Lost in Translation

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An urban gap in Madrid. (Heart Industry/Flickr)

An urban gap in Madrid. (Heart Industry/Flickr)

While searching for competitions on a number of architecture websites, I came across a misleading description of an international competition in Madrid, Spain, sponsored by the COAM (Colegio Oficial de Arquitectos de Madrid). English-language sites are promoting a “Solar City” competition that would deal with “solar intervention strategies for temporary use in an artistic, architectural development, particularly in neighborhood involvement,” according to one. What does “solar intervention” mean? Using solar panels? Smarter orientation of buildings? Funnily enough the whole purpose of the competition is twisted by a bad translation, since “solar” in Spanish means “site,” and has nothing to do with our astro rey, the Sun. The competition, in fact, is about proposing temporary uses for urban sites, and might more correctly be translated as, “Ideas for the Development and Temporary Use of Urban Gaps.” The real objective is to identify spaces in the urban grid that have been abandoned after a demolition or remain undeveloped or inactive, which could be reprogrammed for temporary community uses and to design strategies for reuse. Jokes aside, it would be a shame if English-speaking competitors miss the point of this interesting brief.

Check out or competitions page for up to date (and, we hope, correctly translated) information.

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