Near Madrid, set on a former wasteland between a highway and Upper Manzanares Basin Regional Park, is the recently completed Desert City. As an experimental garden and visitors centre dedicated to nurturing and understanding xerophytes – succulents, cacti and other plants that require little water to sustain themselves – Desert City is one of the biggest and most important buildings of its kind.
Despite its hybrid programme, the complex’s construction is systematised through the repetition, modulation and prefabrication of elements. Construction incorporates sustainable solutions such as transparent photovoltaic glass, geothermal power, water recovery systems, solar controls and extensive plantings in the site.
The linear glass corridors that span the length of the garden not only protect it from the nearby highway but also serve to connect two rectangular blocks at either end, effectively containing the open-air garden. The centre accommodates 400 plant species from across the globe, grown in beds that recreate their native landscapes, from desert sand to gravel mounds.
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Photography Miguel de Guzmán