Making Matadero Madrid an example of adaptation to climate change: the cyborg garden

Between February and June of this year, Matadero Madrid has been a true laboratory of artistic, organizational, and social experimentation. Thanks to the initiative Matadero Acción Mutante, promoted by the Mutant Institute of Environmental Narratives of Platform-A, five groups of artists have led an interdisciplinary work process. Over these months, more than 80 experts in architecture, design, botany, geology, engineering, sociology, and anthropology have been sitting at the same table with a common goal: to make Matadero Madrid a case study of adaptation to climate change performed through experimentation using new forms of practice that are more collaborative and transdisciplinary.

Why Matadero?

Matadero Madrid is a public center characterized by vast spaces.  However, the design is lacking in vegetation and shade as it sits in the epicenter of an urban “heat island.” This positioning is further exacerbated by the extreme temperatures of the summer, creating a comfort challenge for its visitors. Therefore, the objective of the five multidisciplinary working groups is to design replicable prototypes of nature-based solutions capable of increasing resilience to climate change in that space.  Matadero will be utilized as a living lab for piloting solutions that can be implemented in other areas of the city with similar characteristics furthering the impact through engaged apprenticeships.

How was it done?

Throughout more than 10 workshops, artists and groups of experts worked hand in hand to devise prototypes of solutions that can reverse this structurally adverse situation through the creation of a “Cyborg garden.” By innovating not only proposed solutions but also the process of ideation of the solutions themselves, the outcome was two-fold.  These prototypes are now presented in Nave 16 of Matadero Madrid.

And why a “Cyborg garden”?

A garden is always a meeting place between different species in nature; a place suited for enjoyment and care. The Cyborg dimension has been added to the garden dimension in a similar juxtaposition of species, in order to expand the limits of the imagination by prompting reflection on the relationship between nature and technology as complementary spheres.

What projects have come out of this process of co-creation?

The solution prototypes that are the result of this extensive co-creation choral process are very different. For example, observable in Nave 16, we can find an interactive garden capable of measuring the reactions of plants to the presence of human beings.  The cyborg garden is translating those responses into sounds and movements through various devices that show us the life of the plants in a very tangible way. A second group of architects has designed a system that transforms the urine of the visitors into fertilizer for the plants of the garden. A third group has proposed palm trees that dispatch probiotic popsicles, and another group has presented pieces of urban furniture specifically designed to allow the co-existence between people and insects, vital to the maintenance of any ecosystem, including the urban ones. Further information here.

Matadero Acción Mutante is the first of the projects developed by the INMA, Mutant Institute of Environmental Narratives. The Institute was born in Matadero Madrid, in order to promote artistic practices in connection with other areas of human knowledge.  It is operating through the Innovation and Technology for Human Development Center at the Technical University of Madrid (itdUPM) under their Platform-A, and the City Council of Madrid, and Matadero Madrid.

The next step of Matadero Acción Mutante will be an iteration of the prototypes towards a design that can be adapted to the context of this space, and the construction of the real garden.

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