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Shade Garden: Public Space as Resilient Infrastructure for Desert Cities

ORU - Oficina de Resiliencia Urbana & Julián Arroyo Cetto + Gabriel Azuara Pellicer

Los Cabos, Mexico

December 2019


Elena Tudela Rivadeneyra


Adriana Chávez, Victor M. Rico, Julián Arroyo Cetto, Gabriel Azuara, Sara Sour, Pamela Tejeda Marín, Quetzalli Hernández Durán and Susana Ezeta Genis


Román Meyer Falcón, Secretary of SEDATU (Secretariat of Agrarian, Land, and Urban Development)


Rubén Linares, SEDATU / Pamela Tejeda, VIRENS


The Shade Garden seeks to improve the microclimate of this recreational public space, promote a local cultural and environmental identity, and mitigate vulnerability to disasters. One of the main objectives was to provide a high-quality open public space intervention that could bring about transformation and improvement to the area while promoting a safe environment. The project houses: 1) a soccer field, 2) a sports covered open space that includes a court, bleachers, restrooms, and a cistern for rainwater storage, 3) an open space for callisthenics, 4) a children's playground, 5) a skatepark guarded by the sun by the shadow the building casts on it during the day, 6) a running track around the lot, and lastly, 7) a parking lot (acting as a water infiltration zone) for 25 car occupancy for the regional soccer matches. The covered space fulfills multiple functions, not only as an urban amenity but also by adapting and becoming a logistical infrastructure for emergency coordination during disasters. The Shade Garden’s landscape includes native and xerophytic vegetation, which also contribute to shelter from the sun during the day, mitigating heat island effect and increasing comfort of resting spaces, while reinforcing the local landscape identity. The project creates a much-needed vegetated area in a desert climate context without taxing the local water supply. Furthermore, it aids in flood control. The users to be served by the project are approximately 430 in the indoor space and 480 users in outdoor areas and courts at the same time.


The Shade Garden is a very low budget project that was commissioned and built as part of the Urban Improvement Program from SEDATU (Secretariat of Agrarian, Land, and Urban Development) in collaboration with the Facultad de Arquitectura at UNAM. This project is in Las Palmas neighborhood in Los Cabos, Baja California in a marginalized area north of the city. The state of Baja California Sur represents the most arid in the country, with a very dry warm climate with a summer rainfall regime. It is also the state with the highest number of direct impacts from hurricanes and tropical storms. The city of Los Cabos is the most exposed to such impacts leading to severe river and coastal flooding, as well as droughts that risk water availability. On the other hand, the municipality has a low rate of green area per inhabitant (4 m2/inhabitant) and presents a significant deficit of recreational public space, while the existing ones are often in bad shape. There are barely any sidewalks or paved streets. The Shade Garden project seeks to offer an open habitable space for public use, in contact with the natural landscape of the region, which will contribute to a better response to disasters and require less maintenance. An Elementary School is located 130 meters to the northeast benefitting the most from the public recreational space. Several school facilities in the area are used as shelters in case of disaster, therefore, this project represents support infrastructure in case of emergencies.


Rainwater from the roof structure is stored in an underground cistern to be used in restrooms, irrigation and for emergency storage. The modular metal structure is a shade element that is freely programmable and can accommodate multiple activities. The prefabricated structural elements allow fast construction, low maintenance, high quality control, dimensional precision, and durability. The low walls of the park are made of local stone with rustic finish. The construction method also reduces the cost of construction, the consumption of materials, and energy used. Its saw shape roof is oriented to limit direct solar incidence by encouraging the installation of solar panels on the exposed surface, illuminate homogeneously with north light, drive south winds from cyclones at high speeds away from the building, but admitting north winds to improve microclimatic comfort, and reduce thermal gains to the interior. To reduce the exposure of the upper hall of the building to solar radiation there is a row of trees, while its orientation handles exposure to the rest of the building. The elevated lattice-like roof walls provide shade and allow for visual connection to the landscape and a safety perception. To offset CO2 contributions from construction work and its material processes the project is a low-energy usage building benefitting from entirely passive methods of climate control. The building is being used all day and year-round. It was thought as a system to be replicated in cities in the desert, and it’s being replicated further south with the same typology.

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