we observe a clear concentration in the center district; but also covers much of the Salamanca district. Tourism is clearly linked to economic activity and it’s in this neighborhood that it reaches its maximum exponent, thus in addition of being part of the tourist center it’s a clear ghetto of wealth. And that’s why it’s chosen as project’s location.
THE ULISES SYNDROME
Ulysses syndrome is the psychological picture suffered by most people who find themselves in the situation of having to emigrate from their origin country.
At the very least, there are seven duels in migration: family and friends, language, culture, land, social status, contact with the ethnic group and risks to physical integrity. These points are attacked to achieve the total integration of the individual.
Studying the structures of rejection and those of possible support for the development of refugees in the community – such as educational, health and cultural endowments, and public transportation – their relationships are defined, as well as those of all district’s businesses that generate an exclusive economic network.
In a district like Salamanca, where the street is the public space and economic activity is based on commerce, the immigrant is faced with a great psychological barrier. The system doesn’t allow to become part of it.
The weak points of the network are detected as well, empty of economic activity. From them it will begin the rupture, infection and change of the ghetto.
Once the weaknesses of the dominant capitalist system are known, a strategy is developed that enhances the integration of the immigrant in the city. To do this it has to be taken as a reference the duels of the Ulysses Syndrome – that have been mentioned before – and to discover what equipments will be necessary.
It’s important to strengthen the family unit, the learning of the language, the spaces of cultural representation, the open places and the spaces of meeting with the neighborhood.
Integration will take place in different phases; First with the domestic space appropriation by housing grant and meeting with the other users of the project; Then with the opening to the block and therefore the encounter with the neighborhood community; The learning of the use of the project’s equipment network and the movement to other blocks; Then the district’s domain with the arrival to the meeting points of the neighborhood and the immersion in the system; And finally the total integration thanks to the use of the public transport network for the displacement to the rest of the city.
In total it’s a two year process.
Thus, the proposed system is defined as a virus that infects the weaknesses of existing elitist structures, and grows from them to spread throughout the city.
The Delaunay triangulation system is applied to establish the most efficient relationships between the gaps in the Salamanca neighborhood. From the centers of the vacuums, 250m radiuses are applied, revealing groups of directly related voids and spaces that could be common. Depending on these groups and these meeting spaces between several, different functions are assigned, so that they complement each other and generate a complex network.
The strategy is articulated so that interventions work at all scales, from the district to the individual-collective, and is understood as a time frame.
The most important point of the process is the appropriation of the domestic space no isolating the family from the city as it usually happens. Therefore, it is proposed a system that diffuses the privacy, deconstructing the house and grouping the activities that take place in it, to enhance the community sense.
For the generation of these integrating spaces – just as Hejduk would identify a city in potential growth characters – the domestic elements that satisfy the basic needs of the inhabitants and provide them support for their development in the community are concretized; Thus arise the colonizing elements of the structures, which are grouped in: rest, food, hygiene and cultural representation.
Following the strategy of complementation and efficiency, these will be distributed to create a great network, which generates relations between the users of the project that colonize the different blocks as with the inhabitants of the neighborhood.
In this case, the colonization of 6 blocks between the streets of Goya and Alcalá is shown as an example, creating a new public space that – in addition to responding to the newcomers – endows places of activity with the mosaic.
The intention is to create a superimposed landscape which preserves the block’s reactivated spaces continuity as if they were squares and responding all the user’s needs at the same time. Therefore all devices will rise from the ground, being the only contact with it the communications cores.
In addition, this concentration of housework / weakens the patriarchal system which is often majority in countries like Syria. Thereby the project favors the women, who can meet and work together as in their original places, instead of isolating themselves.
Given the large size of the intervention, as well as the adaptability required, a modulated dry mount system is used – which allows the quick construction and deconstruction of different devices – while taking into account that the maximum period of housing concessions in these integration spaces is two years.
Due to all this, the scaffolding system is the chosen one, which will be completed and conditioned with other specific pieces and finishes equally modular.
It’s chosen a system of double facade, which in addition to favoring the hygrothermal control, grants perimetral spaces that according to the character of each one of the devices will accommodate different situations.
Structurally, and following the conditions presented by the scaffolding, the devices are generated in a systematic way, with the capacity to grow in height to accommodate as many users as required.
With all this, the project tries to question the current system of acceptance of immigrants, but also the immobility that seems to have been assumed as permanent in our society.
Who influences you graphically?
The whole project idea – both the way to face it and the graphics – arose from the lecture of John Hejduk’s ‘Victims’. The proposal try to be a reinterpretation before a different and more concrete problem.
Tchumi’s drawings for his Parc de la Villette and ‘The Manhattan Transcripts’ were also a main source, because of their abstraction and the way they relate about all the diverse actions and situations which take place.
Other ‘utopic’ projects’ drawings from 60s and 70s – as Archigram and Supestudio’s ones – have been a great inspiration as well.
But also I wanted to give something new to that kind of representation, looking for new graphic references – not necessarily architectural ones – as the current infographies and diagrams, or technological devices’ exploded views.
What dictated your choice of colour palette?
At the beginnig I did a lot of tests, with different color gradients, only in black and white… But in the end, checking all my graphic references it seems a good idea to me to use a basic color model – pure colors which didn’t lose strength in their range.
I selected the CMYK code because it’s the mechanization of the traditional primary colors, remembering that way the industry and the sistematization, which are part of the project’s image.
To what extent do you agree with the notion of the axonometric as the most complete form of drawing?
I dont believe the traditional axonometry is a complete form of drawing, as there’s a slight deformation. For the project I used an upset axonometric by combining the Egyptian view and the Military one – just as Hejduk did – because it preserve the axis for plan and elevation with no changes.
I think this axonometric drawing allows you to see the project devices in their complete geometry at first sight, as it can be decomposed.
You reveal your proposal solely through lines, what is the effect and purpose of this?
Likewise the colour palette, it is the wish of doing it as pure and basic in the graphics as possible within the complexity.
The project is a systematic structure and that should be revealed through the drawings, without hidding anything.
You talk about the proposal as a political weapon, how could format of this as a manifesto-poster have reinforced this?
Once more the format idea come up from ‘Victims’. Hejduk shows every single one of his characters through some lines and the related drawings, and gets to give them strength and entity, an individual meaning within a complex.
Also – visually in graphic design or propaganda – it always works fine a central element which attracts the attention and all the complementary information in the background, as in the Russian constructivists posters or the Escher’s images.
Why do you seize to show how this new structure/mechanism could really be inhabited by the syrian refugees?
From the very first moment the project arose from the massive exodus problem that is been developed and the Spain’s almost non-existent response. This reality shouldn’t be ignore. Along with my Master’s colleagues, we proposed ourselves the challenge of create systems capable of integrate the queer, the newcomer, the immigrant – focusing on the displaced Syrians as starting point, without being an exclusive proposal for them. As society we must asume the complete multiculturality and increasing complexity of the sense of belonging as future, and may not be locked in backward reasons.