An industrial wasteland on the outskirts of Madrid has been reborn as Europe’s largest cactus garden, Desert CITY.
The 5,000 sq m botanical oasis is the brainchild of agronomist Mercedes Garcia, and is dedicated to robust cacti and succulent plants. Over 400 species of xerophytes are on display across Desert CITY, which showcases Garcia’s concept of ‘zerolandscaping’ – a low-maintenance and low-water philosophy that reacts to growing ecological issues.
Madrid-based practice García-Germán Arquitectos was tasked with designing Desert CITY’s new hub, which sits within 16,000 sq m of reclaimed industrial wasteland parallel to the A-1 Highway.
The complex was conceived as what the practice calls a ‘billboard building’ and arranged around a ‘cloister-like cactus garden’. It houses an educational facility, offices, cafe and a cable-roofed greenhouse, and is surrounded by xerophyte gardens, bridges and walkways.
Green-tinted photovoltaic windows harness solar energy – and give clues about the green-fingered activities inside to passers by. The building is also kitted out with water recovery and geothermal power systems.
Its vast open-plan greenhouse is capped by a soaring roof, while cacti and plants are arranged in a zen-like symmetry inside the space.
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