Interview to Carmelo Rodriguez
We met in Madrid Carmelo Rodriguez, cofounder of Enorme Studio. After explaining him the projects that the Foundation Matera-Basilicata 2019 is developping through Open Design School, we discussed about temporary structures, public space, didactic and participatory design.
What relation Enorme Studio has with participatory design?
It is a working methodology that we are developing and that we are now taking beyond the public sphere with a participatory approach and co-designing workshops in the schools. Right now we are starting to work with Team Labs, a University in Mondragon (Basque Country) based on a very radical Finnish methodology called Team Academy. It is a school that wants to eliminate the distance between the academic and the professional world, based on collaboration and design by doing. For the new school of Team Labs in Barcelona, we will arrive with the students in an empty building and the first course will be the self-construction of all the furnitures.
We did various educational experiences of this kind, always working with furniture. Garage Lab is a project developed with various high schools where we co-design build furniture with students. When the budget is reduced we work hacking Ikea furniture.
For the Ton Lycée project we worked with the landscape architects of Atelier Roberta, using a very simple wooden construction system that allowed the students to self-construct an outdoor relax space for their school. We gave them a design methodology and a grid within which they were free to experiment. Each group create is own bench but at the end they all are modular and combinable in order to become a continuous structure.
We are very interested in the way to rethink public space with projects like "Le jardin tropical"
Le Jardin tropical arises from the need for a series of institutions, public and private, present around the same square. Here we collaborated with PEZestudio and Todo x la praxis to create a small stage, an open classroom and a relax area. We developed a common strategy and then each group designed one of the structures.
Our goal was to experiment also with the theme of energy self-sufficiency, supported by the team of Creatica ONG. Each structure has a solar panel that provides energy for its own lighting but we also wanted to create an energy supply point accessible to all, as a support for small events and shows.
This for us has been a very important node for stimulating the use of these structures. In the structure created by todo X la praxis we were able to install a point that stores 2 kw of electricity, even if we wanted to get to 4-5 kw to allow self-sufficiency even for medium-large events.
How is this space used by the public?
It works well in everyday use, thousands of people who stop there not only to relax in the shade but also because they can charge the phone and use the computer. It generates a lot of movement, there are people who put their music on, but it's not working well for events for two reasons. It would be very easy to organize a movie night, a concert, or a presentation with an extension, a projector and an audio amplifier but with the flow of people that recharge devices this power reserve of 2 kw is continuously used so it does not remain enough stored when needed .
It would be useful to have 2 batteries, one for daily use and the other reserved for events. This leads us to the second problem, perhaps the biggest: a management system has not been established. Even if the needs are minimal, you need someone who holds the key to access the battery reserved for events, or who manages a small deposit for the sets (you could use that of the adjacent museum) and that takes care of maintenance. The stage we have created has two different configurations as well as a system of curtains that can be re-edited. The changes are very simple but it needs someone to take care of it. There is no “use and management protocol” that also would be useful for event authorizations.
It is a very interesting topic for us. We are selecting places for the events of 2019 on which the Foundation will work with the Municipality to have all the authorizations and facilitate the work of those who will organize the events. The same for temporary structures, for which we will have all the certifications to facilitate their use.
This topic is almost more important than architecture itself. In the space that we have set up in Madrid, when there is an event we have to redo the whole process of authorizations and certifications. To make it easier to use this equipped space, you need steps that avoid redoing the same procedures every time.
In what way do you use soft materials such as textiles, foam, transparency, light and colour as part of you design process?
We wanted to experiment something different because most of the urban furnitures look very similar to each other. So we reasoned starting from some design themes: the use of arches, the perspective with the vanishing lines degrading towards the center and the use of textiles. We liked the way in which these curtains can easily reconfigure the space. Changing the sheets you have the scenography for a show, the banner of the event or for a sponsor. So we worked with the textile in order to have an element that, in contrast to the rigid structure, was light and easily reconfigurable. The pink and grey of the structure, instead, refer to the building behind and help us to insert in this historical context a new body, formally very different from the existing one.
For the project Hypertube we see a different approach, like the use of readymade objects that assembled together creates an in-between space, How do people inhabit or appropriate this kind of spaces?
Hypertube is a project of urban regeneration for a problematic area in Tetuan district, launched by the municipality of Madrid in 2013. We worked on a residual space, completely empty near a rehab center for dependency and addiction. The relationship with the neighbours was difficult because we tried to involve them in the process but they wanted nothing to be done on the site, to avoid “wrong crowd”. So we tried to work with teenagers and collaborating with 2 private universities to do a self-construction workshop and to create other elements and games for children ate implement the system.
We created an installation consisting of 3 large sections of prefabricated concrete pipes. Placed on the highest part of that empty parcel, it seems like a kind of monument that intrigued people a lot because you could interact with it. We were very interested in managing the site by creating more private areas. For us it is an interesting thing that almost never happens in public space. Couples went to watch the sunset from the highest pipe (with a beautiful panoramic view), teenagers to smoke. It had become a welcoming place, the public space should serve for this.
The pipe allowed to be seated on in front, creating more relationships than a normal bench where you can sit only side by side. With the idea of making other elements I think it worked pretty well.
But the neighbours have managed to close the installation with a hurdle because they were afraid of possible “bad crowd”. As soon as the building was closed 3 drug addicts occupied it illegally by closing it with cartoons, they created mini-apartments. So in the end the municipality dismantled the structure.
The project Montaña en la luna also has an interesting approach
It is a project made with Mini, the brand of cars. The very interesting theme is how a brand is related to the public space. In these cases, usually in Spain, it happens that the big companies occupies a public space by mounting a large stand with its advertising banners all over the place, a couple of baskets and hostesses distributing information leaflets: quite terrible.
Mini wanted to participate in the Madrid Design Festival and launched a design competition that we won by proposing that his presence in the public space bring something to the city. So, in this square devoid of any kind of plant, we were interested in installing terracing seats integrated with a small garden, where you can go to charge your phone or computer.
Moreover, in the "greenhouse" space under the stairs, we set up a 15 days workshop open to the public to create prototypes of urban furnitures. We invited several designers and architects to make workshops where the conchruct a new kind of bench every 2-3 days. The participants, young designers and students, had a strong interaction with people passing by the square, creating exchange and dialogue. So we were interested in experimenting this kind of open laboratory where to teach design in the square, basically a workplace in the public space.