Archipelago Lab: an Atlas of metropolitan Islands for Madrid

Pedro Pitarch
Escuela Técnica Superior de Arquitectura de Madrid, Universidad Politécnica de Madrid (ETSAM, UPM)
Thesis Project
Faculty: Federico Soriano Peláez (website)


The Archipelago offers a draft project, an action plan, for the European metropolis. This is due to the differentiation of fragments of intensity, located islands, usually conceived as cohesion amid public sphere and the surrounding metropolitan mass. The archipelago triumphs because it addresses the potential of architecture to create urban pockets of meaning and significance. The islands are prototypes of the city within the city. Could this multiplicity help to negotiate the apparent inevitable juxtapositions of the European metropolis? May architecture then become the city, while the city becomes a highly congested vacuum? Scenes are identified. Spheres that behave as a relational framework for every metropolitan agent. Those scenes are landscapes doable to be modified or blurred by the different agents interaction. Each piece, each scene, each island, behaves as a laboratory. A “laboratorization” of the city as an archipelago is established.

Seven Typologies are identified. Each of them corresponds to an existing metropolitan situation, which generate city and construct society; but which are not included within the professional practice of urbanism neither are they represented according to architecture tools. Seven concrete cases are presented, from the compendium of islands that configure the project for the city. Seven documents. One for each island: plan, section, elevation, image, structure, details and axonometry. Seven situations itemized, which will not just explain metropolitan islands separately, but would trace a unitary project that constitutes the narrative of the city of Madrid as an archipelago.

Islands have been delimited. Interaction with some agents has been performed in order to translate the limits of those prototypes of the city within the city. It is important to focus on the actors, or even on how do they behave as mediators. An actor does not just play a role. It is not by definition entirely replaceable, interchangeable with other. It transits amid the scenes as a unique event. Information becomes transformation. Either we have actors that suppose potentialities and therefore they are not actors at all, or we shall describe our actors as renderized virtualities of our reality, which means admitting their specificity. An Agent is everything that allows us to define specific associations. The relational space they constitute. Contemporary culture requires architecture not being just an “epoxy” that holds together a series of physical and non-physical agents, which other disciplines cannot hold. Instead, architecture behaves as everything that is fixed together by many other sorts of connectors.

We define a series of apparatus, some artefacts, which materialize those mediations. The Chamber of Machinery constitutes the last document, which gathers a series of pieces that navigate, almost adrift between islands. Under a principle of non-belonging, they travel constantly, they fade and destroy origins, they “viatorize” and perform translations successively, non depending on the continental world but on the Archipelago Lab. They are a “Garden of Wandering”. Those artefacts operate from exodus, from a translation that re-evaluates its form from the position of transportability, assuming the risk of leaving behind everything that is way too heavy. Exiled forms from space to space. Topology, as the geometry for spatial translations, becomes its context. Hence, each artifact’s quantification does not matters so much, their origin or destiny, whatever matters is the route.

The Chamber of Machinery is presented as a catalogue of artefacts with mobile, nomad and circumstantial ontology. We operate over a missing paradigm, on the trail of associations between heterogeneous elements. Redefining our position from the trace of objects to the trace of associations. Redefining our role as a type of connection amid things that are not architectonic by themselves. Instead of analyzing the post-post condition of the contemporary city as a state of crisis, under the necessity of correction, we ought to treat radically immanent conditions of the city as a projective model for the metropolis itself.

“The desire for stability and the need for instability are no longer incompatible…this city is presented as an archipelago of architectural islands floating in a post-architectural landscape of erased mass, where whatsoever once was urban becomes a highly congested vacuum.”
– Rem Koolhaas Imagining Nothingness, S M L XL, The Monacelli Press, (1995, New York, USA)

  ↑ geographical representation of the atlas of metropolitan islands for Madrid ↑ topological representation of the atlas of metropolitan islands for Madrid ↑ seven typologies of islands – seven documents ↑ lab_1: altermodern event [Gran Vía Street as a building] – a plan ↑ lab_2: manhattanismo castizo [the culture of imported congestion] – a section ↑ lab_3: re-learning for eurovegas [gentrification + bomb program] –an elevation ↑ lab_4: augmented domesticity [relational laboratory] – an image ↑ lab_5: urban acupuncture [metropolitan micro-surgery] – a structure and installations ↑ lab_6: historical palimpsest [multiple identity] – a detail ↑ lab_7: object trouvé [sociological ready-made] – an axonometry ↑ the machinery chamber [a catalog of artifacts]  

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