ReLabs – Laboratory of Living Waste

A circular system of material usage and re-use changes the urban design and waste management landscape of Madrid, leading to the construction of playgrounds from repurposed materials as well as fundamental systemic changes.


ReLabs (Laboratory of Living Waste) began as a research project in response to the climate emergency and the Sustainable Development Goals. The aim is to identify materials that have not yet reached the end of their purposeful life and to reuse them using a circular economy approach. ReLabs combines bottom-up proposals with top-down policies to improve waste management, citizen participation and the use of public spaces. This project works with the understanding that realising small, innovative projects leads to fundamental systemic changes. The changes proposed by ReLabs are three-fold: 1. Law: making proposals to adapt designs and distinguish between public spaces and playgrounds. 2. Waste Management: increasing reuse and repair to promote a more circular economy. 3. Participation: actively involving citizens in the process of repurposing waste materials to refurbish schools and public spaces.


First, Madrid's waste management system was reviewed and materials were identified for reuse. A public call was then made to collectively co-design a new purpose for these materials, which resulted in the construction of playgrounds at several municipal schools. In addition, the laws concerning urban design and waste management were reviewed, in order to support citizen participation in urban planning and to guarantee the right to set up playgrounds in public spaces.


The construction process is a pedagogic tool for environmental awareness and for education in participatory urban planning and spatial design. ReLabs shows that there are more democratic and sustainable ways to design cities. This has an impact on three aspects of sustainable development: 1. Economic: encouraging repair (generating employment) and reuse (reducing expenses). 2. Environmental: combining the reuse of waste materials with an education programme. 3. Social: empowering communities to become more organised and resilient. The participatory approach of the project strengthens the bonds between communities, it fosters local economies and creates robust local networks. Citizens are supported by artists, architects and designers in the co-designing process, ensuring integrated participation at every stage.

We belive there are other ways to design cities, in a more democratic and sustainable way, focusing on circular economy and participation as key elements.ReLabs (Laboratory of Living Waste) is based on these pillars to prototipe solutions for contemporary problems.

Mónica Gutiérrez - Member of Basurama Collective
Project owner
Mónica Gutiérrez
Member of Basurama Collective