. 1 intro With our proposal we call for a paradigm shift both in the way we imagine public spaces and in the way we conceive water management infrastructures in urban contexts. What we hear from expert’s debate about climate change, although blurred and controversial, talks about a future where heavier rainfalls and hotter temperatures will strain our urban environments and its infrastructures. Hidden under our plazas and streets lays a costly infrastructure that has to deal with rainwater and its unpredictable volume changes and treats this precious resource as a waste product mixing it with households’ black waters and channelling it to space-devouring treatment plants. What if we could take this load out of our sewage pipes and alchemichally transform this substance into liveliness and enjoyment of our squares and neighborhoods ? What if, while refurbishing our urban outdoors, or building new suburbia we could, at the same time, lay down a light and sustainable infrastructure to sort and store a resource that might become more and more scarce and precious.
. 2 design concept / functioning principles Our design concept aims at experimenting the possibility of harvesting and storing rainwater to actively manipulate the local microclimate during the hot season by means of elements triggering an evaporative cooling process ( see fig C) . These new urban microclimatic tools, coupled to the traditional passive microclimate design strategies ( i.e sun-screening, correct sun orientation, use of low thermal capacity materials ), will harvest and exploit local residual potentials such as the water runoff from rooftops and impervious surfaces to Improve a local thermal envelope during hot periods as a strategy to create comfortable conditions for social interaction and extended use of outdoor public space. The specific proposal is articulated in two sets of devices: 1) a set of pipes with variable sections that channel water from the surrounding building’s rooftops and releases it with a delay ( thanks to a set of internal buffers ) in the retention basins ( see fig A ) 2 ) a set of processing units provided with a retention basin, a filtration unit, a storage capacity and a nebulization system. While providing water to the processing units the set of pipes also serve as support for lighting. While buffering, filtrating and storing water, the processing units provide fresh public oases, cool green mounds to provide a break from Madrid’s frying-pan effect. 2.1- water retention Both the water pipes’ profiles and the ground profiles will provide several buffers for the water to be retained and slowly released in order to overcome the congestion that might occur from heavy rainfall events. While retained in the basins, the water will form temporary pools thus slightly changing the aspect of the square and the profile of the green mounds turning rainfall into an ephemeral playful accident. ( see fig A and B ) 2.2 – filtration / storage From the retention basin water is drawn and pumped up through a filtration chamber in the storage unit ( see fig A ). In this specific design proposal the storage unit pops up the ground level achieving two goals simultaneously: providing water capacity without conflicting with the engineered underground of the square ( namely the structures of the metro ) and offering the visitor a fresh smooth green mound where to overlook the square from a higher point of view while sitting or resting. 2.3 – microclimatic manipulation The improvement of the local microclimate will be achieved during hot periods by means of a nebulization system ( see fig C ) that makes use of the stored volume of water to trigger a process of evaporative cooling in the surrounding of the mounds. The same system will also provide ad-hoc irrigation to feed and mantain the grass layer thus providing the visitors a cooled surface where to lay down or sit.
. 3 design benefits One intervention – three effects: 1) Restyling and reorganizing the square to improve safety, desirability, accessibility but also bringing to public awareness and debate the theme of water as a resource. 2) Laying down a secondary water management infrastructure, saving the municipal network from obsolescence, releasing pressure from the treatment plants. 3) Improving the climatic envelope of the square especially during hot summers providing thermal confort for visitors, which, in turn, would cast positive effects to local commercial activities as well as social initiatives.
.4 The bigger picture Projected on a urban scale and recombined to match sites’ specificities, new public furnishing elements providing water retention and storage could infiltrate neglected or unwelcoming public realms, cell by cell forming a secondary resilient water treatment system sorting grey waters out of the urban sewage whose overall effect would be to improve performance and durability of the existing municipal infrastructure as well as intensifying use of public spaces. The vision is that of a progressive proliferation of daring and controversial structures in the urban limelight as well as in the dark and neglected quarters, true alchemical devices that convert global warming factors into local liveliness.
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