Bullfights arouse strong feelings on both sides. Their aficionados see them as a place of near reverence, where animal and man engage in an athletic dance summoning the shadows of mankind’s struggles for both dominance over and stewardship of his natural counterparts. Opponents of the sport decry its violence and bloodshed, the unnecessary cruelty of what they see as a prolonged infliction of torture upon one of our planet’s fellow creatures. In 2012, Catalonia, the region of Spain that contains Barcelona, agreed more with the latter characterization than the former and banned the sport.
This has left the historic La Monumental bullring without its traditional occupants, but it is a building too beautiful and too iconic to be allowed to fall into decay. Instead, it has become a venue for other types of sporting events, musical performances, and even the circus, as well as being open for tourists who may be interested in seeing the only Art Nouveau bullring in the world. When Frederick Ajjoub had the opportunity to reimagine the building as part of his Masters degree at the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia, his vision was that of a drone station, which is basically a droneport, or an airport for drones. 3DPrint.com recently visited the world’s first commercial droneport in Boulder City, Nevada, as part of the Drone Rodeo at CES 2017; droneports are showing up more and more in plans.
Drones were of particular interest to Ajjoub because of their uses in providing visuals from the air, something that has made capturing images of architecture, landmarks, and geographical areas possible in a way only imagined before. But there is more to creating a drone station than just having a flat spot for the little machines to touch down. In order to fully understand the project, Ajjoub began working with Rowland Marshall, a Business Developer at Parrot who was instrumental in helping him with both the design programming and the overarching vision for the hub. As Ajjoub wrote:
“From the first day we met, Rowland was motivated and excited about the prospect of such an interesting idea. His proficiency and experience in this field let me discover and structure new ideas about organization and economy, the station program, and its efficiency. Together we explored the different aspects of the building and its reinvention, including likely uses, the organization, and the logistics of drones in operation. Soon, the vision of La Monumental as the Drone Hub of transportation in the world emerged, where all different uses from the photography to the autonomous transportation, could come together – it would be an Innovation Center for Drones.”
One aspect of the drone hub was the idea of integrating a tip of the hat to its torrero tradition by having it as a location for races and drone fights. Ajjoub looked ahead to what the future of drones might be and imagined the hub as serving the needs of dream inventions such as autonomous flying cars, in addition to the more currently realistic functions of such a space. As he worked to develop his design, he imagined dividing the space among a Fab Lab, multi investment retail and services, drone recreation, and transportation.
The central concept of the drone hub is the drone itself and its form and function inspired its architectural counterpart. Imagined as containing four hubs, much like each of the four propellers and with a dedication to the idea that no single part can operate without the cooperation of all of the others, the core idea is one of cycle. But it goes beyond a simple recreation of a drone or even of a depiction of cycle. As expressed by internationally recognized professor and architect Matthew Dudzik, of Dudzik Studios and Yves Grafik:
“By creating a building which is decoupled from the historic structure, this project recognizes the importance of the historic fabric and the need to preserve the architectural cultural heritage of Catalonia. One has to ask, however, if we are moving into a world where our digital lives are more fundamental to our existence than our physical ones, for how long we will require a corporal venue for the voyeuristic pleasure of spectacle and destruction that has been part of our public realm since Ancient Rome? Perhaps the greatest take away from this proposal is not its program, but rather the very real suggestion that advanced technologies could one day change our building codes and our current understanding of space.”
In short, this project raises as many questions as it answers, but that is the exactly the point of any design project worth its salt. The arena as originally designed at the beginning of the 20th century proposed to answer a question, but has since continued to raise them, and as time passes, it should not be the individual answers upon which we focus, otherwise the bullring is doomed to become irrelevant and necessarily removed. Instead, each time we address the building, the goal should be to improve the quality of our questions. No small accomplishment in and of itself for a student project. My advice? Keep an eye on Frederick Ajjoub, he is bound to continue to excel. You can read his full outline here. Discuss in the Drone Hub forum at 3DPB.com.[All images: Frederick Ajjoub]