Gallery: ‘Air Tree’ Structures in Madrid produce Oxygen and Energy


The city of Madrid soon plans to add a striking new structure that will “climatically transform” its urban architecture. Designed by Urban Ecosystems, the Air Tree pavilion is to be built from recycled materials and will be 100% energy self-sufficient. Using photovoltaic cells, the Air Tree produces a substantial amount of energy, which is then sold back to the local electric companies, the profits being used for maintenance of the structure. The second byproduct is of course oxygen – hence the name ‘Air Tree’!

We’ve written about the Madrid Air-Tree before, when the design ‘Ecoboulevard’ for industrial revitalization won the AR Awards for Spanish Architecture group Urban Ecosystems. Aside from their aesthetic appeal, the trees have a very interesting benefit for the local residents who have to suffer through hot Spanish summers. The surrounding environment near the air tree will be naturally conditioned, reducing the heat island effect found in most city centers. The air trees will be implemented city wide in the coming years.

Furthermore, the structure, made from lightweight recycled materials, can be easily disassembled and moved to another site when needed. This feature makes the entire idea really intruding because dozens of air trees can be installed in cities around major metropolitan areas during summers. The trees will cool the surrounding environments and as a bonus generate clean electricity. If the idea catches on, don’t be surprised to see an air tree in the city near you very soon.

+ Urban Ecosystems

+ Ecoboulevard wins AR Awards


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  1. H2o energy | Jaykaymotors May 29, 2011 at 1:51 pm

    […] ‘Air Tree’ Structures in Madrid produce Oxygen and Energy |The title states it makes oxygen and energy. Not sure where you got the H2O from. So I think you mean how does it make O? O2 is ozone if my recall my chemistry correctly. Trees take in CO2 (carbon dioxide) and emit O (oxygen). […]

  2. catbrookes January 29, 2010 at 2:59 pm

    hey, I´m joining this discussion a little late (!) but it is really depressing that a year and a half after this article was published there is not sign of Air Trees in Madrid.
    I have no firm data but I know that here in Madrid we have far too many days when CO2 emissions are above the recommended level. Last year, the Madrid Council took it on themselves to move the emissions counters to areas where there were less emissions and therefore create the impression that CO2 emissions had falled.
    This can only be described as stupid and dangerous behaviour. My daughter who is now 6 months old has grown up next to the Retiro Park. Sadly this is one of the most polluted areas of Madrid due to car emissions. i lose alot of sleep over that, and I hope the Council of Madrid do too.

  3. liebana June 8, 2008 at 2:31 pm

    Madrid has truly come to represent the most dynamic and progressive stage for architecture in Europe.

    La Cuidad de Justicia,T4 Barajas,El Nuevo Prado,the Reina Sofia amplification(Jean Nouvel),Rio Madrid(M-30),Cuarto Torres,new Headquarters Telefonica,Repsol,Banco Santander and Europe’s most fabulous metro!

  4. just a moron May 10, 2008 at 7:29 pm

    I might be spouting hot air, but don\’t trees and plants depend on the earth to cool their roots and provide water for survival? Weekend gardening has shown that pots hanging in the air are much less able to help with temperature controls for the plants they hold than mother earth. My vision of this construction is that it unfortunately wastes more space than simply establishing a network of panels on rooftops to harness solar energy and probably increases the amount of residual concrete in a given area. City planners like to think outside the box, but throwing the roots out with the bath water could be failing to realize how to establish real and safe parks that people would want to utilize throughout their lives rather than stare at once and curse later.

  5. IgnorAmos May 10, 2008 at 5:28 am

    How cool to now be putting even the trees in cages – It looks like tree jail – if this idea is so revolutionary WHY DO WE KEEP CUTTING FOREST why not simply cage and harness THAT growth – much better than the miniscule amount of jump you will get from a wee caged sapling in a pot.
    People – scare me. You are all – sheep. This is not smart – this is not ugly – this is outright stupid.

    Why don’t they do it over/in a park? Why the need for concrete?
    Why do they claim this; while continuing to clear cut forest?
    Why do they claim this; while allowing farm land to be urbanized?
    How do they justify the lack of urban trees in the ground; and yet this is feasible?
    How will such large amounts of greenery get watered?
    Where will the run off go, and how?
    Does this require special spaces built just to handle the water, drainage, chemicals, and lay out?
    How will the trees be moved, never mind the structure?
    Will the trees ever be planted in the ground?
    Was this proposed without looking into green/park space and energy conversion therein?
    Who the heck thought caging a tree was “beautiful?”
    What is the idea presented here – Humans have no nature they collectively believe they are above it, and will simply cage it?
    Wouldn’t a park – more trees period – grass and such be more productive and have the energy effects been tested in these situations?
    Where will the children play in this … place?
    Will flowerbeds be illegal next?

    I smell societal stink all ove this proposition, it’s a very unproductive “make work” project which not only limits human potential but the true potential and benefial effects of communing with nature – THAT vision present is nothing short of depressing. WHAT can a tree ever have done to deserve such a fate ,,, And looking at this constantly would have which subtle and subliminal effect on the human and emotional psyche?
    I don’t buy for a MOMENT that this is about harnessing energy … Unless the harnessing is more like destruction and the energy is mostly human which is being destroyed.
    I would thus suggest the trees in cages on display in a monumental type fashion is a play on the psyche far more than a boost for energy; regardless of how you look at it.

  6. p bunyon May 10, 2008 at 2:27 am

    awe jeeze! there goes more priceless parking space-

  7. BrianN May 10, 2008 at 1:57 am

    I looks like a good idea, if it’s overgrown with whatever vegetation it will probably be OK, they can always tweak the aesthetics later. Main thing, will it really produce enough oxygen to make it worthwhile? Maybe they will learn that CO2 is not really a hazardous waste since those plants will want as much as they can get to convert to O2, and would flourish if they could direct the inside air from nearby buildings into that structure. Looks like they could even have more solar panels, but of course they can’t block the plants from Sun. I’d consider some mirrored surfaces inside and around the area to concentrate the sunlight somewhat. If they could design it to rotate with the wind, it could generate power as a windmill too, but it might confuse the plants. Nice idea.

  8. simpson May 8, 2008 at 8:38 pm

    All those who criticise have done nothing useful in their life. Evey invention will be ugly to begin with and
    with experience and knowledge gained things will improve. By just condemning new ideas, no one will
    ever try new ideas. Let these nay sayers show how to create better systems and then they may qualify to
    make outrageous statements. The whole idea is novel and the creativity is slowly blossimng.

  9. VerifyYou May 8, 2008 at 1:08 pm

    O2 is molecular oxygen. O3 is ozone. While you are correct, they didn’t say they’re creating H2O, they are creating O2. I will be interested in seeing what this looks like once the vines have grown to cover the structure.

  10. Madrid Builds Air-Tree ... March 30, 2008 at 6:14 pm

    […] generate energy to sell to electric companies — through the use of solar panels and trees. Created by Urban Ecosystems, the “Air Tree” is supposed to have a beneficial impact on Madrid’s […]

  11. Travis February 20, 2008 at 6:48 am

    Upon closer look at the pictures. It appears that the plants on the inside will grow up the chain-link inevitably making it look like one big round plant with solar cells on the roof. I am doing the same thing on my balcony with morning glories and chicken wire. Give it a month or two and it will look fabulous!

  12. Mark February 1, 2008 at 3:06 pm

    Actually the shade from the structure prevents the hot arid climate in Madrid from evaporating all the moisture from the vegitation. The designers had in mind that these trees, in this given enviorment needed an extra element in helping them grow and produce O2. It’s innovative!

    I would however plant trees at the base of the structure to help it from looking like a trashcan/crockpot.

  13. aczar January 30, 2008 at 11:17 am

    This is green? Using fuel to move vines or trees from polluted site to polluted site is not green. Using fuel to pump water for the plants upwards is not green. How about planting seedlings (very cheap) and let them grow? The solar panels and vines at the top will also shade the sun for plants below. As noted by other readers it is also hideous. My opinion, it is a architectural and city planners mastabatory fantasy and should stay a fantasy.

  14. miguel January 29, 2008 at 12:35 pm

    i am from madrid, and I do NOT WANT to see this large scale piece of junk in my city.
    monumental structures like the Correos office (now madrid city hall), Cibeles fountain or metropolis building making parallels with this piece of shit. this sounds contrary to an urban eco system.

  15. Davek January 27, 2008 at 8:09 pm

    Great – a tree prison…

  16. Tamara January 27, 2008 at 4:10 pm

    It is not beautiful, but it sure is futuristic and a great start for making clean energy and not just ugly useless cement constructions in poluted and overpopulated cieties.

  17. Bette January 26, 2008 at 6:57 pm

    All of the pictures show very few real trees in the backgrounds. All of the land appears totally barren of forested areas!!
    To re-forest the land is the solution not some manmade contraption that is to do what a million trees now gone can do. And it isn’t nice to look at at all!!!!!!!!
    Nothing can replace the natural beauty of real trees!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


  18. João Sousa January 26, 2008 at 6:20 pm

    Well i have to say that i’ve visited and actually these structures are the most interesting thing on the site! I was a bit disappointed about how they look but at the same time i was concious enough to preview its evolution and to imagine it in 5 or 10 years. For me the worst part is really the surroundings. The housing buildings are absolutely ugly, post-modern (allthough contemporary) and each one came from a different planet and landed on the site without establishing an identity or an overall image. Actually, the things that try to give some identity and coherence to the site are these structures.

    If on one side it trust the concept and i’m happy with the result, i think it will be hard to mantain due to its location because they are already beggining to be vandalized…

  19. jonas risen January 26, 2008 at 8:49 am

    Hey everyone… I am not sure why they didn’t post a link the my original article… but if you check out the original post I made on Greenlineblog you will see it is much more than a park. These Air Trees are just the beginning of a park system… they are really just the designers recognition that it takes years and years to get a full tree canopy to develop… very interesting concept…

  20. James January 25, 2008 at 5:30 pm

    How about a park instead?

  21. Wesley January 25, 2008 at 3:26 pm

    Interesting and cool concept and maybe even a reality but it reminds me of a line from a poem “I think that I shall never see a poem lovely as a tree.” So, is that where we will see trees in the future…literature?

  22. Alex January 25, 2008 at 1:17 pm

    I completely agree with the two previous posts. Aesthetically it is just awful. Also I would like to add that it seems it is not using the maximum potential of its surface area for the solar panels. They could probably add more panels to produce higher amounts of electricity. But nonetheless, it is a step in the right direction.

  23. GG January 25, 2008 at 1:07 pm

    I think it’s lovely. A wonderful blend of nature and cityscape. Trees and chain link fences don’t mix often enough. :)

  24. DARRELL January 25, 2008 at 12:56 pm

    Everyone is a critic, this is a prototype…and will thus continually evolve. The basic concept could have such a big impact, it could totally change the way we perceive and design urban space…

  25. Sally Anne January 25, 2008 at 12:41 pm

    I would not want to be one of those poor trees, in a pot, in a cage. Trees are meant to be free, growing in the earth and swaying to the breezes.

  26. Joel January 25, 2008 at 11:31 am

    I have to disagree with the previous commentors. I find it very pleasing to the eye. I’d love to see it in full bloom, with mature trees green against the dark red. I think it’d be very attractive. Adding a circular element to the squared-off nature of the typical urban environment could break the expected contours of such and changes the natural reactions, habits and attitudes of the local citizens. These could become natural meeting places for people, new physical and psychological landmarks to reorganize they way they think about their city and how they live in it.

    On the other hand, if they are not maintained as has been pointed out….it’d be very sad to say the least.

  27. VerifyMe January 25, 2008 at 5:18 am

    > How does this make H2O as stated in the title? Do you mean O2?

    The title states it makes oxygen and energy. Not sure where you got the H2O from. So I think you mean how does it make O? O2 is ozone if my recall my chemistry correctly. Trees take in CO2 (carbon dioxide) and emit O (oxygen).

    I like the idea understand the purpose of using recycled material but I agree with Brandon. The design leaves me uninspired.

    You’ve been Stumbled.

  28. Rhiannon January 25, 2008 at 4:43 am

    Good idea though, thanks for trying, at least. Hopefully this is just a learning curve on the way to success! Fine-tuning and all that….

  29. Rhiannon January 25, 2008 at 4:41 am

    Yeah, I agree with Brandon and Sven. Nature had it best, the trees just grow in the ground and look nice. Just plant lots of trees and commit a certain percentage of space for green space. Grow green roofs on all the buildings. Solar panels on the preexisting towers, ball it out, green style. Humans are so weird, that thing is SO ugly, and the trees are on the INSIDE. What gives?

  30. Architects India January 25, 2008 at 3:48 am

    I think this a giant leap for green architecture , most countries are not even aware of the possibilities .This must be encouraged by govt.’s if they want to ensure the environmental protection of their territories.

  31. Zach January 25, 2008 at 2:16 am

    You can’t be serious… Potted Plants? Just grow a tree and as it grows, guide it into the desired shape. and that’s a pitiful amount of photovoltaics. Shoulda gone less for the TREE OF THE FUTURE and more of the [Adam Joseph Lewis Center for Environmental Studies at Oberlin College] or any other (what-have-yous)?

  32. Aaron January 25, 2008 at 2:00 am

    You guys are wrong. It is aesthetically pleasing.

  33. Thorsten d' Heureuse January 25, 2008 at 1:44 am

    Interesting approach, but I totally agree to the first comments….the look is awful!!! There are many possibilities of how it could work and also be designed nicely, even the solarpanels could be integrated almost invisible.
    Nicely looking green mounted islands in the city!
    But, anyway, it’s a start!

  34. Jesse January 25, 2008 at 1:06 am

    Hi Kids,

    I know you think the above structure is ugly, and I did too at first, but with a little more research I realized what their intentions were. I thought, why would they plant a LOT of trees in an area that won’t allow them to grow large and more beneficial? Then I realized, those are vines. I did more research from the links in this article, and those are all vines. Eventually, the entire structure will be covered in plant. The surrounding land has young trees, that will one day be large, but it takes trees so much longer. This structure, will be a frame for the vines until it has covered the whole thing, at which point they will remove as much of the industrial material that is safely possible, leaving a large pavilion made of vine. It’s entirely possible to support itself, especially if they chose a vine like Wisteria, which develops a thick trunk from what was once vines.

  35. david January 25, 2008 at 12:26 am

    hopefully as the trees grow they will fill out the structure more and hide the chain link.

  36. Raymond Chua January 25, 2008 at 12:19 am

    Oh my god. Is this how the world is going to end up after all the trees have been cut down?

  37. Kay January 25, 2008 at 12:04 am

    The mining for the metal of the structure must be considered as well. It seems pointless to cut down trees for a mine to build a structure to show off how “green” you are.

  38. Will January 24, 2008 at 9:06 pm

    I have to agree, it looks a little on the ugly side.

    One other thing, would these ‘trees in a tube’ naturally condition the air around to any noticable degree? Unless the trees were being constantly misted during the summer days, I really don’t think the average person would notice that the heat island effect was being offset…

  39. pdq1966 January 24, 2008 at 8:23 pm

    Why the chainlink? I understand that the reasoning most likely has to do with potential theft and damages to the trees, but can the structure just be built in such a way that it is very difficult to climb? The design would be much more appealing with out the chain link. It would also be nice if the trees would sit into or looked designed into the structure instead of just having individual pots sporatically placed.

    A very interesting calculation could be done to look at the environmental “pay-off” period for the construction, manufacturing, and shipping of materials (I know they are recycled, but could the material have been used more effectively? and the solar panels are definately not recycled. and more locally?) What is the energy pay-off period? Emmisions payoff period?

    It is also stated that the Air Tree cools down the heat island effect caused by cities, I would like to see how much this could affect nearby building energy usage for air conditioning…. just a thought. Simulation results?

  40. Britt January 24, 2008 at 8:21 pm

    I find it an altogether disconcerting structure: is there no way to interpret trees in a more aesthetically pleasing fashion?

  41. greg January 24, 2008 at 5:06 pm

    How about real trees instead? With a minimal commitment to increases in efficiency, the same could be accomplished. with… uh… real trees.

  42. Brynn January 24, 2008 at 4:06 pm

    This is so cool! I would love to swing from the bottom like the boy depicted above! Do you think they will make other versions of this building in other cities? (

  43. SVEN January 24, 2008 at 1:35 pm

    How does this make H2O as stated in the title? Do you mean O2?

    Interesting idea, but I agree with Brandon, the aesthetics could be improved. With out care, I could imagine a derelict urban space below with dying trees above- at least the solar panels would probably still be doing their job.

  44. Brandon January 24, 2008 at 12:35 pm

    Although its a good idea conceptually, the asthetics are disgustig. Trees and chain link fences don’t mix. The shape is absolutely uninvnetive. It looks like a rusty old water storage tank. It is an eyesore, but it doesn’t have to be if just a little creativity were applied.

  45. james January 24, 2008 at 12:35 pm

    great idea!

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