Set in San Sebastián de los Reyes, a town located just north of Madrid, Desert City by local firm Garcia German Arquitectos is one of the most significant cactus centers in Europe. Desert City is a celebration of xerophytic plants and the production of a whole culture of interests and events around them. The project proposes an educational, sustainable and ecological complex in which to overlap activities that range from the exhibiting, growing and breeding of cactus from all over the world in a large garden and greenhouse, to housing an array of leisure activities such as presentations, small conventions, workshops or exhibitions.
The large building contains, besides the greenhouse and exhibition/sales space, restaurant, shop, storage, and office areas. These activities are sheltered by a big lightweight container that responds, in terms of scale and materiality, to the near presence of the A-1 Highway. A “billboard-building”, parallel to the road, organized internally by a sequence of symmetries organized around a cloister-like cactus garden, which receives newcomers, and the greenhouse space, covered by a cable roof designed according to the logic of tensegrity structures.
Despite its hybrid program, the complex’s construction is systematized through repetition, modulation and prefabrication of elements, resulting in a huge abstract stretched out skeleton that communicates its intense inner workings and the veiled presence of greenery as seen from the passing car through a tinted, watery glass facade. The construction incorporates sustainable solutions such as transparent photovoltaic glass, geothermal power, water recovery systems, solar controls, and extensive plantings in the site, which was previously an unused wasteland.
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