Civic ecology practices in the "waste grounds"network of Madrid

#civicecology -Reservoir for ecosystem services, biodiversity, imagination and alternative urban practices related to environmental concerns-


  2. This Civic Ecology Practice, takes place in the network of "waste-grounds" that are connected (mostly) through the M-40 ring- one of the highways surrounding the city.
  3. The places we are visiting are broken places for different reasons, mostly abandonment and political failures in the management of these terrains. On them, first we enhance practices of restorative topophilia (for example we have developed several activities there, like practices of "perceptive awareness","landscape drawing”, ”alternative choreographic collective movements", "planting flowers", "musical events made out with our voices and a violinist", and mainly "walking" and"strolling along them"... through the walking we have discovered incredible panoramas of the city- unknown for most of the people- which are able to enrich these abandoned places... and make us think of reclaiming their coming back to the community). And then, now, we are trying to search which network of Civic Ecology Practices are involved in these areas in relation with the nearby communities... But let’s go to the beginning of the story... trying at the same time to reveal the 10 Principles* of Civic Ecology Practices embedded...
  4. *see footnote
  6. The beginning is located in one of these abandoned places which is twenty minutes walking from the University where I teach in the Faculty of Architecture. I teach there Studio Design Project.
  7. The place is a collection of around nine enclosures which were built in 1912 for Munition Dumps purposes. The buildings and the topographical changes destroyed the pre-existing natural area. They were actively used for military purposes till 2005 when the terrains are given to the municipality and open to the public... but all the rubbles coming from the demolitions of the buildings stay there and nearby residents are not aware of this area. It remains like a "blind place" to most of the communities nearby... but nature, little by little is conquering again the area (concepts like resilience here are very well understood) and we think that it is a place with a strong identity, which is now being transformed from military and civil war memories into others much more socio-ecological... recovering the place for the citizens daily practices in connection with nature. I knew the place thanks to a colleague, Begoña another teacher, and thanks mainly to his son Miguel (11 years old at the time), who plays normally there with other kids.
  8. Nowadays, it is a place where more spontaneous community practices- more than in conventional and pre-fixed public spaces- begin to take place. At the University we discovered these first actions of reclaiming the place and we decided to act also as universitary community... We decided to make a short workshop with volunteers (students and some friends) and we began to experience "topophilia" (love for places- 2nd principle) and to produce some actions of "restorative topophilia":
  9. Like actions of "atmospheric perceptive awareness", trying to feel with our senses and movements these terrains, making blur the limits of in-between the environment and us... (They were actions of restoring a topophilia sense along different seasons of the year. In recreating place, we were recreating also community- 3rd principle- and fostering well-being- 6th principle):
  10. Planting flowers showing traces of "biophilia" (love for life- 2nd principle) to these fragile organisms in between rubbles and desolated areas, envisioning a positive future and development with rich biodiversity. We were also adding aromatic flowers to deal with some bad smell areas... this was made by students volunteers (Isabel, Jaime, Sebastian... and a long list with some other interventions). These new flowers and aromatic plants were providing "ecosystem services" (5th principle) in relation, mainly in these small and incipient actions, with "cultural services" (nonmaterial benefits people obtain from ecosystems through spiritual enrichment, learning, reflection, recreation, and aesthetic experiences).
  11. "Landscape drawing" to enhance engagement with place. This was also enhancing, together with the previous experiences, opportunities for learning (7th principle) all together in the direct interconnection with the environment, its experience and its observation. (See below Fátima drawing and Fátima's drawing)
  12. ”Alternative choreographic collective movements" to envision that here some other actions, not possible in most of the public spaces, are possible in this place which enhance a more free and spontaneous behaviour connected with the environment which surround us built or not- in this way we were fostering well-being in nature, specially for students always facing in front of their computer and indoor tasks- 6th principle. One of the volunteers, choreographer (Andoni), was helping us to free with our movements in this place. In this way we were joining other partnerships (Dance School in Madrid and international volunteers from the University in Buenos Aires (Edgardo) through Skype instructions)- 8th principle.