Madrid-based Elii Architects have unveiled a rather curious way to kick off the city's yearly art event, El Ranchito. Eight artists will be living in one of the city's most innovative art centers, el Matadero and participating in a Potlatch, a traditional gift-giving ceremony that dates back to Native American tribes from the Pacific. At the beginning of the event, the artists will be gifted the basic supplies needed to live in portable, interconnected greenhouses in Matadero's Bay 16. Once the artists receive their transportable structures, which are powered by adult-sized tricycles, they are free to pedal away in the bay until they find just the right spot to set up camp for El Ranchito's duration.
All of the Potlatch gifts include four main elements that are designed to create a transformable “art neighborhood.” Each artist will receive a main structure that is made up of six foldable greenhouses, which can be configured into multiple arrangements. The 1.50 x 0.75 x 2.05 meter greenhouses are attached by flexible hinges and can provide distinct living and work areas depending on the artist’s needs. Secondly, the gift comes with a rigid panel with storage space that can be used as a display board or as a stable work surface. The third feature is the wonderfully large tricycle that allows the artists to freely and easily move their structure to their desired location. The fourth feature of the quirky project is a variety of items for everyday use in an artist’s world: lights, chairs, kitchenware, clothing hangers, a small rug, plants, a watering can, a reading guide and even a hammock for those ever- so- inspirational Spanish siestas.
All of the greenhouses can be interconnected to create specific areas for individual space, but the aim of the project is to encourage relations between the residents by creating communal meeting spaces, a rest area and a dining room. Many of the extra materials for these spaces have been reused from previous El Ranchito events.
Besides being a quirky modern version of an ancient traditional gift giving ceremony, the Potlatch is also a way to show how transportable living spaces can be easily assembled and dismantled withough leaving a permanent footprint on the environment. Maintaining the true spirit of the event, the eight participating artists will fulfill their part of the Potlatch gift-giving cycle through their work, which will be presented to the citizens of Madrid at the end of the event.
Photography © Miguel de Guzmán