Winner of the Next Landmark Milan 2015 competition, Urban SPA is designed by Madrid-based PKMN Architecture as part of a workshop known as Taller del Desierto organized by ISAD (Instituto Superior de Arquitectura de Chihuahua) every summer. PKMN Architecture was asked to lead a new edition of the workshop together with Mexican designer duo Memela, local architects Juan Castillo and Miguel Heredia and designer Miguel García. The aim of this year’s workshop was to build a small infrastructure at Urueta Park, located in the city center of Chihuahua.
The workshop starts with the design of participatory dynamics to be carried out by the park’s neighbours; the aim of the activity is not to gather each one’s individual wishes for the present time but to serve as a starting point for the construction of a collective imaginary for the future. The park itself is divided into two separated areas: a sports area and a small woodland; a central alley serves as a link between them. The design session produces a series of sketches for future amenities such as: shaded areas for parents’ drop-off times outside their child’s school, located next to the park; steps and scoreboards to link resting areas and sports zone; maintenance actions to fix public benches. But main neighbours’ speculations concern the reactivation of the existing public water source, which is seen as the heart of the park but that has been broken for years.
Workshop participants started making proposals trying to fulfill neighbours’ hopes and expectations and translate them into architectural proposals. The idea of reactivating the water source began to gain strength and became the definitive proposal. A week is spent to design the project and another week is given for its self-construction made in collaboration with neighbors and spontaneous volunteers. The workshop serves as place for the communication between the university and the municipality from the moment in which the city council decides to support the project by fixing the source’s pump and filling it with water.
Urban SPA was built as a temporary amenity based on the recreational use of water. A series of wooden surfaces are built transforming the source’s base on a bathing deck, they are designed as resting areas, steps, sun-beds, small garden areas and a ramp to make the whole accessible for everyone. Scaffolding units are used as the structural base for a small coverage made of wood and textile mesh, these scaffolding also serve to hold some hammocks, small viewpoints and resting platforms. The water source vessel is then used as improvised pool; it transforms the whole place by means of the generation of a micro-climate resulting from the combination of created shaded areas and moving water pouring from the newly reactivated source.
Urban SPA takes advantage of the privileged location of the water source, the big shadow casted by an existing huge tree, the circulation of people between the woodland area and the sports zone; on the other side it boosts the existent activities already practiced around it such as zumba and yoga classes in the afternoon and the small business such as corn and ice cream stalls.
Urban SPA is born as an unique proposal but at the same time it’s being reconsidered as an alternative for the reactivation of unused water sources in the city of Chihuahua and also in many other cities of Mexico.