In 2004, the Madrid Municipal Housing Corporation’s Residential Innovation Office sponsored the “Eco Boulevard Competition” to design an outdoor urban space in the Madrid suburb of Vallecas. The winning entry was by Urban Ecosystems, which submitted a structure named “The Air Tree”.
The “Air Tree” pavilion will be built from recycled materials and will be 100% self-sufficient. This means that the structure will use the power generated from its solar panels for its operation, and the excess energy will be sold to fund the structure’s maintenance. The thick walls of the structure will contain plants that will give it a more natural look and will produce clean air, much needed in a polluted modern city like Madrid.
Residents living in the vicinity of the Air Tree will benefit from it on hot summer days, as it absorbs solar energy and produces oxygen that cools its surroundings. The hope is that in time the building will become a social meeting place for the local residents. The plan is to plant trees around the structure, so that as time passes, it will merge with its surroundings.
The “Air Tree” structure is not meant to be permanent. It is made from light weight materials, allowing it to be taken apart and relocated rather quickly if the need arises or when the trees planted around it are large enough to take its place.
The Air Tree is currently under construction. Work continues on the Eco Boulevard master plan and the Vallecas Project.
The idea of the “Air Tree” is unique and Madrid is set to be the first city to implement it. If the experiment is successful, other major European cities may build Air Trees to combat air pollution and energy shortage problems.
While the contribution of the “Air Tree” to the climate and education of current and future generations is very important, its aesthetic appeal is questionable. The design is very simple and lacks some finesse, but in time, it will probably compensate for its looks with its unique traits.
More information on the Air Tree can be found on Urban Ecosystems website.