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Portrait, José Luis Vallejo Mateo

Creative Urban Sustainability

[ecosistema urbano] is an architecture and engineering team that focuses on the research and ecological design of new architecture projects that understand sustainable development as a resource for innovation and enthusiasm. They have received more than 22 awards since the year 2000 in national and international design competitions such as: 2005 European Acknowledgement Award – Holcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction (Geneva), 2006 Architectural Association and the Environments – Ecology and Sustainability Research Cluster Award (London), 2007 AWARD for emerging architecture – EU Mies van der Rohe Award – ‘Emerging European Architect’ (London).

[ecosistema urbano] was selected for the exhibition in the Spanish Pavilion at the EXPO Zaragoza 2008 together with 12 international offices. On 19 December 2008 José Luis Vallejo Mateo of [ecosistema urbano] was invited to the ‘Weltsalon’ at the ‘Tollwood Fesitval’ in Munich to hold a speech about their work – especially about their project ‘Creative Urban Sustainability’ at the EXPO Zaragoza 2008. Under the heading ‘Please, where is the future?’ the Weltsalon tent is dedicated to the most significant ecological and social questions of our times. The event took place in collaboration with the Instituto Cervantes, Munich.

DETAIL had the opportunity to talk to the architect José Luis Vallejo Mateo after his lecture.

When and by whom was [ecosistema urbano] founded?
In 2000, by two people. Me, José Luis Vallejo and Belinda Tato.
When we finished our studies in Madrid we studied also in London.

And how many of you are working there now?
We are now ten people.

And you work only in Madrid?
No. Now we are working for Shanghai and other different proposals. For example we have one competition in Slovenia and we are also working on a project in Philadelphia. And we are also making different proposals, one in Mexico.

So, you travel around the world?
Yes, more or less.

Shanghai – this is for the EXPO 2010 as I learned in your speech.Are you planning a similar structure you have built in Madrid?
Well, the concept. EXPOs for us is like the best urban place to work because they are kind of thematic parks. Like the EXPO in Zaragoza and in Shanghai. I was supposed to be here, well, it was connected in a way to the EXPO in Zaragoza, but I told them that my opinion of the EXPO in Zaragoza was not very good. Well, I have a good opinion about the education they have in the city of Zaragoza, but not the other part - like the more architectural side. A year before the Expo were places where you can’t experiment new things, but in this case we are in a way allowed to experiment in the public space, because we are creating the public space in front of the Madrid pavilion. In a way we are trying to create something like a pilot project and how to implement new technologies in the public space and trying to promote social activity. Well, in a way it is more or less the same concept of the project in Madrid/Vallecas– but it is not going to be the same kind of climatic concept. Because in this case, in Shanghai, we are creating something like artificial winds, for example, to create ventilation. And it has a higher level of new technologies connecting to Web 2.0, more participation. We call it urban interface because it is a kind of device that connects you with another public space, which is the internet. We say the cities are complex organisms. We could work with technologies to put a higher level of complexity in the public space. I am trying to use the internet to promote the virtual public space over the real public space.

And, so your plans for the future are first of all Shanghai and do you have any other plans or any other projects coming up?
Yes, we are working, for example, in Madrid. We won a competition for the central parts in Madrid. We think architects now shouldn’t keep on working in the best places. We should start to work in the worst places, so that’s the reason for our work for landfills and for degraded parts and this kind of stupid peripheral we have created in the last years. I also think of the inner parts of the city as this spread I showed you about the Moon, i.e. the Beach on the Moon (Note: project on a square called ‘La Luna’ in Madrid). We are working, for example, in a strategical project to create a kind of new commercial axis in connecting streets that were not connected before, trying to create a new different axis for the people and we are also trying to work with sociologists. We want the people who live there to remain there after these projects.

I find this La Luna project a very good idea. It is a shame the project was not executed because the city of Madrid did not allow it.
Yes, but it got a lot of publicity. A lot of people know us because of this project.

And one last question: Of all the projects you have done already, which is the best in your opinion or which is the one you like best? If you can say that.
Well, the ‘boulevard project’ (EcoBoulevard of Vallecas) we were working on from 2004 on. The opening was in 2007. We were working for three years. It was quite a long process and very complex. In a way we have grown, because it is in a way, also that you choose your destiny or your field of interest. Something, I don’t know why, but in a way it is also like by chance. But this project shows us how to open our eyes in the knowledge of the city and how to deal with the city and how to deal with the new problems of the city, which are completely different from the problems we had before and the problems that architects are obsessed with, because architects are normally obsessed with icons, you know. With icons in the best part of the landscape or the city. And we think these are not the places we have to work in.
What is really important to us is our blog on our website– www.ecosistemaurbano.org. The blog was founded in February 2007 with the aim of opening our studio to the public. Surprisingly, in just under two years it has grown immensely and is a tool for creative people who are interested in our projects and in subjects related to cities, architecture and design.

Thank you very much for answering my questions

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