ecosistema urbano is a Madrid based group of architects and urban designers operating within the fields of urbanism, architecture, engineering and sociology. We define our approach as urban social design by which we understand the design of environments, spaces and dynamics in order to improve self-organization of citizens, social interaction within communities and their relationship with the environment. We have used this philosophy to design and implement projects in Norway, Denmark, Spain, Italy, France and China.
ecosistema urbano was co founded in 2000 by architects Belinda Tato and Jose Luis Vallejo who have been the directors since then. Since 2000, ecosistema has received more than 30 awards in national and international architecture design competitions and during the last four years their work has been covered by more than 100 media (national and international press, television programs, and specialized publications) from 30 countries, and their projects have been exhibited at multiple galleries, museums and institutions.
Founding partners Belinda Tato and Jose Luis Vallejo have led workshops, lectured and taught at the most prestigious institutions worldwide (professors at Harvard GSD since 2010).
At the moment, ecosistema urbano is working on several urban proposals and their most recent projects include the Master Plan for the historic downtown of Asunción (Paraguay), an Activity plan for the regeneration of ‘Voronezh Sea’ Reservoir (Rusia), the new building for the Reggio Children Foundation in Reggio Emilia (Italy), an experimental urban playground in Dordrecht (Netherlands), the “Ecopolis Plaza” a waste to resources building on the outskirts of Madrid and the project dreamhamar for Hamar (Norway), a network design project for the redevelopment of the city’s main public space.
In parallel, ecosistema urbano has been running a digital platform that develops social networks and manages online channels around the subject of creative urban sustainability. Ecosistema develops social software, exploring the new possibilities technology offers to empower people and improve social connectivity and interaction.
Urban. Social. Design. Three words that describe our dedication: the urban context, the social approach, and the design understood as an action, an interaction, and a tool for transformation. Understanding types of behaviour and processes at different levels is crucial.
Creativity is a network. In a globalized world, creativity is the capacity to connect things innovatively and thus we understand that the protagonist of the creative process is not just a team but an open and multi-layered design network.
Community first. Cities are created and maintained by people for people, and urban development only makes sense when the community cares about it. We work to empower the communities to drive the projects that affect them, so social relevance is guaranteed.
Going glocal. Just as cities have residents and visitors, and planning is made at different scales, every urban project is born in a constant movement between the direct experience and specificity of the local context, and the global, shared flow of information and knowledge.
Accepting –and managing– conflict. Participation, like conversation, means letting all the points of view be raised and listened to. Public debate only makes sense if all the stakeholders are involved. Every project affecting the city has to deal with both opposition and support, consensus and contradiction.
Assuming complexity. Encompassing the complexity of the urban environment requires simplifying it. Instead, we prefer to admit its vast character and understand our work as a thin layer –with limited and, at times, unpredictable effects– carefully inserted into that complexity.
Learning by doing. Our experience grows through practice. We know what we can do, and we challenge ourselves to do what we think we should be doing. We solve the unexpected issues as we move, and then we take our lesson from the process and the results.
Planning… and being flexible. Urban development is what happens in the city while others try to plan it. We think ahead, make our dispositions, but we are always ready for reality to change our plans… mostly for the better. Rigidity kills opportunity, participation and urban life.
Embracing transdisciplinarity: We assume that our role as professionals is evolving, disciplinary bonds are loosening, urban projects are complex, and circumstances are continuously changing. This requires open-minded professionals, flexible enough to adapt their roles and skills and to use unusual tools.
Technology as a social tool: Today’s technology enables us to better relate and interact with each other and with the surrounding environment. As the digital-physical divide narrows and the possibilities multiply, it becomes an increasingly significant element in urban social life.
Keeping it open: Open means transparent, accessible, inclusive, collaborative, modifiable, reproducible. Open means more people can be part of it and benefit from it. These are the attributes that define a project made for the common good.