Urban Spa

Tallerdeldesierto_02 Tallerdeldesierto_01 Tallerdeldesierto_03Urban Spa, Chihuahua (Mexico) 2015


Every summer, ISAD [Instituto Superior de Arquitectura de Chihuahua] organizes a workshop known as Taller del Desierto. In 2015 PKMN Architecture were asked to lead a new edition of the workshop together with Mexican design 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 Parque Urueta, located in the city center of Chihuahua.

The project is born with the creation of different partnerships between the university and different active agents of the city such as: Impulsando Capacidades, a civil association that has undertaken a social work for several years at the workers’ estate in which the park is located; and A+bien, an association that is in charge of managing small materials sponsoring, the temporary leasing of 40 scaffolding units, several dozens of pallets, some remnants of shading mesh and a few gallons of paint.

Client: Parque Urueta

Tutors: PKMN Architectures, Memela, Juan Castillo, Miguel Heredia, Miguel García

Students: Alejandra Álvarez, Raúl Barrio, José Pablo Bezunartea, Lucía Oppenheimer, Begoña Castañón, Ana Gaby Castro, Celina Chávez, Marigel Contreras, Marlene Esparza, Brissa López, Brenda Godínez, Karen Danae González, David González Bouche, Aldo Ibarra, Daniel López, Valeria Marrufo, Alicia Ortegón, Rodolfo Prieto, Mariana Ramírez, Erick Rentería, David Rico, Richo Rodríguez, Marce Rodríguez, Marión Rodríguez, Ana Cristina Simón, Jorge Téllez, Paco Vázquez, Yesselin Yáñez, Erick Benavides, Carla Daniela Martínez, Mike Rodríguez, Claudia Ávila, Steph Flores, Uriel Olivas, Xenia Carbajal, Gil Castro, Mariana Carrera, Iris Salgado, Cristina Aguayo, Rebeca Hinojos, Sara Sofía González, Daniela Puente

Other Facilitators: Impulsando Capacidades, Fundación Abien, IMPLAN Carlos Reyes (video), Mauricio Rey, Bieno Jiménez, Nikola Anakabe

Research Question: 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 chid’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 accesible for everyone. Scaffolding units are used as the structural base for a small coverage made of wood and textile mesh, these scaffoldings 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 a the kiosk and the elotes and paletas 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. Maybe also in many other cities.

Links: Project Video




11-50, Architecture, Curricular, Days, Initiated by institution, ISAD, Mexico, Postgraduate, Self-funded, Sponsorship, Students with tutor, Temporary