HortoLAB doesn’t start from zero, but is based on the reuse of the “Mobile Architecture Prototype for Collective Activities” built in 2009 during the "Congreso Ciudades Creativas" in Caceres.
Between October and November 2009 we designed and assembled the prototype 'Chacharro2.0', a mobile facility which was originally built for the “Creative Cities” congress and was intended to remain available for grassroots initiatives and associations to use as a multipurpose space, auditorium, exhibition space or for any other imaginable use. More info about this phase can be found here.
From this constructive experience, in March 2011 there arose the opportunity to recycle Cacharro2.0 to configure HortoLAB - a new project with the aim of promoting respect for the environment and improving consumer habits among the population, especially young people, and of servicing and supporting the neighbourhood gardens of San Jorge in Caceres.
The project takes place in the framework of several multidisciplinary experiments that are being implemented in the Ribera del Marco context, to promote and support local policies for innovation and creativity. We worked with a team comprised by members of Straddle3, Ctrl+Z, Proyecto aSILO and Todo por la Praxis, with additional support by Conceptuarte.
The facility consists of a seedbed for educational activities, a kitchen for handling products of the kitchen garden, plus an office for administrative tasks. It is built around a central space that, if necessary, can be extended by completely opening out into the garden to increase its capacity, and can also adapt to different activities that require this dual nature of open and closed space.
This second 'tuning' incorporates passive and natural systems of insulation, focused mainly on avoiding the exposure of the containers to direct sunlight, a major Achilles heel for projects based on this type of construction element.
The exterior walls offer a ventilated facade based on the reuse of pallets that have been modified and turned into planters. This provides good partial protection from the outset, and will continue to develop as the plants grow. Some rapid growth climbing species have been selected for this purpose
The container’s roof has been transformed into a green surface resting on recycled plastic molds that separate the earth from the metal sheet, to avoid leaks and implement an air chamber. The mass will help maintain temperature control in both summer and winter. In this case, local shrub species were chosen in order to promote more autonomous maintenance.
Both are effective solutions for maintaining a reasonable temperature inside without --or with a minimum use- of air conditioning systems.
Inside the kitchen and the office have been insulated and clad with plasterboard for improved comfort, while for the seedbed we used wood panels given that they are more suitable for intensive uses. The central floor, comprised of formwork panels, has been recovered from the previous assemblage, as has the top metal structure and canvas, which only required minor repairs.
The use of recycled and standard materials corresponds to the desire for the proposed models to be reproducible, given that it is easy to find both the materials and tradespersons, not only in Spain but in most contexts.
During the process, we visited the local junkyards several times and recovered various items such as sinks, plenty of metal profiles, and windows.
The facility is designed with a dual mission:
- On one hand, its markedly didactic nature can accommodate local children and young people, even whole classes, and bring them in contact with environmental and ecological issues, from germination to the preparation of the kitchen garden’s products, so that they can experience the whole of the natural cycle. At the same time, it allows the development of complementary activities such as the construction of mobile gardens, a sensory education laboratory, etc.
- Furthermore the HortoLAB is a new opportunity for citizens to participate in self-management of a space that invites groups, associations and ordinary citizens to organize themselves, to share responsibility and enjoy its use.
To coincide with the summer solstice, HortoLAB has organized the “1st HortoLAB Week” dedicated to innovation applied to urban agriculture, with all kinds of workshops covering a broad spectrum of different topics, strongly geared towards integrating the community around the facility.
You can check recent activity at HortoLab site (in spanish).