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Washroom And Aloe Vera Plantation, Darrical Spain

Part 1 Project 2001
Ian Atkins
Emma Cain
University of East London, UK
In the region of Almeria, Southern Spain, 60,000 acres of land are covered by plastic greenhouses, growing crops for most of Europe. The plastic greenhouse phenomenon started around 30 years ago to supply cheap vegetables all year round. Artesian wells were tapped to supply water for the plastic agriculture. Within 30 years the wells have almost dried up. In the 1980s a major dam was built in order to irrigate the plastic agriculture by the coast. The project failed, only a small part of the valley was flooded leaving the village, Darrical dry yet deserted.

The overall aim of the proposal is to grow aloe vera as a crop for the cosmetic industry, an industry powerful enough to be able to make a change in the region. Aloe vera is an ideal native plant suitable for growing around Darrical as it does not require the intensive irrigation demanded by the plastic agriculture. With the production of this cash crop, Darrical can be regenerated without causing devestating damage to the landscape, in the way plastic agriculture does.

Presently the village has one main water basin which is unsuitable for sustaining the requirements of any increase in village population. Therefore as an architectural solution for the catalyst for regeneration, I propose a washroom and reservoir which provides for the needs of around 200 people living in the village permanently and a seasonal influx of Aloe Vera harvesters.

The building is inserted into the village and extends down to the river as an extension of village square. The building is a series of large, cast in situ, concrete basins forming the bathing spaces. The spaces are covered by prefabricated elements, steel frame and gres (industrial terracotta) panels hung to provide protection from the intense sunlight.

Ian Atkins
Emma Cain

Last year the Unit explored The Alpujarras of Southern Spain, a region settled by Moorish refugees from Seville and Ganada. The villages still maintain the terracing and irrigation systems that were established centuries ago in order to cultivate this difficult terrain. We also investigated the Campo Plastico: the highest concentration of plastic greenhouses in Europe. This economically successful yet highly unsustainable practise of intensive agriculture along the coast is spreading rampant and current water initiatives and dam constructions supporting this industry threaten the sensitive water balance of the Alpujarras.

This student positioned his project in Darrical, a village vacant as a result of a dam constructed for the coastal agriculture. Ian constructed an ambitious proposal for regeneration, suggesting a new use for this dry land in the form of aloe vera cultivation and a service building for the village.

The student's work is exceptional in its precision of place and resonance with its' landscape. His building reveals sensibility towards the local culture, inviting occupation and establishing optimism for a more sustainable future.

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