Mountain in the Moon is an earth-friendly mini-environment for design thinking, collaboration, and hanging out. It has a triangular, gable-like structure that can be disassembled into a central section and two seating areas, complete with greenery, and deployed in any configuration. The central segment, which has desks and stools for working and cushions for lounging, looks like a diminutive greenhouse, and that’s deliberate. Mountain in the Moon is a green place for growing ideas.

Designed by the Madrid firm Enorme Studio—whose cofounder team members are David Pérez García, Carmelo Rodriguez Cedillo, and Rocio Pina Isla—Mountain appeared in Madrid’s Plaza de la Luna for three weeks during the Madrid Design Festival in February 2018.

It was initially planned mainly as a mobile design lab, with five designers invited by Enorme to work in the space, and passersby encouraged to observe them at work. But it soon morphed into a more basic urban amenity.

“The designers did participate,” says David Pérez, “but only at certain times of the day. We began to realize that, because it was a pleasant green space, and because the square doesn’t really have places to sit outside of bars or cafés, it was mainly working as a place for people to come, sit, and connect with one another any way they wanted.” Visitors observed the design process in the central unit, he says, but the designers also got to be immersed in the life of the plaza.

“WE WANTED TO DESIGN OUTDOOR ELEMENTS TO OPEN UP POSSIBILITIES FOR WHAT COULD HAPPEN IN PUBLIC SPACES.”

—David Pérez

THE PLAZA

In the center of the city, not far from the Gran Via, Madrid’s Broadway, lies Plaza de la Luna. Created in the 1970s on the site of a demolished building, it had a reputation for prostitution and drugs until 2007, when the city government hired the Spanish/German urban-design firm Brut Deluxe to install decorative paving, a water feature that becomes an ice rink in winter, and other amenities.

Today the square is still somewhat gritty—its relative lack of greenery makes it hot in the summer, for example—but it is home to a pleasant terrace bar named (in English) The Moon, and the ground-level fountain is wadeable and thus popular with kids. (The former Luna cinema houses the Body Factory gym.)

David Pérez notes that the surrounding neighborhood is a mix of long-term dwellers and Gran Via tourists—an urban combination entirely appropriate for the site of an installation focused on connection and cooperation.

What’s Behind the Name?

The title Mountain in the Moon (Montaña en la Luna) is a puzzle. As for the “Mountain” part, David Pérez says, “The installation pretended to be in some way a mountain in the city—because of its form and the vegetation.”

Okay. But what about Moon, and why in (en) rather than on (sur)?

Well, first of all, moon doesn’t refer to Earth’s satellite. It’s a nod to the place where the project was set up: in a Madrid square called Plaza Santa Maria Soledad de Torres Acosta. But Madrileños never refer to it by that elaborate name, which honors a nineteenth-century nun. They call it Plaza de la Luna, Plaza of the Moon—or more properly, Plaza of the “Cines Luna,” a movie theater whose neon sign was once the square’s signature.

THE PEOPLE

The Mountain in the Moon project, explains Pérez, was launched when MINI Hub approached Enorme Studio for help in creating a portable design studio.

MINI Hub

MINI Hub is a coworking and event space located, like Enorme, in the academic-bohemian Malasaña district of Madrid. Like Enorme too, MINI is committed to new ideas in design and culture. In addition to providing clients with workspaces, it hosts symposia, exhibitions, concerts, and family-friendly activities, in pursuit of what its website calls “global thinking capable of redefining concepts like ‘future’ or ‘mobility.’” Recent MINI events have included a cardboard-toy-making workshop for kids; a symposium on the future of design; an exhibition of Spanish photographers under 30; and a discussion of the impact of virtual reality on architecture.

Amenities On The “Moon”

Besides being modular and portable—a hallmark of Enorme’s projects—Mountain in the Moon was designed to be both informal and environmentally advanced. It featured:

  • Raw plywood work stations
  • Oversize floor cushions
  • Solar-powered reading lights
  • USB charging ports powered by physical movement
  • Exterior plantings and interior plants for a “greenhouse” feel

Enorme Studio

Enorme Studio’s work has focused on the design of small, informal, adaptable structures using economical materials and means, and intended to rethink the relationship between architecture and daily life. Mountain in the Moon was no exception.

“We wanted to send a message about street furniture and other outdoor design elements,” Pérez says. “These things are mostly designed preventively, defensively; they have to be very solid and provide no surprises. But we wanted to design those elements to open up possibilities for what could happen in public spaces.”

Jon Spayde is the senior editor of Public Art Review.

From Public Art Review #58, where this article originally appeared in Powerful Spaces, as “A Pop-up Design Lab in a Madrid Plaza.”
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