The Descents

La Vaguada, Madrid


The Descents is an interactive infrastructure that restores an abandoned pond for public use. It works as an environmental mediator: making the links between the pond and water visible, it connects us with the site, the territory, its memory and its resources.

Composed by four temporary micro-interventions, it communicates the water levels of the dams that provide water to that area of Madrid in real time. It also enables the visitor to sense the water levels of the river through their own skin as though bathing in the water that once circulated there, and to walk through the cracks where water has been filtering over the last decade. Through this trans-media environment, the infrastructure immerses the visitor in multiple landscapes of data, pollution and archaeology.

But it does not only reports on environmental conditions, it also responds to them. It responds to the climate, to the seasons and to the hours of the day. The intensity of its experience depends on the water volume of dams and rivers, turning off when there is draught. Therefore, the use of the pond depends on the needs of the environment (and not the other way around). Each micro-intervention is also a maintenance and repair strategy. Through water, light and paint it lightens and humidifies it, facilitates its access and it provides a new image.

The Descents is an invitation to reflect on the politics of environmental entities, as a resource and as a habitat for other species, often very polluted. Through an immersive and playful experience of data, it aims to contribute to producing environmental awareness and change in daily practices.

The project, part of the Imagina Madrid program, started in January 2018 through a series of co-design sessions in which residents of the neighborhood expressed that water belongs to the recent memory of the Park, and the pond, now empty, is a symbol of its absence. For this reason, the micro-interventions colonize the pond for public use and, at the same time, recover the cultural, territorial and environmental memory of La Vaguada through the new presence of water.

Each intervention is related to a descent that reveals the past and current links with water: from reservoirs, rivers and supply pipelines of the 17th century, to the micro-filtrations that occurred in the last decade, suggesting new ways of relating to water. In addition, the interventions invite to reflect on the environmental value of water as a resource for our consumption or as a habitat for other species (although often contaminated, as in this case). The project aims to contribute to the common construction of an environmental conscience and bring about changes in our daily practices.

Lights to know the origin of the water we consume: Where does the water we drink in Madrid come from? It descends from the clouds and accumulates in the reservoirs of the mountains. The color and shape of the lights represent the four reservoirs that supply the neighborhood: The Villas, The Atazar, The Vado and Pedrezuela. The pulsations of the lights translate in real time the state of the water level of each one of the reservoirs. If there is no water, the lights remain off.

Does knowing where water comes from help to take care of its consumption?

Clouds to know the flow of the Jarama River: The Jarama River descends from the The Vado reservoir to Madrid. When it has sufficient flow, the nebulizers are activated adding steam to the empty pond, improving its environmental conditions and encouraging fun and play, which were always part of the use of the rivers and that area of La Vaguada. The density of the cloud translates the flow of the river in real time, turning off in case of risk of drought.

Does feeling "inside the river" contribute to caring for the animals and plants that inhabit it?

Ramp to recover the territorial memory: A ramp-step-stair facilitates the descents to the pond. The ramp is located in the closest location to the Water’s Journeys, the historic water supply network created in the 17th century. For its construction, wood from other public spaces’ urban infrastructures has been reused. The metallic patterns that decorate its surface have been made in collaboration with El Enredadero, a cultural centre for teenagers in La Vaguada. The patterns reproduce the skins of the fishes that inhabit the rivers that, from the reservoirs, supply water to the El Pilar neighborhood and whose habitats are highly contaminated.

Does remembering what there was many years ago in this space (before the construction of La Vaguada Park) make us connect with our past and share its history?

Paint to recover the memory of the pond: By cleaning the pond its history began to emerge. The micro descent of water that seeped through the cracks in the bottom of the pond is now highlighted by the paint. The loss is thus commemorated through a celebratory image that invites new uses.

Does visualizing fissures help celebrate and use the pond with imagination?


C+ Arquitectas

Design and construction

Nerea Calvillo and Marina Fernández with the collaboration of Vendedores de Humo


Carpinteros sin Fronteras, Creática ONG, An Wei Lu Li, Brumizone, Pinturas Tek-Lacke, Sergio Galán. Neighbours, El Enredadero, Dimas García, Grupo de Historia Urbana

With the contributions of

Asesoría Estructuras QL Ingeniería, IAS Research Impact Development Awards of University of Warwick (UK), Impact Grant ESRC IAA University of Warwick (UK) with the Economic & Social Research Council (UK) Grant (ES/M500434/1)

The Descents is part of Acciones Extra ← Ordinarias, a series of artistic interventions within Imagina Madrid

Acciones Extraordinarias: C+ Arquitectas, Paula Valero y Estelle Jullian with the collaboration of Leonor Martín (


Imagina Madrid,a program to co-design with artists and neighbours launched by Madrid City Council and Intermediae


Open Call


Asier Rua, Estudio Perplejo, Andrea Beade