Program: Regional Planning
Location: Docenario, Spain
Size: 5,000,000 m2
Awards: Best Final Project of the Bachelor in Architecture, IE University - Young Talent Architecture Awards Nomination, Fundació Mies van der Rohe - Gaudi Architecture Prize 2020 Industrial Building Award, Silk Matters International Design Awards
Rural Alchemy is an intervention project in the town of Docenario in Extremadura, Spain. The colonization town was built in 1961 and counted with 36 houses and a church. Rural Alchemy transforms the landscape into holistic artificial natures, from hyper-productivity to third natures. The project aims to challenge depopulation, an issue affecting the Spanish countryside, by retaining and attracting talent through providing jobs of diverse educational levels, while generating a new local economic model. It achieves this by inserting techno-social productive methods within the existing artificial landscape and proposing an amalgamation of synergistic programs for humans and nonhumans.
Docenario is the hamlet where Rural Alchemy is developed. The town belongs to the municipality of Zalamea de La Serena in the province of Badajoz, Extremadura. Docenario is a colonization town from Francoist Spain built in 1961, by Miguel Herrero Urgel. The town counts with 36 houses, a church and 30 inhabitants.
Colonization towns were created to transform socially and economically underdeveloped regions of Spain, after the Spanish Civil War, through a reorganization and reactivation of the productive areas in the agricultural sector. Many of these involved irrigation plans to alter the landscape, this is why most of the towns are located nearby large rivers. However, Docenario was only possible due to its location, close to the Zalamea Dam, as it can store water all year long. Each settler was given a house and a plot of land on the surroundings of the town.
As many other regions in Spain, La Serena faces a great threat; sameness in its products, therefore generating a bloody competition locally for their own products, which results in affecting negatively to the regional economy. In the end, just the raw products end up being exported to other regions of Spain, to be transformed elsewhere, and as these raw products belong only to the primary sector, they are not very sustainable economically. Due to the reduced economy of the region, people and talent are forced to move outside to find jobs, eventually only generating unskilled and low-paid jobs in the area, which in the long run weaken even more the economy. However, a strength of the region is that the products are high in quality, but also that there is an extensive agrarian knowledge that could be used, with the help of modernization, to create a new and improved industry, which will boost the economy.