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Competition: Costa del Sprawl, Spain

An open international ideas contest has been launched to design a ‘new vernacular’ building style for Spain’s sprawling Costa del Sol region (Deadline: 31 August)

The latest edition of the annual competition seeks stylistic studies aimed at producing a new vernacular form of development for the Mediterranean coastal area, which features huge areas of speculative housing alongside historic settlements and castles.

Submissions may be ‘experimental or tried and tested’ but must holistically consider the surrounding social, cultural, topographic, climatic, urban and architectural context. The contest focuses on an undeveloped plot in Riviera del Sol and concepts may cover an entire building, an architectural fragment or a wider public space.

Contest site, Riviera del Sol

Contest site, Riviera del Sol

Contest site, Riviera del Sol

According to the brief: ‘For a second year the Costa del Sprawl ideas competition seeks creative solutions to improve the social, urban, and architectural situation in some of Costa del Sol’s sprawling neighbourhoods.

‘This year’s competition is focused on the theme of “identity” and invites participants to imagine a piece of architecture, whether building or space, which could be adopted as a model of contemporary vernacular architecture specific to the area of Riviera del Sol, and act as a precedent for the future planning and development of the neighbourhood.’

The Costa del Sol in Andalucía stretches along Spain’s southern border with the Mediterranean Sea, and is major destination for tourists, retirees and second-home-owners. The Riviera del Sol area near Marbella is popular with expats and features large numbers of speculative housing developments.

The competition site is an undeveloped plot of open land overlooking the Mediterannean Sea between Calle Jose Rivero and Calle Severiano Ballesteros. Submissions may be of any size or scale and are not required to use the entire site.

Contest site, Riviera del Sol

Contest site, Riviera del Sol

Contest site, Riviera del Sol

The contest, organised by Estudio Esse, aims to define a new form of contemporary vernacular construction and help to reshape the future of architecture and planning in the neighbourhood. Applications should be in English or Spanish and include a single A3-sized presentation board no larger than 5MB.

Shortlisted proposals will feature in an exhibition from 16 September to 9 October inside the La Cala de Mijas municipal gallery. Residents and local council representatives will be invited to vote for their choice of winner which will be announced on 9 October. Full details of prizes and awards have yet to be announced.

How to apply

Deadline

The deadline for submissions is 31 August.

Contact details

Email: costadelsprawl@gmail.com

Visit the competition website for more information

Q&A with Sam Eadington

The competition organiser and founder of Studio Esse discusses his ambitions for the contest

Sam Eadington

Sam Eadington

Sam Eadington

Why are your holding an international ideas contest for a new contemporary vernacular in the Costa del Sol?

The Costa del Sol could be read as expansive inhabited monument to the perils of speculative property development. It’s a fascinating place, huge areas were shaped by profit alone with buildings being merely a by-product of the capitalist machine as it swept through. Of course people now live in the remnants of this, but the forces that defined the existing architecture are long gone. The aim of this competition, and the ongoing research project in general, is to critically analyse the Costa del Sol as it today and question how the current context might shape an architecture that is representative of the specifics of this intriguing place.

What is your vision for the future of the area’s architecture?

It’s not unrealistic to imagine architecture contributing to a more convenient, casual and cohesive community in the very near future. Small, simple interventions like adding kiosks or cafés on empty street corners and taking down a few fences between apartment complexes could have a huge impact. There’s no shortage of abandoned structures or empty plots which could become truly transformative for the area if approached with care and imagination. The competition site is one such space where straying from the residential typology could enliven an edge zone so we’re pretty excited to see and share the ideas people come up with.

What sort of architects and designers are you hoping will apply?

We believe the competition can provide a thought-provoking challenge to anyone from an enthusiastic resident to an established practice. The context is really unique here but it’s often overlooked by the ‘creative class’ which is a shame because it’s full of opportunities for theoretical exploration as well as pragmatic intervention. As designers and students who enjoy participating in and learning from competitions we aimed to create the kind of brief we would enjoy tackling. Although the call for ideas is completely hypothetical, having the exposure of the exhibition and real life engagement with the local residents brings it all down to earth.

Contest site, Riviera del Sol

Contest site, Riviera del Sol

Contest site, Riviera del Sol

Which other design opportunities are on the horizon and how will the architects/designers be procured?

Money is always the problem, but the positive is that the local residents’ groups are becoming increasingly active in demanding better services from the council, such as schools and parks. There could be opportunities for architects here very soon if the council is listening. Part of what we are trying to do with the project and exhibition is show the council what design can add to the area, perhaps fixing some of the bits where design wasn’t so present in the past. For now we believe that self-initiated projects and community engagement such as this provide the most realistic and in our opinion the most exciting way for architects and designers to have a hand in shaping future of the area.

Contest site, Riviera del Sol

Contest site, Riviera del Sol

Contest site, Riviera del Sol

Are there any other contemporary vernacular projects you have been impressed by?

Three architecture firms who deal with contemporary vernacular in inspiring but radically different ways are Sou Fujimoto in Tokyo, Austin Maynard Architects in Melbourne, and Sergison Bates Architects in London and Zurich. Fujimoto’s work is mad and not to everyone’s taste, but how he interprets and plays with ideas of the contemporary city like with House NA is incredibly exciting. Austin Maynard deals with tricky Australian suburb sites and their regulations with a sense of fun and humanity. Sergison Bates’ attention to detail and the subtleties of material and form respect continuity and the often banal nature of day to day life.

Costa del la Sombra case study: Q&A with Ana Rita Vale

The co-founder of Vale & Calvete discusses lessons learned designing the winning entry to last year’s Costa del Sprawl contest

Ana Rita Vale

Ana Rita Vale

Ana Rita Vale

How did your Costa de la Sombra project propose an alternative future for its site?

The antithesis of an unfinished building, located in a place where success was once felt, was the starting point of an idea to reappropriate the concrete structure. We proposed a crematorium, whose programme, with two opposite realities, embodied the celebration of the past prosperous life in the region and the difficult times of the European financial crisis, or ‘the boom’ and ‘the crash’. In the future, the proposed building would be a memorial of the history of Costa del Sol, displaying those permanent scars from the continuous urban transformations, as well as a symbolic place for the community.

Costa del la Sombra by Vale & Calvete

Costa del la Sombra by Vale & Calvete

Costa del la Sombra by Vale & Calvete

Which architectural, material, structural and other methods did you harness in your design?

Most of the physical substances of the project were already in the site. When the construction stopped and became a ruin it started a dialogue with the territory, leaving some clues of possible outcomes for its usage. Thus, the unfinished building provided us guidelines for its own completion, such as its materiality, its construction boundaries and the general composition. Our approach was a selective addition method, whereby there would be a preservation of the ruin and an introduction of the necessary elements to make a functioning crematorium facility. The atmosphere created by the existing columns inspired us to design a large water pond in the exterior courtyard, whose length would replicate the proposed interior space. In addition to the visual relationship between both spaces, the new concrete elements that rose from the landscape were another important focus in the project, in order to draw attention to this forgotten place.

Costa del la Sombra by Vale & Calvete

Costa del la Sombra by Vale & Calvete

Costa del la Sombra by Vale & Calvete

What advice would you have to competing teams on participating in the latest Costa del Sprawl contest?

The first ‘Costa del Sprawl’ edition aimed to gather residents and visitors in one specific place, to discuss a territory with which they have a connection, and to contribute to the organiser’s research. The participating teams should take this community interaction into account; in fact, this must be the priority. Furthermore, understanding the site, its surrounding landscape, its inhabitants and the needs of the territory, should all translate into well-clarified projects.

Costa del la Sombra by Vale & Calvete

Costa del la Sombra by Vale & Calvete

Costa del la Sombra by Vale & Calvete