COVID Emergency Hospital Landscape in Madrid

COVID Emergency Hospital Landscape in Madrid

Résumé en français

Les jardins de l'hôpital des urgences de Madrid créent un système naturel intégré, offrant des espaces extérieurs où les patients, les visiteurs ou les professionnels de la santé peuvent se rencontrer et se promener, entourésd'arbres et d'arbustes.  En raison des conditions climatiques sèches de la région, des espèces adaptées à une faible demande en eau ont été spécifiées, ce qui réduit également le risque d'allergies ou de problèmes respiratoires. Dans le cadre du processus de mutation et d'adaptation, le système vital des organismes vivants (créativité)et des virus (destruction) a guidé la conception et la distribution de ces jardins extérieurs afin de prévenir les infections en plein air. De Design withNature de Ian L. McHarg à The Origin of Eukaryotic Cells de Lynn Margulis, le rôle des micro-organismes dans le cycle de la vie, de la santé, de la maladie et du changement climatique constitue le système vital de la biosphère. En suivant les références de ces livres, la créativité et la destruction en tant que phénomènes naturels ont toutes deux des attributs tels que l'aptitude et l'inaptitude dans la voie évolutive de la santé et de la maladie.

The gardens of the Emergency Hospital in Madrid create an integrated natural system, providing outdoor areas where COVID patients, visitors, or healthcare professionals can meet and walk, surrounded by trees and shrubs. Due to the dry climatic conditions of the region, species adapted to low water demand were specified, which also reduces the risk of allergies or respiratory problems. As part of the mutation and adaptation process, the vital system of living organisms (creation) and viruses (destruction) has guided the design and distribution of these external gardens to prevent infections in the open air. From Design with Nature by Ian L. McHarg to The Origin of Eukaryotic Cells by Lynn Margulis, the role of the microorganisms in the cycle of life, health, and disease, and climate change constitutes the life support system of the biosphere. Following these references, creativity and destruction as natural phenomena both have attributes such as fitness and unfitness in the evolutionary way of health and disease.

The micro-gardens of the Emergency Hospital in Madrid create a natural system of prefabricated elements that required rapid installation. The design aim was to create spaces of isolation and protection, which referenced a simple integrated system of microorganisms. These enclosures  provide circular green places where COVID-19 patients, visitors or healthcare professionals can meet in intimate spaces surrounded by trees and shrubs or walk around between the large green 'islands'.

Circular spaces where patients, visitors and healthcare professionals can meet

The landscape project has a surface area of 7,434 m2 and is within a plot of 69,781 m2, located in the Hortaleza district of Madrid. The land, which belonged to the previous City of Justice project located north of the Medicina Legal building, was proclaimed as a public hospital and had to be constructed in 100 days to deal with patients who suffered from the CovId-19 pandemic. The plot is trapezoidal, with a fall of 4.5 meters across the site. The topography was modified to harvest rainwater and direct it to green areas that act as sponges, minimise runoff, and store water for future use. Due to the site’s dry climatic conditions, species adapted to low water demand were specified.  These species also reduced the risk of allergies or respiratory problems.

The critical role that microorganisms play in regulating microclimate formed the principles that underpin the landscape architecture intervention.

They are as follows:

Protection system_Cell Wall

Pathways parallel to the street connect the three pavilions and the straight lines that characterise the hospital corridors. The green bands parallel to the three hospital buildings comprise rows of trees, aromatic shrubs, and colourful groundcovers that create a sensitive natural environment close to the hospital. The vegetation, selected with reference to the Sierra Norte Layer,  border to the site and act as a system of protection.

The parallel green bands meet the objective of creating a protective border and reference the planting palette of the Sierra Norte Layer

Meeting point_Nucleus DNA

Surrounded by fruit trees, aromatic shrubs, and groundcovers that do not cause respiratory problems or allergies, family units can enter these outdoor 'waiting rooms' with benches, chairs, and support tables. These micro-spaces are for people of all ages who can use them for playing, teleworking, and resting. The soft landscape takes as reference the planting palette of the Estepa Sur Layer.

The meeting point vegetation references the planting palette of the Estepa sur layer

Circulation system_Vacuoles

The landscape design comprises enclosed elliptical and longitudinal green spaces, which provide open views over the remainder of the gardens. These green areas reference the planting palette of the Vega Campiña Layer and connect to a safe walkway system. COVID-19 patients who experience side effects such as the formation of thrombosis in the leg veins can use these spaces to walk around and increase blood flow in their legs. Doctors recommend daily exercise and long walks during recovery.

The circulation system planting references the Vega campina layer

Porous base materials_Cytoplasm

Compacted red soil acts as a granular fluid. The pavements are porous using limestone, crushed red granite, quartz, feldspar, mica, and they are compacted to follow the contours of the terrain. Above the underground galleries belonging to the previous unfinished City of Justice building, part of the landscape intervention has required additional layers of waterproofing, vapour barriers,drainage, and other elements typical of green roofs. To ensure the soils remain compacted, cleaning operations were carried out to remove the disintegrated and non-compacted soils.

The pavements comprise porous base materials and are delineated with corten steel plates


The  project aims to support the hospital by providing outdoor areas as part of the recovery program and waiting areas for COVID-19 patients and their visitors. The landscape was designed to be part of the healing process and relieve the stress and the emotional trauma of the hospital environment.

Corten steel sheets were used to enclose outdoor meeting rooms and spaces required for post-treatment or waiting areas for the vaccination process.  The concentration of green spaces surrounding the hospital also helps to bring visual and physical continuity with the surrounding parks such as Valdebebas Park and Juan Carlos I Park.

Microorganisms are beneficial in producing oxygen, decomposing organic material, providing nutrients for plants and maintaining human health, but some can be pathogenic and cause disease in plants and humans. Although viruses are classified as microorganisms, they are not considered living organisms. Viruses cannot reproduce outside a host cell and cannot metabolise on their own. Beyond referencing viruses, it is the other vital system of primitive organisms that has guided the design and distribution of these external garden areas, which help to prevent potential infections.

Due to the urgency of the project implementation, the economic restrictions and the extra cost to the Madrid Emergency Hospital, some aspects of the garden project have not been built, and others have had to be modified or reduced.


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All photographs and diagrams are by the author.